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Income verification startup The Closing Docs helps property managers during economic crisis

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The Closing Docs co-founders Stephen Arifin (left) and Mark Fiebig. (Closing Docs Photos)

The pandemic is causing a lot of stress for both renters and landlords. The Closing Docs wants to help.

The Seattle startup sells income verification software to property managers, helping them get a better understanding of their tenant’s capacity to pay rent. The company is seeing demand amid the economic crisis.

“Because we offer instant access to up-to-the-minute income history, we are not only supporting applicant approval decisions and existing tenant renewal considerations, we are also giving property managers and tenants a tool to objectively communicate about current income status,” said Mark Fiebig, co-founder of The Closing Docs. “Our data provided to both parties supports these negotiations in constructive ways.”

The startup’s software connects to an applicant’s bank account to analyze their deposit history, and organizes the data into an income report. It offers its own standalone income screening service; the data can also be embedded into an online rental application.

The 3-year-old company supports more than 700,000 units managed by landlords, and also provides income verification to lenders offering loans to buyers of vehicles.

Fiebig, a serial entrepreneur and investment property manager, launched The Closing Docs in 2017 with Stephen Arifin, a former engineer at Microsoft. The company is part of a growing cadre of fintech startups in the Seattle region. We caught up with the founders to learn more about The Closing Docs for this edition of Startup Spotlight.

What does your company do? Give us your 2-to-3 sentence elevator pitch. The Closing Docs provides automated income verification to property managers and lenders. By expediting deal closings and eliminating fraud, we have significantly compressed vacancy periods and underwriting cycles, getting applicants approved in minutes, not days or weeks.

Inspiration hit us when: The ah-ha moment came when realizing potential customers kept telling us the same thing: they were waiting days for applicants to submit required information.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. Raising money takes a lot of time and focus. We determined to self-fund operations and allocated energy instead to signing up customers as our investors. It’s working.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: True market fit. Across decades selling tech solutions, I have never experienced implementing new customers on first phone calls and inside 30 minutes.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Staying laser-focused on only one very specific, difficult problem in a giant market. We’ve had countless customers beg us to implement additional features for them. While it’s difficult turning down additional revenue, we are certain it’s the right thing to do.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Early-partner contract terms could be more favorable to us.

Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? Mark: Warren Buffett. He seems to keenly understand the forces motivating human nature and the better we know how people are wired, the more concisely we can serve their interests.

Stephen: Bill Gates. His uncanny ability to articulate and convey his vision allows him to drive and evolve major segments of the technology market both technically and culturally.

Our favorite team-building activity is: Recruiting more revenue and drinking beer. Sometimes at the same time!

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Smart, interesting people that bring unique ideas. People that aren’t afraid of failure. A cultural fit that is in line with our cultural vision. The early team builds the foundation for the company.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Confirm why someone will buy the thing you want to make before you make it. A good market is more important than a good product. When you have both, you’ve struck gold.

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