Startup Blend is trying to speed up and automate the mortgage application process.
Photo credit: Blend
By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
July 25, 2018

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This spring the CEO of Wells Fargo gave a public hat tip to a tiny company in San Francisco called Blend, a creator of white-label software that automates the process of applying for mortgage loans. The Wells leader, Tim Sloan, is hungry for feel-good stories about his embattled bank, and acknowledging that it wasn’t too mighty to reach out for help from a startup qualifies.

I visited Blend at its sunny Financial District office Tuesday. Its CEO, Nima Ghamsari, is in many ways the antithesis of his big-bank business partner. Ghamsari is an Iranian immigrant who grew up in Ohio and studied computer science at Stanford. After a stint helping develop a financial-services practice for the private data-mining firm Palantir—the secretive company helped mortgage lenders streamline the loan-modification process for under-water borrowers—Ghamsari founded Blend in 2012. (The name, he says, is a mashup of “better” and “lending.”) The goal was to eliminate as much as possible of the paper-based nonsense that long has been part of the mortgage-application dodge.

Progress has been gradual but rewarding. Today the company’s product is the “powered by Blend” automated application process for more than 110 U.S. banks, including tiny local banks plus Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank. Winning the Wells business took time. “Years, not months,” says Ghamsari. Now the small firm takes a flat fee on nearly 100,000 completed mortgage applications per month. What was as much as an eight-week process of back-and-forth document requests now happens in near real time.

What’s notable about Blend is that it attacked a segment of the market where big banks already were spending prodigiously on software development. Gone are the days when incumbents turned up their noses at upstarts. Business reinvention demands partners, as Wells Fargo concluded.

As for Blend, Ghamsari says the venture-backed company has “tens of millions of dollars” in annual revenues and 300 employees. It plans to expand soon into software connecting car-loan lenders with consumers.

It isn’t the sexiest business. But it’s solving a real problem. And that’s the true promise of technology.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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