What do you get when you mix underwriting and digital media? That’s what Benjamin Lichtman and Patrick Izzo set out to find out in July of 2015.
The idea behind the co-founders financial technology company, Lendvo, is that there is a large number of digital businesses whose assets fall outside what a typical bank understands. Their customers are bloggers, eBay sellers, and other “unbankable” digital asset owners. “Most lenders have a very templated way of how they look at businesses,” explains Patrick. “When something falls outside of that, their instinct is to not fund it.”
Ben’s experience is based in the digital world and Patrick’s in finance and lending. “We carved out this niche in a world where there’s a tremendous amount of digital businesses and people need credit,” says Patrick.
The two got their start dealing with early stage companies who were looking to finance the purchase of domain names.
Today, Ben says, they are financing e-commerce models as they look for working capital to scale their business.
For example, Ben says, “The domain name, Shoes.com is really expensive. Because we’re able to valuate that asset, we’re able to provide financing to buy that domain name and collateralize it.”
Lendvo is banking on the digital trend continuing. “Every year that goes by digital businesses are more and more prevalent,” says Ben. “The barriers to start these businesses have come down. But if you do have traction and success, you need access to capital. That doesn’t really exist for digital businesses.”
An Unlikely Pair
Ben and Patrick met in college at Boston University and even though their professional lives took divergent paths, they remained in touch. “Over all of these years, we would buy and sell domain names together on the side,” says Ben. “We taught each other about the two sides of the business.”
When the two finally decided to strike out on their own, they realized the opportunity from combining their individual experiences.
Today, Lendvo has four employees and is looking to grow their internal team and partner referral base. Instead of a large team, their business model relies on proprietary technology and models that enable them to make efficient decisions on various loans.
“We think we’re pretty efficient from a human capital standpoint,” says Patrick. Even so, they have plans to hire internal sales people and professional underwriters.
A Digital Advantage
As for their marketing strategy, the pair says they benefit from a lot of direct origination as well as referral partners such as loan brokers.
“People are finding out about us through word of mouth or through our web presence,” says Patrick. At the same time, they are building out their strategic sales partner program with platforms that enable people to operate e-commerce websites (an example of these platforms might be Weebly or Shopify, though Ben and Patrick wouldn’t specify which partners were in their pipeline).
Ben says that their expertise in digital marketing has helped them get to the front of the search results when a potential customer looks for domain name marketing. “We really understand search engine marketing and inbound marketing concepts,” says Ben.
Going the extra mile
In some capacities, Patrick and Ben are also acting like consultants to their customers.
“We’ve actually helped businesses negotiate the prices of domain names down, which is not something I would have expected and has been pretty cool,” says Patrick. He hopes to be able to continue this more qualitative work with customers as they build out their strategic partnerships.
When asked whether this idea was part of the product roadmap, Ben confirms that they want to maintain their focus. “We are a finance company. That’s our core,” he says. “It’s going the extra mile when it’s not a product. But when it is part of the product, it’s just cross-selling.”