Many SME entrepreneurs are struggling to get funding. Therefore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs set up the pilot project ‘Financieringslink’ (Financing Link or Fink, for short) in 2015 – an online portal where SMEs can submit an exploratory funding application. The main objective of Fink is to improve, standardise and unlock information on SMEs, through Standard Business Reporting (SBR). The purpose of the exploratory application is make submitting funding applications and the assessment thereof more efficient. The ministry has requested SEO Amsterdam Economics (SEO) to measure the effect of Fink on the defined objective.

Since September 2015 approximately 30 intermediaries have submitted an application on behalf of an entrepreneur. The Fink user data show that 49 unique applications were submitted to several financiers at once. On average, financiers approve 19 percent of the exploratory funding applications. Of the applications submitted by intermediaries and entrepreneurs, 90 percent are given the green light by at least one financier. There are large differences between financiers when it comes to their responsiveness and willingness to assess exploratory funding applications. The average response time of three working days is only met by a few financiers.

The strengths of the Fink platform are the ability to simultaneously submit an application to multiple financiers and the role of the government in the platform, which makes users view it as being more reliable. However, the respondents and interviewees indicate that the objective of Fink has only been partially achieved. Participants had expected a higher number of exploratory applications and also the scope of Fink was not unambiguously communicated. The portal is experiencing some technical bottlenecks as well, as a result of which (additional) financial data can’t be uploaded and information that has been supplied earlier must be supplied again in case of a further funding application.