Circa, a Brunswick-based financial technology startup, and mobile app, received $2 million in investments to enhance its company’s growth in January.
The app was designed to assist renters in paying their rent electronically and having the flexibility to split up rent payments while helping property owners collect rent and past-due amounts. For example, on the app, renters can pay rent in two to three scheduled payments and sign up for payment reminders by email or text.
According to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 10.9 million renters spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing in 2018. The information also showed 6 million more cost-burdened renters in 2018 than in 2001.
“The demand for flexible rent payments is so strong right now,” Leslie Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Circa said. “We get hundreds or thousands of unsolicited requests to use Circa because people need this right now. There is a real need for financial support regarding housing in every state and city, and that is what we are doing.”
Circa transitioned from Connecticut to Maine in April after participating in the Roux Techstars Accelerator program in Portland. They are located at 16 Station Avenue in Brunswick, next to the train station. Techstars is a Colorado-based company that runs an accelerator program (a program that assists developing companies receive help in mentorship, investors, and other support to become stable and self-sufficient businesses) globally, including Northeastern University’s Roux Institute in Portland.
“I have always experienced Maine like many people for vacation,” Hyman said. “Now, I realize how important Maine is from a business perspective. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be welcomed by this phenomenal business ecosystem. There are so many advantages to being in Maine; we have support from economic developers in the state, our investors are here, and we can take advantage of the tax credits that Maine offers.”
Hyman added: “We share space with another Techstars company [Omnic Data, Inc], and the move has been working out for us so far. I am also grateful to a wonderful group of investors committed to our mission, and I am also grateful as a woman founder. I am so happy that we are offering a product that people see the value in and are excited to invest in so we can help so many people.”
Circa’s team consists of six members on their leadership team and three part-time staff members. They are actively hiring staff for business and accounting. They are also working closely with their investors to advertise and hire from Maine.
Hyman said that the funds would be used to expand their business. “We are growing our company,” she said. “The funds are to expand our sales and marketing to scale the business.”
The $2 million raised came from Maine Angels, Dirigo Fund, Maine Venture Fund, and TechStars. Maine Angels are accredited private equity investors who invest in and mentor early-stage companies. The Dirigo Fund is a venture capital fund that Maine Angels operates. Maine Venture Fund is an investment company that invests exclusively in Maine companies that demonstrate potential growth and public benefit.
“We looked at Circa and believed that they fulfilled a critical social mission of addressing the housing problem in our country,” William Nunan, individual Investor and member of Maine Angels, said. “By re-investing the rent model, they will help renters match their cash flow with paying rent because so many people in this country struggle with paying rent. We believe the business provides great value and found it an attractive investment.”