Truckee dot-com start-up pioneering online loans
Less dot-com and more dot-calm. Low impact seems to be the motto of a new Truckee-based Internet startup whose ambitious business plans blend in with a low-key local lifestyle.
LeaseLoan is an Internet-based commercial financing company providing customers nationwide with business loans from its headquarters on Donner Lake. The company opened for business in November and this week announced a successful first round of financing.
LeaseLoan claims to make loans of any size or variety to just about any business faster and at more competitive rates than standard banks thanks to its Internet-based lending technology. The company uses the equipment it finances to secure its loans.
“At the end of the day it’s easier and faster than going through a bank,” said co-founder Aaron Pollard.
But Pollard admits that independent financing is a new type of business that many people have trouble understanding.
“Our goal is to make commercial leasing as easy as using a credit card,” Pollard said, explaining that he has set up a “LeaseLoan University” section on his company’s Web site to illustrate the benefits of independent lending.
For example, a jet-ski rental company could take out a loan to buy five new jet-skis almost overnight if their credit checks out in the application they submit to LeaseLoan through the Internet.
One private Silicon Valley investor recognized the company’s potential and delivered $1.2 million in financing last week. Pollard said that it is unusual for Silicon Valley investors to consider supporting companies not in their area. LeaseLoan is an exception, and is also part of business incubator Enterventures’ portfolio.
LeaseLoan was recently called a “hot Internet model to watch” by Forbes magazine. But because of the Silicon Valley-centric nature of Internet businesses from financing to staffing and attitude, Pollard said he does not believe that Truckee will be threatened by a flood of dot-coms following his lead to the mountains.
Born in Washington, D.C., Pollard came up with the idea for LeaseLoan with his partner Nick Pullen while they were both working for Preferred Capital for five years, a small-ticket equipment leasing agency based in Tahoe City. He said that the idea for the business came from seeing the complex process of obtaining a loan through a bank or traditional lender.
“It was clear to us that through technology you can make the process much easier,” said Pollard. He is optimistic about his business prospects and claimed that commercial lending outside of banks now exceeds $230 billion dollars a year. Still, the company is just beginning to arrange deals and is now focusing on assembling the software and hardware infrastructure.
To date, they have financed a snow removal tractor for an East Coast town, a point-of-sale computer system in Southern California and are working with companies in Reno.
But at its core, LeaseLoan is a local business with apparently little interest in the typical model of the fast growth, quick sell-out Internet business model recently made famous by many Silicon Valley successes.
“We view ourselves as a commercial finance company that uses the Internet,” said Pollard, who said that 30 percent of their transactions now come online. “We’re not a dot-com that happens to sell financial products.”
Pollard said that he chose to base his business in Truckee because of the quality of life where his 12 employees can enjoy outdoor sports.
“We feel strongly that Tahoe is the right place to launch this business because it gives us competitive advantages in terms of lifestyle and human resources efforts,” said Pollard, explaining that his company grew from three to 13 employees in three months.
“Silicon Valley is crowded, expensive and securing good employees is difficult down there,” he added.
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