While having a great idea is the first step towards running a successful business, having funds to keep it afloat is just as important. Unless you’re lucky enough to be flush with cash, where are you supposed to get your hands on that kind of capital?
Typically, you’ll find the answer is to take out a business loan or open up a new credit card. But, depending on the size of your business, the immediate need for a capital injection, the amount of money needed and other countless variables, are those the best options?
They might be, but Fundera is making sense of it all for business owners by sorting financial solutions of all colors, including a variety of lending options. Eventually, Fundera hopes to be sort of “a digital CFO” for customers, according to CTO Jason Rodriguez.
Rodriguez explained how Fundera’s system helps small businesses find lending options, how data plays a role in the process, and how technology could open up new opportunities for the company to help customers with all of their business needs.
Rodriguez has been with Fundera since October 2019 but knew about the company’s goals and mission long before joining the team.
Let’s say a small business owner is using Fundera for the first time. From a tech perspective, what’s going on behind the scenes when they start their journey?
So, the first thing our technology really has to do is spend time understanding how you got to us and what prompted you to visit our site. And when I say get to know them, the technology we’re using is a combination of understanding the content they’re consuming, understanding the source they came from, and then sometimes understanding data that they’re providing by filling out something on our site.
The way we help that small business owner is presenting them with different types of content and interactions depending on all those variables. Once we get enough information for them to start down what would be a typical path, which is a loan application process, we may even call them before they’ve even finished the entire application process depending on what their qualifications are and depending on their urgency. Our technology takes the information they’ve given us and routes it to our sales team to segment and understand what types of products and services they're best suited for. And that’s where our sales team then uses the technology to understand how to interact with them.
How are you able to sort through the people who come and are looking for different types of financial instruments?
All our content is tagged with various different types of information. We have the public-facing tags, whether it’s insurance or payroll or loans, and then we have behind-the-scenes tags, which could be things like “startup, early-stage.” We take a combination of tagging our content, understanding how long users have been on the site and we use that to understand what ways to service them. At any given point on our site, we have 20-30 different tests running to test different calls to action, as well as different looks and feels going through a site.
When Fundera makes contact with a potential customer, what are you trying to accomplish? How do you make sure they’re getting the services they need?
Our goal is to truly understand the psyche of the small business owner as they enter our site, to understand the types of products and services that are best for them. Not all of our products and services are equal.
You can take the example of a $90,000 loan that you potentially need to grow your business. That can come in a number of different ways and some of that depends on what they actually need and the time when they need it. So, imagine a world where you're looking for a $90,000 loan and you’re looking to close that in the next two months. The types of products and services that we may serve to you are completely different than maybe a small business owner who’s looking to close that loan on the same day, for instance.
Your sales team acts as intermediaries between small business owners and lenders. What technology does Fundera use to make sure that the salespeople have all of the information they need?
We segment the users to various different buckets, which allow our sales team to see the opportunities and the small business owners by product offering. That allows them to have a much more personalized conversation with those small business owners by providing the data at their fingertips and asking additional questions that they may need to round out an application where they could say, “OK, based on what I have, based on your needs, here are the types of products and services I think you might be good for.”
One of the most difficult parts of the process is that once we understand the types of product and services they’re right for, this requires a lot of paperwork and documents. The technology manages the interaction of uploading and securing certain pieces of information, which could be everything from a credit score to a bank statement, and going through a process of submitting that to the lenders that we think they’re best suited for. A lot of the technology is around managing documentation, submitting documentation and then working with the lenders to get final data points on what they’re actually eligible for.
You've been with Fundera for less than half a year. Looking to 2020, what’s your high-level vision?
When I think about the way the organization is set up and the technology that exists as we continue to scale, it’s mind-blowing. At the end of the day, we truly are a marketplace and if we do a good job of being a marketplace for small business owners, that goes well beyond just loan products. It could be everything from point-of-sale systems to payroll systems to insurance products. All these small businesses are coming to us with problems that aren’t necessarily core to their business or their day to day. They want to get back to running their day to day.
We’ve joked about us coining ourselves as almost a digital CFO. So when I think about that as our role, then it influences everything from how I organize the teams so that I can make sure that I’m servicing the small business owner from a user experience, to how I service the sales team, to how I onboard more and more lenders and providers of services, to how I think about the lifetime value of a small business owner. I want to make sure that I’m providing value to them and to Fundera over and over again as their business continues to change and grow over time.