Nick Liuzza of Beeline
An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Nick Liuzza (co-founder and CEO) of Beeline, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Beeline – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
In 2005, I started a title company called Linear Title that went on to become the 2nd largest privately-owned title company in the US.
The problem that existed back then was a lack of communication in the industry. It was a lengthy and confusing process using legacy software platforms that relied on hiring more people to scale.
In 2018, when I was leaving Linear, those same problems still existed, and it was clear to us that the industry needed an end-to-end digital platform with a focus on the next generation of home buyers.
We wanted to make it easier and more accessible for young borrowers or anybody else who wanted a digital solution, so we designed and developed our own platform that focused on creating a better experience, faster processing times, and mobile-first tech. We’ve taken a laborious process and transformed it into a smooth, easy journey with less pressure on the user.
We’ve come across a lot of barriers, but in the last two years, the industry has started to accept more digital solutions like digital title, eClosing, increased appraisal waivers, and changes to the way loans are underwritten, with Fannie and Freddie leading the charge on streamlining underwriting.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
With Beeline, we wanted to jump into the industry without a lot of legacy experience. This approach enabled us to start from zero and come up with a creative solution, rather than focusing on the ways things had been done in the past.
We wanted to be fresh with unencumbered minds, so we built a product team in Australia led by fellow co-founders who were high on digital lending experience but short on U.S mortgage experience. The product team was able to solve current problems and focus on the future without being tainted by the industry.
I had done the same thing back at Linear Title – we started with very little industry experience. The first three years were tough, but by year four, we started to excel because we had a creative and driven team with high ceilings and no legacy barriers. We came out of those difficult first years with a lot of experience and the sky became the limit.
It was difficult to build our product with very little industry experience and with a team on the other side of the globe, but since our team is so talented, that decision is starting to pay off as we become more comfortable and experienced.
What does the future hold for Beeline?
The market is down right now. Every time you look at the news, you see something depressing about the housing market or interest rates. But if you’re creative as a business leader, you can find the silver lining in a bad market. Right now we have a tremendous opportunity to do things that we couldn’t have done 2 years ago.
We’ve been able to hire an industry-proven Chief Revenue Officer who’s coming in and making some really compelling changes for us. We would never have been able to hire somebody of his caliber if the market hadn’t slowed down.
The market downturn also forced us to look at our business differently and focus on some niche loan products. For example, we’re focusing our efforts more on the investment property space and combining non-qm and conventional loans in one place. It’s hard to find a nationwide lender offering both non-qm and conventional mortgage products under one roof, so this allows our borrowers to look at a wide variety of mortgage products on one platform.
The future’s really bright for us. The positive changes we’ve made this year simply wouldn’t have happened if the market wasn’t really bad, and when the market turns around we’ll be in a great position to grow the business.
Our goal is to be a nationwide top 20 lender in the next 5 years using digital tech to decrease the number of touches and days to close a mortgage.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Providence?
The talent level in and around Providence is strong — I have found that being based in RI provides employers with smart and loyal employees.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s going to be harder than you think, so don’t bank on getting lucky. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices, work long hours, and be smarter than your competition. Don’t underestimate your competitors and understand at the end of the day competition is good – it’s good to be friendly with your competitors.
Be prepared to be surprised and expect to have to pivot from your plan from time to time. Hire smart and dedicated employees that you can trust and empower them. If you need to micro-manage them, then you hired the wrong people. Let them grow, share your vision, and ensure they buy in and are able to share the vision with the next generations of employees.