Mortgages may not be considered sexy, but they are a big business.
If you’ve refinanced or purchased a home digitally lately, you may not have noticed the company powering the software behind it — but there’s a good chance that company is Blend.
Founded in 2012, the startup has steadily grown to be a leader in the mortgage tech industry. Blend’s white label technology powers mortgage applications on the site of banks including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, for example, with the goal of making the process faster, simpler and more transparent.
The San Francisco-based startup’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform currently processes over $5 billion in mortgages and consumer loans per day, up from nearly $3 billion last July.
Today, Blend made its debut as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, trading under the symbol “BLND.” As of early afternoon, Eastern Time, the stock was trading up over 13% at $20.36.
On Thursday night, the company had said it would offer 20 million shares at a price of $18 per share, indicating the company was targeting a valuation of $3.6 billion.
That compares to a $3.3 billion valuation at the time of its last raise in January -- a $300 million Series G funding round that included participation from Coatue and Tiger Global Management. Also, let’s not forget that Blend only became a unicorn last August when it raised a $75 million Series F. Over its lifetime, Blend had raised $665 million before Friday's public market debut.
In filing its S-1 on June 21, Blend revealed that its revenue had climbed to $96 million in 2020 from $50.7 million in 2019. Meanwhile, its net loss narrowed from $81.5 million in 2019 to $74.6 million in 2020.
In 2020, the San Francisco-based startup significantly expanded its digital consumer lending platform. With that expansion, Blend began offering its lender customers new configuration capabilities so that they could launch any consumer banking product “in days rather than months.”
Looking ahead, the company had said it expects its revenue growth rate “to decline in future periods.” It also doesn’t envision achieving profitability anytime soon as it continues to focus on growth. Blend also revealed that in 2020, its top five customers accounted for 34% of its revenue.
Today, TechCrunch spoke with co-founder and CEO Nima Ghamsari about the company’s decision to go with a traditional IPO versus the ubiquitous SPAC or even a direct listing.
For one, Blend said he wanted to show its customers that it is an "around for a long time company” by making sure there’s enough on its balance sheet to continue to grow.
“We had to talk and convince some of the biggest investors in the world to invest in us, and that speaks to how long we’ll be around to serve these customers,” he said. “So it was a combination of our capital need and wanting to cement ourselves as a really credible software provider to one of the most regulated industries.”
Ghamsari emphasized that Blend is a software company that powers the mortgage process and is not the one offering the mortgages. As such, it works with the flock of fintechs that are working to provide mortgages.
“A lot of them are using Blend under the hood, as the infrastructure layer,” he said.
Overall, Ghamsari believes this is just the beginning for Blend.
"One of the things about financial services is that it's still mostly powered by paper. So a lot of Blend's growth is just going deeper into this process that we got started in years ago," he said. As mentioned above, the company started out with its mortgage product but just keeps adding to it. Today, it also powers other loans such as auto, personal and home equity.
"A lot of our growth is actually powered by our other lines of business," Ghamsari told TechCrunch. "There's a lot to build because the larger digitization trends are just getting started in financial services. It's a relatively large industry that has lots of change."
In May, digital mortgage lender Better.com announced it would combine with a SPAC, taking itself public in the second half of 2021.