Blend: Worldwide Lending, Simplified
Digital lending has skyrocketed in the last decade, and for a good reason.
A while ago, the mortgage industry was all paper-driven, leaving loaners with plenty of room to err. Although a trillion-dollar industry, the process of obtaining a mortgage was no walk in the park for borrowers.
The agonizing experience required filling out dozens of pages with data, which when completed - required even greater data management!
Well, someone had to put an end to this time-consuming, inefficient, and frustrating process of money lending and borrowing.
When Eugene Marinelli, Nima Ghamsari and Erin Collard decided to accelerate the decision-making process, they started with- a cloud-based platform to do that for them!
Such a platform could use existing consumer data, and enable easier auto loans, home equity and mortgages.
For the innovative trio, Blend was the perfect fixer-upper solution to a widespread problem, earning them billions along the way.
Read the full story of how their joining forces opened the gates for up-and-coming lenders worldwide:
In 2004, while enrolled at Stanford University, Nima Ghamsari struggled to make ends meet and cover his tuition in its entirety.
Since he lacked money to pay for student accommodation, Nima began a part-time job at Starbucks. Later, his part-time job turned full-time, but somehow, the lack of funds stuck. Despite his grueling circumstances, Nima began his quest for a job that would profit him on a larger scale.
After some consideration, Nima saw a potential profit in playing online poker.
Risky or otherwise, this was the one shot Nima had to both pay for his stay and save time to focus on his studies.
By 2008, Nima had acquired a Computer Science degree, and his need for playing had evaporated in thin air. Yet, his passion to learn everything about poker had surprisingly grown even further than he had hoped.
Before their paths first crossed, Erin Collard was immersed in economics studies at the University of Sheffield, from where he acquired his Bachelor Degree. Hungry for more knowledge, he enrolled at the University of Warwick to pursue his Master's degree, in which he excelled with the highest honors.
Meanwhile, Eugene Marinelli devoted his time to studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, where he eventually got a Master's degree.
During his studies, Eugene worked on multiple projects such as building the online multiplayer snake game, as well as an internet-controlled robot colony and giant floating balloon robots. Once his talent was noticed, Eugene began working as a computer system teaching assistant.
Walking three different lifepaths and mastering three different careers, three experts in their field were about to collide and create entrepreneurial greatness - they just didn’t know it yet!
First Taste of Success
In 2008, both Erin and Eugene got their feet wet in Palantir Technologies, a company specializing in data-gathering and analysis, primarily intended for government agencies.
More importantly, the platform offered fancy services to help banks manage mortgages more efficiently.
While Eugene worked as the company’s advisor, Erin took the role of software engineer. Lunching together on a daily basis, they both saw a great potential business partner in the other, which would eventually lead to a groundbreaking joint success.
After a year of programming for the finance engineering team, Eugene's gift was finally noticed, and he was promoted to an engineering lead.
On the other hand, Erin wasn't as excited to still be working in the same position, so he decided to apply for Clarium Capital Management, where he could grow his skills as head trader.
Qualified as he was, Erin got the job with ease and was right. Here, he gained enough experience in establishing start-ups, while aiding the growth of Peter Thiel's prosperous fund into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
Immediately after Erin left, Nima joined Palantir Technologies as business development engineer. For him, too, analyzing existing and potential markets to pinpoint business opportunities was far from sufficient. Instead of bailing altogether, Nima wore his poker face for a while and kept sharpening his mind with extra knowledge.
Spending several hours a day immersed in gaming, Nima became so skillful at it that topping his knowledge seemed a mission impossible. Having learned to thrive in times of uncertainty and analyze people's psychology, Nima had no trouble putting those skills to practice and benefiting from them. Fun while it lasted, the journey had to end at some point, and in 2011, Nima decided to put his edgy lifestyle to an end.
Luckily, that same year, Eugene noticed the rising talent that was Nima and contacted his ex-coworker Erin to share a dazzling idea with them- opening their own startup.
A phone call later, a trio of acquaintances would get together to brainstorm a range of propositions and concepts - and ultimately come across one they couldn’t overlook.
Unraveling the Problem
In early 2012, the Great Recession plunged the global economy into the greatest depths of the vast ocean of crisis - leading millions of people homeless.
As a problem to be solved, the trio was eager to develop a solution to the ongoing crisis.
Together, the three brainiacs had gone through every single mortgage book they could get their hands on. Some heavy reading later, they realized that, despite the great power that the industry had, it was all - and still - paper-driven.
Upon facing the problem, the three innovators discovered the need for a whole new tech platform to help facilitate people's lending processes.
But, the trio thought, if legal, why no one has ever done this before?
Somewhere in between their last coffee and countless sleepless nights, they realized that people were stuck in one place, convinced that digitizing mortgages was an undoable concept. As it turned out, it was completely legal, but even so, potential users refused to believe that mortgage management could be done even via phones.
Of course, that kind of conservative thinking wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
After carefully going over ideas and fruitful business structures, the trio agreed to build a platform that helps lenders make timely decisions by using existing borrower's data.
With that idea in mind, the team launched Blend in 2011.
Better Lending, for Everybody
The early stage of Blend was of crucial importance to its survival on the market.
The trio now needed to assemble a greater team, and recruit industry experts, a move that would ultimately help them score their first funding.
The moment people began to notice the power of this business team - the investments followed along.
This brought Blend to its very first investor - Palantir's founder who invented the seed round in 2012. After the initial investment, the team consistently managed the platform’s workflow, approval logic and credit poles, always leaving room for developing other product lines. Their patience paid off in the long run and Blend’s first customer joined the brand in 2014. In 2015, the company earned a ravishing $20 million investment in Series B funding.
Today, the company depends on funds to continue its requiting of the finest engineering talent and bring the platform closer to a plethora of global lenders.
For this purpose, The Founders Fund doubled its earlier funding with dazzling $40 million in 2016.
Ever since, Blend's growth has been downright unstoppable. The company attracted the country's most powerful mortgage lenders, holding $30 billion in mortgage applications. Consequently, another striking amount poured in from Greylock, worth a total of $100 million.
The company’s latest funding came in 2021 from Goatue, Tiger Global Management, estimating an incredible $300 million.
All in all, the company has raised a total amount of $665 million in 9 rounds, thus further testifying to its remarkable success.
In 2020, Blend facilitated over $1.4 trillion in mortgages and consumer loans, estimating its annual revenue at $71.8 million.
At present, Blend partners with over 250 financial institutions, processing over $3 billion in consumer loans and mortgages.
The company has over 600 employees across two locations to serve the needs of millions of modern borrowers worldwide.
Blend - because everyone needs to lend better, faster - and smarter!