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  • Census data indicates a record number of new businesses were founded in 2021.
  • Tech companies that cater to small and medium-sized businesses, or SMBs, have also proliferated.
  • Here are 12 startups that help SMBs with lending, expense management, corporate cards, and more.

Starting a small business is hard — something millions of Americans have learned during the pandemic and a growing debate over the nature of work.

The number of new business applications reached a record of more than 5.3 million in 2021, an increase from about 4 million in 2020, according to the US Census Bureau.

But launching a small or medium-sized business, or SMB, comes with a wide array of challenges, such as raising the investment and capital needed to begin building and selling products, and managing expenses, vendors, and accounts as the company grows. Fortunately, there is a rising number of financial-technology companies touting services and products specifically designed to help.

These startups — often founded by entrepreneurs who know firsthand the ups and downs of launching a company — work with a wide spectrum of SMB clients, including seed-stage tech players, small government contractors, freelancers, and solopreneurs. Their goal is to offer more efficient ways of managing the critical but often overlooked aspects of running a business for the about 8 million SMBs in the US.

Even as large SMB-fintech players exit the market — for example, the business-card startup Brex said in June that it planned to close its SMB segment to focus on larger companies and tech startups — opportunities for others remain.

Stephanie Choo, a managing partner at the venture-capital firm Portage Ventures, told Insider that gaps exist where fintechs can reach smaller customers. “It’s really hard to think about SMBs as one giant segment, because a hairdresser is going to have very different needs than a restaurant, which is going to have different needs than a startup,” Choo said.

Here are 12 fintechs every small-business owner should know:

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