James Jackson and Jack Allman co-founded Bumper in 2013. Today, backed by Porsche Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover and Silicon Valley’s finest, they are building something special…

In 2021, Bumper co-founders James Jackson and Jack Allman closed their Series-A funding round. High fives and Champagne followed – and plenty of it. The duo and their team had convinced Porsche Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover and Silicon Valley’s Autotech Ventures to invest. The round snared $12m, allowing them to expand their 20-strong team to 70 – and rising. Bumper is now the UK’s 14th fastest-growing fintech, 83rd in the FEBE Growth 100, and its Series-B will kick off in 2023. Expect more Champers.

Solving a big problem

But why the ruckus? How did James, a former accountant, and Jack, an ex-salesman, convince two automotive giants and a Silicon Valley VC to invest in the company they co-founded in 2013?

Reducing accidents and stress

To answer, we must look at what Bumper does. To understand that, consider this scenario: imagine you’re a young nurse or teacher somewhere in rural Europe. Your car – your only transport – breaks down. You have enough cash to pay your rent but don’t have the extra £600 needed to fix your head gasket. No car, no work, no pay. So what do you do?

Enter Bumper. The digital platform allows customers to buy their car repairs now and pay later interest-free, spreading the cost over several months.

“Before Bumper, people who couldn’t afford to fix their car could either stay home and potentially lose their job, drive an unsafe car, or get a loan and pay big interest. We’re proud to be solving that problem,” says James.

Big prize, colossal competition?

So the need for Bumper is there. And another factor that swayed investors is the car repair market’s size – worth up to £300bn pounds a year in Europe alone.

But what about the more established buy-now-pay-later providers? Why would you back a comparatively small British start-up when giants like Swedish fintech Klarna, valued at $6.7bn, stride the Earth?

Niche expertise

“The big providers do an amazing job,” says Jack. “But they’re generalists. We’re experts in car repairs – an industry with many nuances. We’ve built bespoke tech to reflect our sector’s quirks. For example, we’ve integrated our systems into dealers’ software, so our customers can spread their repair costs in two clicks.”

Back story

And it’s the partnership with dealers that’s driving Bumper forward at Porsche speed. Indeed, the idea for the company came about after a serendipity moment- a fortuitous meeting with someone who knew car dealers inside out – PSA Group (formerly Peugeot-Citroën). Its head of innovation told James – then working at Paylater.com – that its dealers were losing up to £1bn a year from identified repair work that drivers just couldn’t afford to carry out.

“That nugget stuck with me,” says James. “I could see the possibilities but was hamstrung because I knew nothing about automotive. So the same PSA guy – who deserves a lot of credit – introduced me to Jack, who was working for his family’s automotive after-sales SaaS company. We put our heads together, and that’s how Bumper began.”

Entrepreneurial insomnia

The pair were immediately excited by the potential of a buy-now-pay-later service for car repairs. “It felt like I couldn’t sleep for months,” remembers James. “I was so keyed up! If Citroen was losing a billion a year, what about BMW? What about Mercedes?”

Helped by Jack’s family business contacts, the pair began talking to dealers and confirmed that a win-win scenario was – potentially – there for the making. With the right tech, Bumper could provide the finance so that customers could pay the dealers; and the dealers could provide customers for Bumper. It was a virtuous circle that, if nurtured carefully, could only grow.

The nuts and bolts

“We built our financial underwriting specifically for car repairs,” says James. “That separates us from other buy-now-pay-later providers. For example, our machine learning based underwriting assess every customer in seconds, and acquires thousands of datasets from the traditional credit reference agencies, but we also acquire lots of vehicle data. This data gives us a unique insight into the customer and their vehicle. Then, we layer on top all these different datasets to make a responsible lending decision.

“However, getting the right balance is vital: dealers don’t want us rejecting lots of customers, but if drivers don’t pay us back, we lose money. So the key is responsible underwriting that not only protects us but also provides a good outcome for the dealer and driver. It must balance all three.”

‘Finance for good’

So, clever tech explicitly designed for the car repair market is accelerating Bumper’s journey along the start-up autobahn. Another catalyst is more emotional – the mission to do good. Behind all the tech, Bumper wants to make roads safer, reduce stress for hard-up drivers and help dealers. This positive mission not only attracts talent but motivates and smoothes out the process of rapid expansion.

Jack says: “Our mission is finance for good and it’s fairly easy to understand. Most people have struggled to find the cash to fix their car at some point in their lives or know someone who’s been in a tight spot. So everyone understands our purpose, which helps us forge the right culture. We get strong early commitment from people who want to contribute to our mission.”

Purring engine

So, Bumper’s team love what they do and the dealers are on-side, but what about drivers? Do they appreciate the financial flexibility provided by this new company? Are there any flies in the ointment, any grit in the oil? The stats would suggest that the engine is running smoothly – positively purring, in fact. Bumper has clocked up 16,000 TrustPilot reviews, with an average score of 4.9 and 93% of users rating the service as “excellent”.

FEBE says

With high-octane team commitment, turbocharged investment from global powerhouses and a giant market beckoning (and that’s just Europe), Bumper is superbly positioned to break land-speed records in the coming years. Its financial model is already proven and the icing on the cake is its attractive ‘finance for good’ mission, which allows it to stand out from the fintech crowd. James, Jack and the team have already wowed some of the biggest names in the automotive industry. With FCA compliance coming soon, Bumper’s Series-B round – and the company’s long-term future – are sure to be another ‘Bumper’ success story.


Bumper Advice

Words of wisdom from Jack and James…

“Team up with people you enjoy being with, who are as committed as you are. You have highs and lows as an entrepreneur, and if you don’t get on with your colleagues – particularly your co-founders – then the lows become unbearable and the highs are much less fun.” – James.

“Getting the right people into the business is so important because when things go wrong, you need the team to respond in the right way, whether working through the weekend to make it right or de-stressing in the pub. You can build the best tech in the world, but if you’ve got the wrong people, it will massively inhibit growth.” – Jack.

“It sounds a bit cheesy, but perseverance and resilience are as vital as everyone says. It’s easy to give up during the first three or four years when you’re bootstrapping and putting in huge amounts of graft. You might have two or three bad months that make you question everything, but if you believe in what you’re doing, you’ve got to keep on going and you will eventually grind out a result.” – James.

Disclaimer: The statements made by our interviewees are an expression of their own views and opinions and in no way reflect FEBE Ventures’ views or opinions, nor are such views or opinions endorsed or supported by us.