How 2 Utah tech giants teamed up to help small businesses secure PPP loans

A combined image of the MX and Lendio office buildings in Lehi.


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LEHI — Lendio CEO Brock Blake doesn’t remember where or how he saw it, he just knows what his immediate reaction was when he found out that MX — a fellow financial technology company located just across I-15 in Lehi — had developed open-source code to simplify Paycheck Protection Program loan applications.

He texted MX executives, one of whom just so happened to be a longtime family friend, asking if they’d be interested in collaborating.

That partnership has resulted in billions of dollars of loans going to small businesses, helping save companies and jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our mission is ‘Fueling the American Dream,” Blake said. “And we’ve tweaked that during this time to ‘Saving the American Dream.’”

Lendio is an online marketplace for small business loans, offering access to more lenders than anyone else in the industry. As Blake explains it, Lendio is kind of like a Yelp for small business owners. Instead of people searching for restaurants, they are looking for lenders. So when PPP loans became available, the company focused on connecting business owners with lenders to help them get the emergency funds.

But that process was far from simple.

There were a lot of unknowns, some of which even the Small Business Administration didn’t have great answers for. There was a lot of manually inputting information — and then doing it again and again before it reached the SBA to be assessed. And there were waves of applications coming in making it hard for lenders to keep up. So while Lendio was connecting business owners to lenders, that didn't mean the PPP loans were going through — at least not as fast as anyone would have liked it.

MX, which aggregates data for banks and credit unions, saw the same problem — just from the other side. The state of Utah saw a massive increase across the board of the number of SBA applications it was getting — upwards of 10X the usual amount — within just a couple week period. MX thought they could help clients navigate through the PPP loan process. And, in turn, help countless businesses get access to much-needed funds.

The inside of the MX office building in Lehi
The inside of the MX office building in Lehi (Photo: MX)

"In the spirit of wanting to help improve financial strength for those affected — those who have small businesses, and who run small businesses, or who operate as employees of small businesses — but also out of the spirit of just looking to serve our clients, we decided that we would build a solution that could actually allow for that deluge to be managed much more simply and rapidly," Gardner said.

MX quickly developed code that integrated with the SBA. What that did was allow MX to take information from the applicant and submit the PPP application right to the SBA, serving as a middleman for the entire loan process.

With that, everything became easier. And Blake knew that technology could help Lendio as well.

Brock Blake, CEO of Lendio
Brock Blake, CEO of Lendio (Photo: Lendio)

Blake and Gardner have known each other for most of their lives. Their fathers were roommates in college at Brigham Young University, they were raised in the same neighborhood in Ogden, and in the summer growing up, the families would even go to Lake Powell together. While they had never worked together before, that relationship made it easier for Blake to ask if Gardner and MX wanted to partner up.

On a Friday night in April, Blake texted Gardner and MX founder and CEO Ryan Caldwell about the idea of teaming up. The next day, the two companies' teams were on a call with each other.

"There's so much trust there that it accelerated the ability for our teams to actually execute and move," Blake said. "We were starting to put code to it before we even had an agreement paper agreed because we just trusted that we figured it out."

And figure it out, they did. In early July, Lendio announced it has facilitated $8 billion in PPP loans for 100,000 small businesses to date. The company estimates over 1.1 million jobs have been saved from the PPP loans they have facilitated.

That begs the question: With the success of the joint venture are more collaborations between the two Utah fintechs coming in the future?

"I think we always find that opening up opportunities of these kinds where we go and mutually work to solve a problem, means that there is probably a future opportunity that we can work together on," Gardner said.

What that will be? That's to be determined. But there are more than just a few business owners and lenders who are thankful that Blake didn't hesitate to text an old family friend.

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