In 1986, small Silicon Valley companies didn’t just need access to coffee or snacks. They needed cash. Having recently exited his vending-machine business, Stephen Troy, along with his wife Leanne Troy, founded AeroFund Financial Inc.
The San Jose-based company, which has about 20 employees, specializes in procuring cash so that small to mid-sized vendors have the option of getting paid immediately for their goods and services — usually at a 2 percent to 3 percent discount — instead of waiting 30 to 60 days for payments from their largest customers. I
In 2017, Troy, who regularly lectures about entrepreneurialism at Santa Clara University and San Jose’s Santa Teresa High School, debuted the company’s AeroPay Express division which provides virtual-procurement cards that vendors and customers can use to process immediate payments, and is slated to become the company’s primary growth vehicle.
o Title: Founder and CEO, AeroFund Financial Inc. and AeroPay Express
o Age: 66
o Hometown: Los Angeles
o Residence: Carmel
o Education: B.A., business administration and finance, University of Miami
o Career Path: Founder and president, Pacific Coast Vending, 1978 to 1984; founded San Jose-based AeroFund Financial Inc. with wife Leanne Troy in 1986; debuted company’s AeroPay Express division in 2017
Why has your company been able to continue to grow? There are a lot of small to mid-sized companies who don’t want their invoices as collateral, they just want to get paid. We work with companies with a range from $50 million to $3 billion in sales. We pay those invoices immediately, and the buyer pays us back within 30 days. That keeps the supply chain moving.
Why don’t these companies work with banks instead? If you go to a bank to borrow on accounts-receivable, that process can take a week to a month. With our new division, we can get someone up and running in 24 hours.
Why did you get out of the vending business and into the finance business? I came out to Silicon Valley in 1975, and I grew with the Valley as the lettuce fields and prune yards disappeared. I’d find these office parks and I would provide vending machines and coffee services. But I went through a divorce in the early 1980s, and the Valley collapsed. I had a warehouse full of soda and candy machines. After about two years of getting the machines back on the road, I thought, maybe it’s time to take it easy, so I sold the company. That lasted about 90 days.
We (AeroFund) were like any other business in Silicon Valley. We started in our garage, we mortgaged our house, and I’d sold my business. We were all in. My wife and I bet the farm on this business, and it succeeded.
How has your customer base changed? Thirty years ago, the Valley was much different. You had companies like Lockheed and Hewlett-Packard. If they wanted to make a new product, they’d go to a local company and prototype it, and FedEx was new back then, so shipping was expensive. So I would go to an industrial park and knock on doors.
Now, instead of manufacturing, it’s all service — transportation, truckers, carriers. So we’ve had to adapt.
Why do you lecture to high school and college students? I try to emphasize that I started with nothing. I bought an old station wagon for $800, and spent $1,000 on my first (vending) machines. I worked hard, and I got suppliers to give me credit. I try to explain to them how easy it is to do this. At the end of the day, it becomes about integrity — people knowing what you’re doing and that you don’t lie to them and will protect their money.