Lending tech nets event's top prize

N.J. startup star of program in LR

Lendsmart walked away with the top prize at the Little Rock Venture Center's community banking accelerator program, which ended its second 12-week boot camp Wednesday.

"Everyone loved this team and the work that they do," said Wayne Miller, executive director of the Venture Center. "They just crushed it."

The Venture Center's ICBA ThinkTech accelerator program connects community banks with financial-technology companies that can provide digital products and services to bolster banks' profits and enhance their customer experience.

The Independent Community Bankers of America organization contributes $1 million to the accelerator, including $75,000 in seed capital to each participant.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Lendsmart founder A.K. Patel was grateful to be a part of the program.

"We'd like to thank the Venture Center and the ICBA team for taking a chance on Lendsmart and accepting us in the best fintech accelerator program in the world," Patel said after the decision was announced Wednesday.

"Their guidance, leadership, and mentorship has been invaluable," he added. "They have taught us the power of communities and we will continue to work hard and make them proud of serving our community."

Final product demonstrations were adjusted to compensate for the covid-19 outbreak, with each of the participants making virtual presentations on the last day of the accelerator program.

Lendsmart was announced as winner of the MVP trophy and a $5,000 grant to help the company participate in Finovate, a global showcase for banking and financial-technology startups.

The New York company offers artificial intelligence-driven software that simplifies the application process for mortgages, refinancing and lines of credit.

"We stand for smart lending," founder Patel said in his presentation Wednesday afternoon.

A typical mortgage application involves 16 steps and can take 60 days to complete, Patel said. Statistics show that about 68% of those who start the process give up because it's not user-friendly. And Lendsmart has found that 75% of applicants are looking for a better digital solution.

"We've given the homeowner the power to close within two weeks," Patel said, noting that Lendsmart's digital offering is only eight steps, half of the standard process used by community banks today.

Lendsmart offers an "end-to-end digital experience" to those applying for mortgages or related financial aid.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Lendsmart relied on relationships built during the Venture Center's accelerator program to develop a special digital product to speed up loan applications small businesses are submitting for federal aid through the new Paycheck Protection Program. That product debuted this week.

U.S. Rep. French Hill and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., both former bankers, participated in the webinar and complimented the startups on their product offerings and support for community banks. The accelerator program, Hill said, demonstrates that Little Rock is "blossoming as an international hub" for financial-technology startups.

FI Works of Little Rock joined nine other participants from across the United States, Canada and Israel. The startups offer products and services in areas that include marketing, fraud prevention, data analytics and mortgage lending.

Arkansas, through the economic development commission, contributes $250,000 to help operate the accelerator program.

Business on 04/09/2020