Resident Spotlight: LoanDolphin
Ranin Mendis and Rod Dutra
LoanDolphin CEO Ranin Mendis remembers that when he and co-founder Rod Dutra first arrived at Stone & Chalk, they had big dreams that their burgeoning venture would be able to gain enough traction to empower Australians to get better home loan rates.
But having previously worked within the confines of a top tier bank, the startup world was something of an unfamiliar environment.
“When we first came to Stone & Chalk, we were bankers not entrepreneurs. Because of this we were surprised that our transition was so smooth. One of the main reasons I can point to is the people, the support and the guidance,” says Ranin.
“We were able to have conversations with so many other startups, particularly when it came to marketing, digital strategy or growth hacking. We could have done it alone, failed and restarted, but instead we were able to tap into the knowledge base all around us — a true ecosytem.”
Rod agrees and says the people they’ve met since becoming residents in February 2016 have been invaluable for LoanDolphin’s expansion.
“The fantastic networks we’ve been welcomed into and the mentors that we still see every week or every fortnight — they’ve opened a lot of doors for us,” Rod says.
“Some of the connections we made through sitting at the desks have been very important for our growth and we wouldn’t have made those if we were working out of bedrooms.”
And the LoanDolphins are well and truly out of their bedrooms.
After building their innovative marketplace platform for home loans in July 2015, they were accepted in the H2 Ventures Accelerator program at the beginning of 2016.
“It was in December, around the same time we had completed the beta version of the site, when we found out that we had been accepted into the program that started in February. Being accepted into H2 meant that we could launch and also quit our jobs,” says Rod.
While some people may baulk at the idea of quitting a secure banking job to dive into an unknown startup world, both Rod and Ranin say that their families have been supportive.
“They saw our frustration as bankers and knew that we wanted to find a way to give every day Australians access to home loans that are right for their situation,” says Rod.
“Everyone we spoke to really loved the idea, so that was more validation for us that we were on the right track.”
With friends and family already loving the concept, investors have also been pretty keen on it, and this year has rounded out with some very exciting news for team LoanDolphin.
In November it was announced that LoanDolphin had secured over $1 million in funding, with the majority coming from one of Australia’s best known strategic investors Barry Lambert (as well H2 Ventures).
Lambert, who founded Count Financial in 1980 and sold the company to CBA in 2011 for $373 million, said that LoanDolphin’s platform is “the next generation” in mortgage broking efficiency and borrower savings.
Ranin says that this funding round will enable LoanDolphin to expand across the country and bring their free loan bidding platform to more Australians.
“Barry’s involvement is extremely valuable to LoanDolphin and strong validation of our model and market opportunity,” says Ranin.
Rod’s and Ranin’s relatively speedy transition from bankers to businessmen is a real indication of importance of the incubator model. And like all good incubators, Stone & Chalk also encourages its residents to swim in the open sea as they expand.
LoanDolphin has done just that with Rod and Ranin moving into a different, less fintech-focused co-working space.
“It’s the nature of the evolution for us. We’re growing and we need to have our own space because of the sensitivity of the data we collect,” Rod explains.
Ranin says that their new space is a change in terms of mentality and its “vibe” is very different from Stone & Chalk.
“For us we need a more private space to tap into new areas. Evolving our technology, learning from our customers and reaching more Australians are our priorities at this stage,” says Ranin.
“Starting out with the support of Stone & Chalk, H2 Ventures and the other residents has really given us the platform and the confidence to take this next step.”