Today was a big day for Tim Milazzo, his company StackSource and possibly commercial real estate lending as whole. Tim had been selected as a pitch finalist for the LendIt conference in New York. This in itself is a big deal. LendIt bills itself as the biggest conference in lending and fintech and has speakers from influential companies like American Express, Lending Club and Goldman Sachs.
But, Tim had an extra surprise in store for this big day. His company StackSource has been a tool for property lenders to centralize workflow. While they are a new company, emerging from the TechStars accelerator program late last year, they have already helped property owners process over $1B of loan offers on the platform. But, this was never the end game for Tim and his co-founder Nathan. They started the company with the idea of creating a marketplace for commercial real estate borrowers. Today, they not only pitched at LendIt, they also went live with the marketplace that they originally envisioned.
Let me back up a little. I first met Tim in a bar in Manhattan with our mutual acquaintance Duke Long. It was around 6:30pm, early by NYC standards, so the bar was empty except for the three of us and a family of Asian tourists. Tim had arranged a meeting to talk about the future of StackSource and field any questions we had about his move into the world of lending marketplaces. If I had to identify some of Tim’s best qualities they would be the foresight to ask questions and the patience to listen to other people opinions. His patience was certainly tested that night as Duke and I both grilled him on how he was going to execute on his plan. His foresight to ask questions had been demonstrated a year or so earlier, before he even set out on his journey of being a FinTech founder.
Tim started out not in real estate or finance, but in AdTech. He considered real estate, his father was a broker in Manhattan, but his early internship at a real estate firm had turned him off to the industry. He wanted to work in technology and at the time “real estate was not only behind other industries, but wasn’t even keeping up with the technology I had in my personal life.” His words, not mine.
So, he pursued a career in technology, working for a company called Liverail that eventually got acquired by Facebook. While at Facebook Tim and Nathan (who worked for Google at the time) noticed how many of their colleagues were leaving their jobs to go start FinTech companies. The two made a pact to look into opportunities to create useful technology.
Tim used his father’s lifetime of connections and sat down with dozens of real estate professionals to see what part of the industry, particularly on the financing side, would gain the most benefit from new tech. “I saw even more opportunity in CRE tech than even FinTech at the time.’ Ultimately, he recognized a need to bring lenders and borrowers together and used his nights, weekends and even paternity leave to create a business plan and investor deck.
That plan would land him in TechStar’s 2016 summer cohort. He speaks highly of this experience, “We learned a lot from going through the Techstars program. Learning from other founders was really helpful. Some of our best mentors, like Michael Mandel from CompStak, are now advisors to the company and have proven to be invaluable resources,” Tim told me.
What Tim is attempting to do, creating transparency in the lending sector of commercial real estate, could lead to a big change in how buildings are financed. Currently, an army of small lending offices exist to help investors place debt on real assets. The rates can vary greatly and I have personally seen generation fees go as high as seven points. This is due to the relational nature of these types of transactions. Most investors have longstanding relationships with lending agents and borrowers try to find lenders that have the biggest networks. But even the biggest investor networks routinely broker deals with other groups. There is no central point for all of these time sensitive deals, so it all comes down to how well each office can manage their deal flow.
Now, after Tim’s announcement at the LendIt conference, borrowers and brokers will be able to list their deals on StackSource. They will not have to rely on the network of relationships they have in order to spread the word, but rather will rather using the aggregate network within StackSource. Borrowers will be able to have their deal’s details sent to top loan officers, investors and banks.
In a way, the state of commercial lending reminds me of residential real estate transactions pre Zillow/Redfin. Once both sides of the transaction see how much wider of a net can be cast than by using local agents, neither will harbor nostalgia for the previous system.
Next week Tim is planning on presenting again to the MIPIM real estate technology conference in Cannes, France. StackSource won the New York MIPIM pitch competition for the transactional category and now they will be going up against other winners for the London and Hong Kong events. If all goes well with their initial marketplace launch announced today, they will have some good adoption numbers to go alongside his well practiced pitch and professional looking slides. If you think you want to be an early adopter of what could be the CRE lending revolution, go to Stacksource.com. Or, if you are an accredited investor looking to learn more about Tim’s plans for the future, find them at fundable.com/StackSource.