PitchIt @ LendIt is a competition for startups to pitch in front of top fintech VCs. Over the last 3 years we have held this competition twice in the USA, once in Europe and once in China. Every year the competition has grown. We received nearly 300 applications for PitchIt @ LendIt USA 2017 and eight finalists will compete for the prize at LendIt USA 2017.
Although I enjoy watching the competition it’s always interesting to follow the story after PitchIt. Some startups undoubtedly don’t make it, but some of these companies are doing great things. This year we decided to reach out to all of our previous finalists to get an update on their companies. We received many responses and have filled some gaps based on publicly available information. Their stories are below with my comments in italics:
Able Lending offers small business loans, inviting borrowers to bring in friends and family to fund a portion of the loan. Following PitchIt 2015 Able Lending obtained $6 million in venture capital funding from Blumberg Capital and RPM Ventures. In its third year of operations it grew lending volume to $100 million and in September 2016 it also reported a $100 million investment deal with Community Investment Management. Peter hosted CEO, Will Davis, on his podcast in December, where he explored Able’s unique friends and family backer concept.
“As a runner-up in the inaugural PitchIt event in 2015, Ascend found the event to be the perfect venue to announce the launch of our effort to transform consumer finance through the use of real-time, post-acquisition data and behavioral analytics to better price and manage risk. Since then, we have completed a successful pilot proving out the concept of Adaptive Risk Pricing as demonstrated by a 93% reduction in loss rates. In addition to delivering a highly successful pilot, Ascend was selected into the Financial Solutions Lab hosted by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and JPMorgan Chase, and attracted venture investment from several top-tier VCs. As we enter 2017, we’re looking forward to building off this success and engaging with the next group of PitchIt participants.”
Kickfurther was the winner of LendIt USA 2015. The business has an unique model, which allows retail investors to purchase inventory of a business on consignment. Backers are then paid back when the goods are eventually paid for by retailers, earning a return on the initial inventory purchase. As an early member of Kickfurther I have seen the platform morph over time. The company continues to make changes to how deals work on the site, having most recently moved to 100% of deals being PO backed which I think is a very smart move. CEO Sean De Clercq outlines this move in his blog post and shares that he is looking to raise more money for the company. The downside is that their defaults have been surprisingly high, which brings into question whether the company needs to strengthen their underwriting or whether the entire business model is flawed. We hope that they pull through and bring down defaults.
“We are bringing banks into point of sale (who previously never could participate in these transactions) 100% through our technology and now have our first national credit union live who will be doing $100M+ with LoanHero this year. We are already in conversation with many other national and regional banks and are finding that these partnerships will be the wave of the future for how we scale. I think it’s an interesting topic for the conference, likely a topic that will be discussed quite a bit. Entering into POS financing requires a lot of infrastructure if a bank were to do it alone…partnering with someone like LoanHero allows them to do if quickly and efficiently. And because we’ve invested so much in Compliance and are a hybrid platform with our own balance sheet (as opposed to a pure platform), we’re in a unique position to be one of the leaders in POS who can grow these kinds of partnerships.”
Sharestates is our most successful PitchIt finalist. They have had tremendous success since our 2015 event and they are now one of the top real estate crowdfunding companies. Peter Renton recently interviewed CEO Allen Shayanfekr on the Lend Academy podcast.
Below are some quick stats on the company:
300+ loans funded
$250+ million in origination
10% net return to investors
Zero loss of principal
7 defaulted notes since inception (1 foreclosure)
$1.3 billion in debt capital commitments
All this done in 2.5 years, self funded and profitable.
AutoFi won PitchIt in 2016 and has had a tremendous year. Soon after PitchIt they closed a $17 million funding round from Crosslink Capital and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. Just a few weeks ago, as noted below, they signed a huge deal with Ford Credit, which also put equity into the company. AutoFi is a B2B software solution that simplifies the auto lending process for dealers, lenders and consumers. The auto lending category is a hot right now with a lot of innovation happening and AutoFi is at the center of it.
“Since pitching at LendIt the company raised an additional seed round and received a strategic investment from Ford Motor Company”
“Since last year’s LendIt we have grown by leaps and bounds; we greatly increased the number of bank and credit union clients utilizing the LogicFI platform and expanded our product offering to support consumer loans, small business loans, as well as business and consumer credit cards. Working with Orchard Platform, we helped a community bank client of ours invest in a portfolio of loans generated by marketplace lenders. Working with Even Financial, we are also helping our clients utilize lead generation as a customer acquisition channel by using our underwriting and decisioning engine to underwrite and pre-approve customer applications in real-time.”
Akouba is a cloud-based technology provider for banks. As noted below, they recently were endorsed by the ABA which is a big win for the company.
“The ABA recently endorsed the platform. Further, we have raised some capital from experienced FinTech firms around the country (can’t say who at this time) and we expect our customer base to grow by triple digit percentages year over year.”
“Since competing at the PitchIt @ LendIt event last year in San Francisco Income& has made a lot of progress and we are feeling the momentum. We’ve raised an additional $600,000 in seed capital, launched our PRIMO investment product in May 2016, and have seen substantial quarterly growth in both account openings and sales. In addition to being a finalist at PitchIt last year, we’ve received several accolades including: finalist at SXSW Fintech 2016, and finalist and cohort member at Fintech Sandbox 2016. Most recently we’ve been chosen as a LendIt 2017 Awards finalist in the Emerging Real Estate Platform category.”
ProducePay is a company focused on lending to an interesting niche: farmers. Farmers get paid the day after they ship produce instead of 30-45 days later when they use ProducePay. It’s a compelling offering to investors and it seems as though they are getting some traction given their 2016 numbers shared below.
“ProducePay recently closed it’s series A investment round led by VC firm Coventure. The company has grown to over 20 employees and financed over $150M in Produce transactions in 2016.”
SteamLoan’s mission is to make the mortgage (purchase & refinance) process simple, efficient, and digital for both the lender and customer, embedded across all loan transactions
“We built a solid team, shipped our platform (currently shipping version v2.7, whereas we were at v1.0 early last year), won customers and generated our first dollars of recurring revenue. 2017 is shaping up to be even more impactful – with plans to present in many conferences, convert more customers from our strong pipeline, and continue to innovate and ship v3.0 of our platform, which will open even more doors in the real estate ecosystem.”
Ziero initially launched to help employers offer loans to their employees.
“After the launching Ziero at PitchIt last year, we hit some roadblocks early on and learned quite a bit about our go-to-market so we spent the last 6 months in stealth mode and completely rebuild the entire business. We even rebranded to a completely new name (HoneyBee) and now having signed on multiple mid market to Fortune 500 companies on our waiting list, we are very excited and will be re-launching soon.”
“Since presenting at LendIt we’ve seen continued adoption of our risk platform, including a number of major consumer credit brands yet to be announced. Indeed, just a few days after the event we were recognised as one of the Top 50 Emerging Stars for Data and Analytics in Financial Services, as selected by KPMG and H2 Ventures.”
“Things are going great. We are now starting to leverage our digital lending platform. We are in the middle of on-boarding our first B2B clients. This confirms to us that there is a real need for digital and automated lending in the prime loan market.”
“Pitchit Europe has given Lenderwize an exceptional boost. Not only has it increased our notability and credibility on a European level, but we have acquired 3 angel investors, are in final negotiating rounds with two Angel Networks. We truly hope to continue growing thanks to important global players like Lendit, and to contribute to the global transformation of Alternative Finance!”
LendingWell won PitchIt Europe in the fall. It is a UK based digital wealth solution for financial advisors and their clients to offer P2P lending in a tax efficient ISA wrap (retirement) program.
“We have been working hard to get our live tests done and to integrate platforms. We have successfully started the live tests. In response to feed-back and demand from the adviser community, we are also looking to launch [a new investment product]”
Selified is a digital identity verification company.
“Its been a great 5 months so far. We signed up more customers and launched our latest product. LendIt’s PitchIt event helped us to get valued feedback which we incorporated into our product and proposition. Over the next few months we will be raising our first round.”
“It is very busy at the moment which is a good thing. We have made great strides since LendIt Europe. Our primary focus remains to offer an affinity driven platform to help small and medium sized businesses secure loans from people that really care about the product and services these businesses deliver. This will help drive revenue for the companies and reduce risk through the social cost of default. We have secured our initial financing and have now a very strong team in place. We are working closely with a large group of banks as well as telcos and will launch in the Nordics later this year.”
India-based fintech startup, IndiaLends, won PitchIt China last summer. In December 2016, they raised $4 million in a Series A round from American Express Ventures, Cyber Carrier VC, DSG Consumer Partners and AdvantEdge Partners; the funds will be used for credit and underwriting capabilities and to expand their platform across India.
Companies that have suspended operations
Ricult (LendIt China 2016)
BitNexo (LendIt China 2016)
Citrus Credit (LendIt USA 2016)
We are pretty impressed with the performance of the PitchIt finalists over the past few years. Since these are startups, of course there are some companies that have shut down and a few more that have not gained much traction, but overall, a lot of these companies are showing promising signs and are emerging as attractive early stage companies. I am really excited about many of these companies and I look forward to tracking their progress over the next few years. PitchIt continues to uncover innovative new companies in our industry and I enjoy trying to pick the next big thing from these early stage companies.