Innovators never stop looking for the next big thing, even when they’re already in a great spot to succeed. They are seldom content to simply plug into a system and start making money. Rather, they want to explore new ventures, break down barriers, and search for challenges for which they can provide solutions.
Such is the case for Baseline, which started as a private money lender back in 2016, originating and servicing hundreds of loans over its first few years.
But something unexpected happened along the way for CEO Shaye Wali and COO Sergio Santinelli. Something that led them to a total positioning pivot that redefined their business position and set the entire industry on its ear.
Using Software the Hard Way
While the private lending industry for real estate has ballooned in size and value over the past decade-plus, it remains, in essence, a niche market. The number of players is finite, and the digital tools needed to successfully qualify customers and guide loans through their life cycles are limited. One of the more aggravating facts of life for any private lender is consistently forcing the square peg into the round hole when it comes to software applications.
That very frustration turned to inspiration one day for Wali.
“I wanted to go on this mission to build better tools for ourselves because there was nothing that was really built purposely for the private lending industry,” Baseline’s CEO said in a recent interview.
“Once it was built, I came to the realization of what a powerful tool it could be. I wound up showing it to a few peers who were also lenders, and they expressed interest in licensing it.”
Formerly an analyst at Morgan Stanley dating back to 2012, Wali left the mega-bank world to raise a small fund and subsequently began investing in single-family real estate ventures. This piqued his interested in the private lending world, and, in 2016, Baseline was born.
Santinelli took a much more circuitous route to the firm. He initially studied mechanical engineering, but when he realized it wasn’t a good fit, he left that behind to engage with startups in the US and Mexico. Later, he entered the lending space via the automotive industry.
Shortly after wrapping up his MBA, he connected with Wali and came on board with Baseline as Director of Lending Operations in Spring 2021. A little more than a year later, he was promoted to COO.
“I met Shaye and had an almost immediate connection,” Santinelli said. “Ultimately, I took on the role of helping him transition from the lending model into the software space.”
A Whole New World
Truth be told, even after several other lenders were impressed enough to want to license Baseline’s software platform, Wali never envisioned a total transition from private lending to a full-fledged software company.
“We started transitioning about two years ago,” Wali says. “In November 2019, we started ideating and began development in March 2020, right when everything was shutting down for COVID. Eventually it became clear that we had gone way too far down the lane to stop and decided the next step would be to license it.”
Nobody is better suited to build the perfect software for the private lending sector than a team of private lenders. Designed to address their own pain points, the software allows users to streamline origination, automate their servicing, set benchmarks for their borrowers’ experience, and more – all in one platform.
No more jumping from one app to the next, hoping that the data import tool catches every digit, or otherwise losing precious time better spent on what lenders do best – lend. The sheer time saved in efficiency of everything under one roof is worth its weight in gold.
“This is the most complete system in the market that serves private lenders and the value chain,” Wali says. “We have seen other systems that have 1-2 components, but not everything in one package. We have really paid attention to what all of those needs are and have been able to do it better by hyper-focusing on the private lending industry.”
The Future is Now
There’s no slowing down for Baseline. After demonstrating their platform at a recent conference, Baseline came away with requests for meetings with 40 different companies.
“It’s a testament to our product,” Wali said. “We’ve built something that addresses pain points for everyone in the value chain.”