Real Estate and Finance
Waypoint Homes co-founders Doug Brien and Colin Wiel started their business as a result of the decline in the economy, brought on by the 2008-09 housing market crash. The idea was to purchase homes and allow people to stay in them as tenants, rather than owners.
The co-founders were introduced at an angel investor meeting when Brien was looking for someone interested in the single-family home rental business and Wiel was the only one who shared the vision to “change the world through renting.”
For each home purchased, Waypoint Homes puts in an average of $20,000 in immediate improvements to meet needs of potential renters. The company also has started building new homes for rent, working with builders to create homes catered specifically to the single-family renter. That way the best possible homes can be provided for clients.
Recognizing that lack of financial understanding and knowledge is a big issue, Waypoint Homes partnered with the financial fitness program Operation HOPE to teach financial literacy to elementary students. The company also works with BUILD, which goes into high schools in underprivileged areas to educate students about how to start a business.
Although other contenders have entered the single-family home renter market, Waypoint Homes has maintained a competitive advantage through its operating infrastructure and customer service model. Brien and Wiel developed an innovative “lease plus rewards” program for tenants. Through the program, “Waypoints” are earned by paying rent on time, renewing leases and maintaining properties. They feel the loyalty program is key to making tenants see the benefits of renting.
Innovation also is part of Waypoint Homes’ strategy in new asset acquisition. The company created a technology that utilizes sources of predictive analytics and mapping with GPS systems to process a large volume of market data and make investment decisions based on appropriate metrics.
founder and CEO
Ellie Mae, Inc.
Serial entrepreneur Sig Anderman saw the Internet’s potential to make the mortgage process more efficient. In 1997, he founded Ellie Mae, Inc., which became a leading provider of on-demand software for the residential mortgage industry.
Anderman thought the mortgage process, which involves extensive documentation, could be automated. While competitors focused on data entry and printing documents, Ellie Mae created Encompass software to enable the mortgage process to be automated through the cloud, with compliance controls woven into the software at all phases.
The company survived both the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s and the housing and financial crisis of 2008. Although industry regulation continues to increase, Anderman sees it as an opportunity to continue to streamline the mortgage process and deliver greater value to customers.
Ellie Mae is his fourth successful business venture in the past three decades and was the largest gainer on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. Anderman’s vision is to make the business the automation backbone of the residential mortgage industry for the next 50 years.
His entrepreneurial vision has been shaped by his people philosophy, which he views as the key to Ellie Mae’s success. He believes you can be nice and still succeed, and hires smart people who share his vision in an atmosphere of honesty, openness and kindness.
He describes his company culture as old fashioned, built around listening to the customer, developing high quality products, providing superior customer service, and hiring employees who are passionate yet balanced in their work, home and community life.
Anderman believes companies and employees should give back to their communities and leave them in better shape than they found them. So he established EllieCares, an employee-run volunteer program. Employees are given time off with pay for these volunteer activities and the company matches employee-raised contributions.
CEO and president
Clean Power Finance
Nat Kreamer, CEO of Clean Power Finance, became attracted to renewable energy and clean tech while serving with the special forces in Afghanistan. He realized that the way to win was to cut off supply lines, which would require developing a reliable source of domestic energy.
He sold his first residential solar finance product in 2007 with SunRun, but saw an opportunity to be even more innovative with renewable energy financing. He recognized that exploring the residential aspect of the business could be lucrative if he could bring in more liquidity and investors.
In 2010, Kreamer joined with Kleiner Perkins and Google Ventures to invest in a solar software company, Clean Power Finance. When he took the reins, the company provided software infrastructure to connect solar companies to residential consumers.
Kreamer thought the key to the solar market was expanding finance opportunities. He had a vision that the company could become an online marketplace for solar financing, serving the 40 million U.S. homeowners who could save money with solar if they could get financing.
Using the platform created by Clean Power Finance, solar company sales representatives can pitch products, present customized proposals within minutes, offer financing options, perform a credit check and close sales. With Clean Power Finance’s help, more than 150,000 homeowners went solar in 2013.
Unlike competitors, which have business models based on tax-advantaged solar financing products, Clean Power Finance’s market is finance product agnostic and can offer new products as the market evolves.
Kreamer is passionate about the solar industry and lectures at the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University to encourage a new generation of renewable energy leaders.
He envisions the same platform created for the solar market to eventually include other utilities and broaden in scale, scope and geography.