Better: The Mortgage Industry, Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
For millions, purchasing a house is a milestone to behold. When Vishal Garg wanted to buy his very first home, however, his experience was nothing short of disappointing. Back in the day, the US real estate market was facing countless market insufficiencies - it used outdated technology and ultimately delivered less than desirable properties to buy or lend, both at skyrocketing costs.
Without any other viable option at hand, Vishal relied on his creative self and tried to reimagine, redefine and restructure the real estate market, all the while making the buy-and-lend process equally accessible for all.
It takes a decade to become an overnight success, and Vishal’s platform Better is a testament to that. An innovative man is never far from his next great invention, so when Vishal finally brought Better on the market, he not only shifted the industry from a standstill but also brought joy to everyone’s homes by promising the most seamless online mortgage experience to date!
Indian in The USA
Vishal Garg was born in the 70s, in a small village in Rajasthan, India. His father was a working man, employed in a big Indian company, but no matter how many hours he had put in, it never seemed to be enough to cover for their family’s hefty mortgage. When Vishal celebrated his seventh birthday, his father presented the family with an idea that could save them from a financial rut - move to the States, start fresh, and find an affordable home in the land of dreams.
When they first landed in the United States, the culture shock was greater than the family had anticipated. Swimming pools peeked from the top of sky-high buildings, greenery was in every corner they turned, and the busy city streets buzzed with life.
In the midst of all the urban craze, Vishal’s family finally settled down and rented a home in Queens, NYC. Right about that time Vishal learned that Stevenson High School was conducting tests to recruit the most gifted students. When Vishal tried his luck, the school was more than impressed with his score, so they wasted no time in accepting him.
At school, Vishal excelled in mathematics and was a stellar problem-solver. Trusting his skills at the time, he began working on his first business, purchasing books from thrift stores and selling them on eBay. The earnings were less than outstanding, but it was enough for Vishal to save some cash on the side. In 1996, Vishal finished high school and enrolled at New York University, graduating with honors four years later and acquiring a degree in finance and international business.
The Ways of Business
Fresh out of college, the young Indian entered the corporate world and joined an American multinational investment bank, called Morgan Stanely. His employment was strictly purposeful and allowed Vishal to learn how the entire system worked from within.
As he was quite knowledgeable in economics, Vishal immediately found the system to be flawed and broken. But, before he could try and fix it, he needed to learn whether those who operated in its highest layers deliberately wanted the system dysfunctional.
The first thing Vishal noticed at Morgan Stanely was the wrongful allocation of capital. The second thing he noticed was that investment banking was doing sizable transactions whilst achieving an in-depth analysis. Vishal’s experience thus far encouraged him to try and change the allocation of capital for all users in need.
What better way to change it than invest in healthy and promising tech companies? Self-assured, Vishal went back to his old mentors and asked them to invest in his future fund, mainly intended for the Indian and Latin American market. As a result of his efforts, in early 1997, Vishal launched his first official platform, called One Zero Capital.
With the arrival of the dot-com era, Vishal saw its fair share of challenges and troubles, mostly in terms of adjusting his business to the newly introduced online market.
The struggle to adapt to new terms and conditions lasted for two whole years, and in 2000, Vishal felt ready to give the platform another try. That same year, another issue came up, when one of Vishal’s biggest investors withdrew their invested funds and left the inventor to operate the platform with the bare minimum.
Selling the Brain's Capacities
Forced to manage his own money, Vishal, twenty-two at the time, figured planning ahead was his best option of survival on the market. Instead of grieving over the investments taken away, Vishal turned this misfortune into an advantage and began recruiting a team willing to contribute to his next platform in line, MyRichUncle.
The company was born in 2000 and represented a person-to-person platform intended for investors who wanted to fund someone else’s future. Within the first week of its launch, students immediately took to the platform in search of potential investors who’d like to financially partake in their future - all done through a mutually signed contract and guaranteeing the investor a percentage of the investee’s future profits.
But, good things come to those who hustle, and Vishal’s next problem would have him doing just that. Namely, after running the company for some time, Vishal figured that this form of lending cash was not as profitable in the long run, which unfortunately cost the company to lose all its funds in the first year of existence.
This is where an American investing company called Merrill Lynch stepped in. Over the years, Merrill Lynch acquired most of MyRichUncle by obtaining the majority of its equity shares. With these funds, MyRichUncle.com provided students with necessary loans, and by 2007, the company became the fourth largest student loan platform, earning over $30 million in annual revenue.
Despite its success, Merrill Lynch was ultimately acquired by the Bank of America - their greatest student loan competitor at the time- and thus the brand ceased to exist.
Without any project left to manage, it was a matter of time before Vishal turned to develop yet another outstanding idea, this time sourcing inspiration from a global news article.
Namely, back in 2012, Vishal learned that the annual college tuition in the UK has skyrocketed from bearable £3,000 to an absurd £9,000.
Where everyone else saw chaos, Vishal saw the opportunity to take some action. As he was already experienced with raising money, he reached out to a UK office host for help. Before you know it, Future Finance was loaded on funds and launched in 2013.
The company provided private student loans for both undergraduates and postgraduates, thus becoming one of the largest student loan companies worldwide.
While business was booming, Vishal was dealing with yet another issue. This time, his landlord felt unhappy with how Vishal tended to the rented apartment, and as a result, wanted him out of the place as soon as possible.
The Saga Continues
Finding the perfect home was easy for Vishal, but buying it was far less than smooth. The first obstacle he faced was finding a decent real estate agent. When he finally made contact with a prominent agency, they requested a lender’s pre-approval. However, Vishal found it troubling that applying to rent a home required much of his personal information, including his social security number.
Realizing the violation of privacy at hand, Vishal asked his wife, who worked at a bank back then, for additional help. When this also turned fruitless, Vishal had no other choice but to wait out the four-week pre-approval period.
The hardships of creating a new start-up were obvious and undeniable, but for the lack of a better option, Vishal took matters into his own hands and decided to automate the bank application process for lending and purchasing real estate. Out of this necessity blossomed a brilliant business concept, and in 2014, Vishal finally launched Better.com.
The first company investment came in 2015, from Goldman Sachs, Pine Brook, KCK Group, And IA Ventures, and it was worth $30 million. Only a year later, Better secured $15 million in Series C funding.
The capital was intended to support technological development, help the company advertise its services overseas, and expand its tight-knit team. In 2019, Activant Capital invested another $160 million, followed by ravishing $200 million in Series D from L Catterton.
Today, Better is making an estimated annual revenue of $199.4 million. The company outnumbers 3,000 employees, many of whom are non-commissioned loan officers. Its headquarters is located in New York, with various branch offices set up in California.
Vishal now operates with a single mission in mind: to make homeownership faster, simpler, and far more accessible and affordable for everybody. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or in Vishal’s case, when life knocks you down - you get back on your feet and give it a triumphant wink!