The dawn of the 2014 edition of the LendIt conference is upon us, and I’m like an eight-year old kid on Christmas Eve. In a few short hours, the best and brightest in the world of crowd and internet-based finance will descend upon the Hilton in Union Square, and we’ll be off to the races. There will be learning, networking, brainstorming, partnering – swimming deep in this vast ocean of financial market disruption that we call online lending. I’m genuinely ecstatic for things to get rolling, and I thought I’d write a few quick thoughts on what I’m most looking forward to.
Naturally, I’m excited to connect with and hear from the industry’s pioneers and current titans, Lending Club and Prosper. They blazed the trails for what are now several widely accepted realities – that a functional marketplace for common sense financial transactions can exist online; that viable alternatives to painful bricks-and-mortar lending institutions can be made accessible for a vast universe of legitimately creditworthy borrowers; that access for income investors to high quality, short-duration, healthy yielding diversified loan portfolios need not be restricted only to banks and other massive financial institutions.
Beyond that, they’ve proven themselves over and over again – as innovators, operators, visionaries, etc. Prosper has obviously pivoted, juked, jumped, and jived several times in the past few years – and is now on solid footing with a focus on growth in its core business. Having established itself with a seemingly bulletproof consumer term loan product, Lending Club is now executing its vision to broadly become a global leader in credit origination. These two companies have not only been pioneers in creating an incredible industry, but they’ve also been great partners to me in establishing my business as an asset manager in the space. I’m genuinely excited to hear about what’s next from them – but what’s more thrilling to me is the opportunity to build relationships with new partners.
There are so many companies that – standing on the shoulders of the innovations of the past decade – are building new, fascinating opportunities from scratch. A year ago, things were starting to heat up around online small business term lending, student loans, and real estate crowdfunding – each of these are increasingly active realities in the marketplace, having attracted major investments from reputable and deep-pocketed institutions. We’re now talking about taking the existing models to “emerging prime” borrowers, creating rewards-based credit products, web-originated short-term business funding, consumer income share agreements, online lending in the secured subprime auto space, specialized patient loan products for medical procedures, innovative centralized models for distributing these various loan products to income investors, new data aggregation tools for advanced decisioning – the list goes on and on…
I’m excited to gather with a group of people who are skating to where the puck is going, not to where it sits currently. I’m excited to be in the same place at the same time with companies who believe in the democratization of finance, and who share my vision of creating financial products that just absolutely make sense for every link in the value chain. Basically – I’m excited to work hand in hand with people who get it. Who see the white space – the massive bifurcation in credit markets between traditional bricks-and-mortar lenders and the classically onerous “alternative lenders” – and who want to do something about it.
From a selfish perspective, I’m candidly looking forward to talking shop with folks who can help grow my business on both sides: groups with asset networks who can help to direct good, smart funds to emerging managers in the space, and companies creating high quality credit products that fit my fund’s value proposition and diversification objectives. These are conversations I have separately every day, but it’s invariably a pretty cool experience to have so many passionate, brilliant, like-minded people in the same place at the same time.
LendIt 2014 is upon us indeed; I hope to see you there! If you’ll be there and we don’t know each other, come find me and we’ll chat. Best regards,