As the last days of 2014 disappear, many people’s bank savings will follow suit. Holiday splurging and the continuing trend of consumer debt call upon innovative lending platforms like local startup, Grouplend.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
I’m Kevin Sandhu, the CEO & Founder of Grouplend, Canada’s most innovative online lending platform. We help hard working, responsible Canadians save money and improve their lives. I created Grouplend out of a deeply rooted belief that there is a better way for Canadians to access the money they need to live their lives.
Who do you classify as competitors or substitutes and why should people adopt you over other products and services in this space?
Grouplend offers personal loans that are more affordable and convenient than what is offered by banks, credit cards and other lenders. We provide a fundamentally different way to pay for life’s expenses, driven by technology and data networks, rather than antiquated paper-based systems. The days of business hours and waiting in line are dead.
Plus, we like to have fun while helping people out. Recently we took to the streets of Vancouver to talk to people about Canadians’ rising debt levels. I dressed up like a credit card and we offered people $5 bills to throw waterballoons at me.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Grouplend?
Vancouver is an interesting place for a business like Grouplend. We’re somewhat removed from the country’s financial capital, Toronto, which makes it an unlikely place to be reinventing the industry. But that separation is key in allowing us to look at old problems with fresh perspectives. Combine that with a bevy of passionate talent, supportive angel investors, and increasing global visibility, and I can’t think of a better place to grow our company.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
Personal borrowing in Canada is inconvenient and expensive. Banks and credit card companies charge a fortune to make up for the overhead associated with manual, paper-based processes and outdated systems. Consumer debt is at record levels and domestic banks are raking in record profits. Customer service is slow and it’s limited to restrictive business hours. Using technology and data-driven systems, we are able to lower the cost of borrowing while increasing speed and quality of service. By giving qualified investors the opportunity to fund borrowers’ loans, we further reduce costs to offer Canadians a better borrowing experience.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. From an early age, I was obsessed with identifying inefficient markets and finding ways to extract hidden value. But I was raised in an environment that valued more traditional forms of employment and success. So I balanced my entrepreneurial endeavours with my studies and ultimately followed a more traditional career path. I spent nearly a decade working in investment banking and private equity before deciding to return to my entrepreneurial roots. It was a bit scary to leave a relatively secure and financially rewarding career, but I can confidently say I haven’t had any regrets yet.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Elon Musk: he’s a brilliant risk taker and a true visionary. No one’s ever going to call that guy a one-hit-wonder.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
I once saw Bill Murray at YVR. Does that count? Because it would be great to have him on the team.
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
It’s easy to follow the rules but a lot more fun to make them.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
Read voraciously and listen intently. Every story has lessons, whether the outcome is positive or negative. Today, we enjoy unprecedented access to information, leaving no excuse for ignorance. Build, fail, learn, and repeat, but there’s no justification for making someone else’s mistake. Twitter, business books, blogs, whatever it takes to learn from those who have been down the path before you.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with as many mentors as possible. Your mentors don’t have to all be successful entrepreneurs (but make sure some of them are). My mentors include business leaders, other entrepreneurs, my wife, my team and just about everyone who provides me inspiration and support. Your mentors will change throughout your career but the value you get out of the relationships won’t. I’ve followed this policy my entire career and it has been, without a doubt, the single most important ingredient for any success that I’ve had.
*End of interview*
The archaic financial systems are an increasingly targeted industry tech companies are set to disrupt. There are obvious inefficiencies and reasons to despise the system so it doesn’t surprise me that companies like Grouplend are looking for less expensive and more efficient ways to access money. The question I believe is how fast consumers open up to these new services and how resilient they will be moving forward.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.