Founders’ Friday: Brent Chandler, FormFree Holdings Corporation
Hi, Brandon here again. Today’s featured Friday founder is Brent Chandler from FormFree Holdings Corporation. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about his company and why he feels it could potentially change the mortgage-lending industry. Enjoy.
Founder: Brent Chandler
Company: FormFree Holdings Corporation
Brandon: Tell me a little bit about your company.
Brent: I founded FormFree Holdings back in 2008 with the idea of replacing paper and forms in the loan process with digital equivalents. In a nutshell, our flagship product AccountChek is an automated verification of deposit solution. We collect asset related data: bank statements, brokerage, IRAs, 401Ks and other asset information in a real time digital environment. We reach out to over 15,000 financial institutions on behalf of borrowers, with their authorization, and we analyze the information we retrieve, certify it and report on it back to the lenders. It’s a tool that really enhances a consumer’s experience when they are trying to apply for a loan.
We also have an emerging product called ATP, short for “Ability to Pay”. Our ATP product is a powerful analysis tool that helps lenders determine whether a borrower can truly afford the loan and dovetails with the AccountChek reports.
Brandon: What motivated you to get started
Brent: The idea really germinated when I was moving from New Jersey to Athens, Ga. I dealt with the frustration of purchasing a home in Athens before I sold my home in New Jersey. I was juggling three loans simultaneously, while interest rates were moving, and having to deal with paper faxing and printing as part of the qualification process. In exasperation, I asked one of the loan officers I was dealing with “Can’t I just give you access to all of my information electronically, so on a single screen you can see all my assets, liability and information? That way you can easily qualify me. I know I am a good candidate for a loan.” He said “Man that’s a great idea, but I don’t have a way to do it. Fax over your paper work.” At that point, I said to myself, “I am going to build this technology.”
Brandon: Why should your target audience use your company and not someone else’s?
Brent: We are fortunate to be what you would call a first mover. We are the first to market and basically the only game in town. We have patents pending that will protect us. Meanwhile, we will continue to expand our barrier to entry. A major marketplace advantage includes having partnerships with companies like Equifax and American Express and approvals by Fannie Mae, some of the most security conscious and conservative companies in the world. Having been vetted and approved for doing business is an asset because it shows consumers that our products are safe. Lenders want to use us because we streamline their workflow and virtually mitigate all fraud. Because we go directly to the bank for information as a part of our automated process, there are no individuals tampering with numbers on the bank statements. To the extent you can reduce the number of times sensitive information has to be handled by people, you effectively reduce the amount of fraud.
Brandon: What have been some of your biggest challenges so far?
Brent: One challenge has been to pay the talented workers that we have the money they deserve. As a start-up, we live a delicate balance of stretching every dollar as far as we possibly can. This forces us to be frugal and thoughtful with our money which will pay dividends in the future. Another challenge has been dealing with the mortgage/lending community at large. It is the largest market in the world, a $1.5 trillion market. This market does not often make changes or move very fast. When you innovate in a market like that it is very challenging to get people to adopt it. Getting them to change behavior is hard, especially when you are the first.
Brandon: How would you rate your company’s progress so far?
Brent: We’ve likened it to having a child. In the child scenario, we’ve been through nine months of pregnancy and had the baby. The baby is crawling and is about to start walking. We’ve been at it for four years. We’ve built the product and the product is production proven. We’ve surpassed the milestone of processing over 100 million dollars in bank account verifications. We look forward to receiving our patent soon. We have approximately 15 clients on our system. If I had to rate the company on a 1-10 scale, I would give us an 8, because I think we could have done some things differently and enhanced our position….but hey, hindsight’s always 20/20.
Brandon: Where do you see your startup in the next year?
Brent: I’m an optimist….I see us becoming a mainstay product in the industry, achieving millions in revenue, winning a Mortgage Bankers Innovation Technology award, helping consumers qualify for loans faster and easier, automating the loan process, mitigating fraud and literally taking the mortgage industry digital.
Brandon: Would you ever consider selling your company?
Brent: Sure, if the right offer was presented. I was told by one of my mentors to always entertain an offer; doesn’t mean you have to take it.
Brandon: What is the best thing about being the founder of your own company?
Brent: It’s awesome, rewarding and challenging all at the same time. One of the greatest pleasures I’ve enjoyed as a founder is to work on your own ideas and see them mature into live, functioning products that people seem interested in using and will actually pay for.
Because I’m passionate about what we do and how we do it, as a founder I get to create an environment that I believe will best serve all….employees, partners and clients. I push our people to embrace solving problems by focusing on the solution. We work by a code of ethics that I picked up in the Marines Corps, honor, courage, and commitment. I use this code at home too with my boys….we call it “110”. If you do the right thing and give a 110%, you will always come out a winner. ….
Brandon: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
Brent: I love spending time with my family and friends. I really enjoy sports activities with my boys. It becomes a family affair complete with Grandparents, In Laws, Nephews and friends. My boys are very active and play sports year round. We love attending Georgia sporting events too…Football, Basketball, Baseball, Gymnastics, Golf etc.
Brandon: What would you say to someone who is considering building their own startup? Any advice?
Brent: Have a big bank account. But seriously- you have to be passionate about your business first, because that is what will get you through the hard times. You have to believe at your core that this thing is viable, so you don’t end up chasing rainbows and come up empty handed. It is very important that you also recognize how your business will fit into the current market and that it’s big enough to succeed.
Brandon: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your startup?
Brent: I really believe we are changing the behavior of how people interact when borrowing money. We are redefining the concept of a borrowers’ ability to pay. Traditional lending has always been based on prior payments of debt associated with FICO. FICO scores are predicated on a system of how well you pay your bills, past tense. It says nothing about how much money you have in the bank or how much liquidity you have, present tense. You could have a poor FICO score and plenty of money in the bank and be turned down for a loan, and that just doesn’t make sense. With AccountChek, we say “check the checking account”. Your ATP score, ability to pay, is what is really important.
If you would like to know more about FormFree Holdings Corporation, you can visit their website.