Interview with Brock Blake, CEO and founder, Lendio
Brock Blake has a talent for recognizing needs in the marketplace and then forming companies to meet those demands. That is exactly what he has done twice, with FundingUniverse and currently with Lendio.
As CEO and founder of Lendio, the largest online marketplace for small business loans in the U.S., he is all about connecting individuals with funding sources. Blake believes access to capital should be more straightforward and quicker for small business owners, and he has built a successful company around solving this problem.
He shaped a superior company culture with a humble and hungry team that is passionate about driving results and giving back. For every loan facilitated on Lendio’s marketplace platform, Lendio Gives, an employee contribution and employer matching program, provides a loan to a low-income entrepreneur around the world through Kiva.org.
How did you get started in the industry?
In 2006 my co-founder and I launched FundingUtah. The company connected Utah business owners looking for capital with Utah venture capitalists and angel investors. We did well in Utah and decided to move beyond its borders, officially becoming FundingUniverse. Within a few years, we were doing about $1 million in revenue each month.
However, the FundingUniverse business model wasn’t scalable. We did not build proprietary technology, and we relied too much on employees behind the scenes. The biggest problem with the model was less than two percent of startups that came to us looking for cash were ever going to raise capital from an investor. The other 98 percent of business owners weren’t looking for investor capital to grow; instead, they needed small-dollar loans to support their operations.
We knew the path we were on was ultimately a dead end, and we decided to reinvent ourselves and start over.
I and several others spent nights and weekends coming up with a way to transform what we built with FundingUniverse into a debt model. We designed new technology and began connecting with alternative lenders. In January 2011, we shut down FundingUniverse—going from $10 million in revenue to zero overnight, and launched Lendio.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
As an entrepreneur, nothing is more fulfilling than seeing the tremendous impact Lendio has on businesses across the country. Since its inception, Lendio has funded nearly $1.5 billion in loans. We estimate these loans have enabled businesses to generate close to $5 billion in gross economic impact in their communities. This translates to about 40,000 jobs created. We could fill up Rice Eccles Stadium with the number of jobs created in that time frame.
None of what Lendio has accomplished in the last eight years would be possible without a large group of people sharing my obsession. As I’ve worked to build the business, I’ve embraced not only my role as CEO but my role as CCO (Corporate Culture Officer). I, along with my executive team, created an environment that supports the collective vision, values and desires of the employees.
Where did your idea for Lendio come from?
The idea came from my passion to promote the American dream of entrepreneurship through access to capital.
What drew you to Utah?
I love Utah. When it came time for me to start a business, there was no question I wanted to be based here in Utah. The state has the right recipe for building a successful company. From a regulatory standpoint, Utah is very business-friendly, the cost of living is affordable and there’s a deep talent pool to draw from.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
Utah is such a unique environment. It has an entrepreneurial spirit that’s tangible and inspiring. Utah’s family-friendly vibe and quality of life are unmatched elsewhere. I’m also a huge fan of outdoor activities like cycling and skiing.
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
The high-quality of life in Utah attract strong talent, from engineering to sales and everything in between. The low cost of living and family-oriented culture is attractive to candidates. This combination of benefits helps Lendio attract great talent and build the fun, results-oriented workplace culture we have.
I appreciate what Gov. Herbert and other leaders have done to help lay the groundwork for a thriving business environment. Silicon Slopes has done an amazing job of strengthening the local business community through its Tech Summit, networking events and roundtables. We have a fantastic community for entrepreneurs in Utah.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business, to Utah?
Study the history of Utah companies. Learn about companies that sold too soon, about successful initial public offerings in the state and how the money has been reinvested in new ventures.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
Out-of-state companies hear about our talented workforce and want to hire from our pool of candidates.
We are fortunate that with our strong mission and values, Lendio has a strong company culture to present potential candidates. Half the battle is getting candidates through the door, then we are able to give them a taste of the unique, energetic culture we have in Utah.
What is your business philosophy?
Very few companies become overnight successes. However, many overcome significant challenges and defeats to emerge triumphantly. That’s important to remember when the going gets tough.
To me, being successful in business is about more than making a lot of money. It’s about the impact we have on our team members and on the customers we serve. That drives everything we do.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I’m one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet.
As a company, we’ve embraced competition as one of our shared values. While we believe in being humble, we are also hungry to win. One of our favorite events of the year is the rivalry football game between BYU and the University of Utah.
Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?
I want to build a great business, first and foremost. That’s my focus. I want to create an environment where people love coming to work, they love the company’s mission and they want to be part of giving back to the community and the country.