Lendistry is a Black led fintech and technology-enabled small business and commercial real estate lender with Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Entity (CDE) certification.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lendistry provided Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to small businesses in all 50 states, becoming the #8 PPP lender in the country in 2021.
Everett K. Sands, the CEO of Lendistry, has over 20 years of experience in lending, including stints at both national and community banking institutions.
Through his leadership, Lendistry has reached 2nd place ranking among SBA Community Advantage lenders nationwide, received membership to the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, developed proprietary technology, and closed several strategic partnerships with over 34 community and national banks.
In this interview, Everett discusses the creation of the company, its growth through strategic partnerships, and future plans to expand its offerings to better support small businesses.
What gaps did you create Lendistry to fill?
There are many gaps in the finance industry that historically make it harder for minority-owned businesses to access capital, and they’re still happening today. Bank consolidations have caused community banks, which are more likely to provide loans in lower amounts than a growing business is looking for, to close their doors.
Underserved communities don’t have bank locations in their neighborhoods, and even if they did, today’s business owners are too busy running their businesses during bank hours to go in for help applying. Systemic biases still cause minorities and women business owners to be seen as riskier, making them less likely to get approved even if they can find a bank to partner with. Lendistry was created to overcome all of these barriers.
We use technology to make our process accessible to anyone and to empower our team to walk applicants through the process. We set out to meet business owners where they are—online—and offer loans in lower amounts with underwriting processes that give them a fair chance, while also providing a community bank experience.
How has the business lending space evolved since you started your company?
Credit profile (the business’s ability to repay, handle various market conditions, the repayment history of the owner and the management team) used to be the main deciding factor in lending. It’s still important, but the factors that traditional financial institutions are making are also based on operational efficiency.
Is the business run in a cost-effective way, and are its processes free of waste and redundancy? They ask those kinds of questions in the lending process now more than they used to.
Describe Lendistry’s growth over the past few years. How much have strategic partnerships played a role in that growth?
We started in 2015, and in early 2020, we were a small team of about forty people in two offices in Southern California. Because we’re not a bank and we don’t take deposits, strategic partnerships are essential to deploying capital. At that time, Lendistry had established itself in CA as a partner for financial institutions that wanted to make sure their capital was reaching underserved communities in an impactful way.
When the pandemic started, that business model was ideal for responding to disruption. Strategic partnerships with banks and government agencies made it possible for us to step up and provide a rapid solution, especially with PPP and grant programs.
We have now funded over 600,000 small businesses and provided over $9 billion in funding. We have offices and local presences in NY, MD, TX, and a team of hundreds ready to help businesses from coast to coast.
What are your future plans for the company?
The gaps I mentioned earlier can’t be filled just by providing small business term loans. Small businesses are evolving ahead of the financial industry, and predatory lenders are doing a good job of keeping up and making themselves look like the only option, which only holds businesses back, because after their quick funding comes unreasonable terms. So, at Lendistry our goal is to expand our offerings of lending products and be a responsible alternative in as many lending spaces as possible.
What advice do you have for other fintech founders?
Focus on the needs of your clients and customers as the basis for your technology. This involves listening to them, paying attention to how they work, and building your tech to solve their problems.
Don’t try to convince your clients and customers that they need to adopt your technology and change their processes and structures. Lendistry is a customer-centric ecosystem, which is how we’re able to grow and build trust.