The Digital Mortgage | Stephen Bulfer at Streamloan

Stephen Bulfer was involved in cutting edge technology projects for fortune 500 companies by day, but as a real estate investor by night, he found himself mired in archaic systems and processes that were relics of the 20th century. So he started Streamloan, a digital mortgage technology platform that simplifies the mortgage lending process.

In this episode of UpTech Report, Stephen tells us about his personal experiences as a real estate investor, and the unique challenges of that sector his company attempts to solve.

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Stephen brings over 20 years of innovation and technology experience to the mortgage lending industry, which he has immersed himself in since 2015 with StreamLoan, streamlining the mortgage process with digital technology for his mortgage lending customers across billions of dollars in mortgage originations and tens of thousands of users.

He has extensive software start-up experience, building both data analytics and mobile companies. Before StreamLoan, he most recently worked on ionGrid, a mobile security and collaboration company, to deliver software solutions to highly regulated industries including the financial sector. IonGrid was acquired in 2013 by NetApp.

Stephen has significant experience across strategy, build, and deployment of enterprise software at Fortune 500 companies including strategy and technology projects at Deloitte, the White House/Executive Office of the President, HP, Visa, MasterCard, Allstate, Kaiser, P&G, and over 50 Fortune 500 organizations.

Stephen has evaluated businesses through both an operating lens and an investment lens. In Stephen’s last corporate role as an EIR, he worked on connecting a large Silicon Valley tech firm to the startup ecosystem, with a focus on working with early to mid-stage fintech companies. StreamLoan is an award-winning mobile and SaaS platform. StreamLoan is a Silicon Valley-based venture-backed (with HQ in San Francisco).

Stephen’s real estate and mortgage experience cover both residential investment (20 years experience) and research; Stephen’s concentration during his MBA was real estate finance, with a special focus on the subprime mortgage crisis. Stephen holds two master’s degrees from Columbia Business School and the University of California Berkeley.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Stephen Bulfer 0:00
The mobile engagement you know, for this category in five years is close to 100%. Everybody will think about sort of the real estate transaction as mobile.

Alexander Ferguson 0:18
Stephen Bulfer was involved in cutting edge technology projects for Fortune 500 companies by day. But as a real estate investor by night, he found himself mired in archaic systems and processes that were relics of the 20th century. So he started Streamloan, a digital mortgage technology platform that simplifies the mortgage lending process. In this episode of UpTech Report, Stephen tells us about his personal experiences as a real estate investor, and the unique challenges of that sector his company attempts to solve. Even I’m excited to hear about the stream loan, I’m gonna ask you straight up to start with. Explain your company in five seconds in brief amount of time as possible of the concept five seconds, what would you say

Stephen Bulfer 1:04
mobile and web technology to streamline mortgages?

Alexander Ferguson 1:08
Boom, I like just how how effortlessly you just this year, the concept. So what year did this begin again that you started up?

Stephen Bulfer 1:16
Stream loan has been around and in a formal way since about 2015. However, I’ve been thinking about this problem for for many years previous to that as, as do many founders that end up kind of dedicating their lives to to solving a problem.

Alexander Ferguson 1:30
You’ve run several businesses before several organizations, right?

Stephen Bulfer 1:34
Yeah, this is startup number five, has had, you know, 1111, large failure. And then a few successes, couple entities are still operating and you know, out there kind of driving cash flow and growing and we had

Alexander Ferguson 1:50
to exit to help me understand more the problem that you see in the marketplace that you’re trying to then solve?

Stephen Bulfer 1:56
Sure. So I sort of got into this by accident, I’ve been in technology, all of my career, I was an accidental real estate investor was inspired by a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but my uncle gave me back in high school. And so I ended up playing the game of real monopoly, every place that I landed, I bought a I bought a place and rolled it into a portfolio similar to a residential REITs. And it absolutely drove me crazy, because I was doing technology with Deloitte, solving big hard problems, ripping apart industries and putting them back together digitally by day. And then by night, I was kind of doing these investments. And you know, on one hand, we’re like creating sort of the the perfect utopia of sort of digital design for for companies and workflow. And on the other hand, I’m getting asked to fax documents, to to send in the same sets of PDFs that I already downloaded and pulled before doing this is so antiquated. It just doesn’t make sense, disconnected people disconnected processes, lack of technology, like, you know, forget about mobile technology, they were barely able to stand up a website, right. So it was really this sort of ecosystem of chaos, that made my blood boil, you know, to be quite honest. And I said, you know, I need to go do something about this.

Alexander Ferguson 3:13
So then stream loan, as you mentioned already, earlier, you had this concept for a while, but now you’re in a place let’s kick started in this, give me an analogy of story, then how your solution comes in and solves this problem?

Stephen Bulfer 3:27
Yeah, so you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for a mortgage, or have gone through any of these kind of lending processes, but they’re painful. So it goes something like this. You find a home you want to buy after driving around with a real estate agent on a Saturday afternoon for you know, six or eight hours, you see a bunch of properties you like one, you may or may not have experience with mortgage lenders, most people don’t for the first home purchase. So they’re like, Okay, how am I going to get a million bucks in San Francisco or other New York or other expensive cities to buy the place? Typically, the real estate agent will make a recommendation, if you trust Him, you probably take it Yeah, Betty Sue over at, you know, ABC lender is great, you know, she’ll get it done. And you probably say, Sure, and maybe you shop around maybe, you know, talk to your big bank, or Wells Fargo or you know, Bank of America is for a second opinion. And they may or may not be at the rate. So then the the chaos starts. So you get the lead passed. And it’s typically a manual lead process, right? So somebody picks up the phone, or maybe they make an email connection. Few days later, the loan officer might get back to you sometimes if they’re on top of it, they might get back to you actually, within a few minutes or a few hours. And then they’re gonna ask you to go to their website and download some PDF form. Or if they’re really sophisticated kind of, you know, cutting edge, they’re gonna say we have an online form. So you go through this, this 1003 process, and they’re gonna ask you for 500 things. And you typically required to do it on a laptop, right? So now you’re pausing your life. You’re in front of a machine, and you’re filling out all of this stuff. So a lot of it’s actually not even applicable. So you’re still having to fill out stuff or evaluate things that don’t even apply to you. So that’s frustrating to begin with. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. After you press Send or go or whatever and throw the information on the other side, that’s when the fun starts. So then you spend the next weeks or months going back and forth with a loan officer, with a loan officer assistant and or processor, potentially getting things pushed back to underwriting. And the process goes on and on and on. And it’s missed voicemails missed phone calls, it’s some text messages, and it’s hundreds and hundreds of emails later, maybe you’ve had a chance to use a sophisticated portal to push up a couple of PDFs. But then 30 days pass, and they come back to you and say, oh, yeah, all the stuff we asked you to send over to us your financials, your taxes, your insurance, your payroll, you’ve done a lot, we actually need you to just if you don’t just go and do all that, again, sit in front of your computer, download all the nasty documents, roll them up in an email attachment, maybe the email makes it maybe it doesn’t I you know, I don’t know, you know, if you’ve ever worked for big companies, but they typically of 10 megabytes or 30 megabytes is the limit of that email. And if not, it bounces back. And then it’s like, well, how do I get get you all these documents? Well, we have a portal, well, the portal typically doesn’t work or it has some headaches. And so this goes on, and on and on. And remember, you spent, you know, a half a day driving around, you found the beautiful home that you wanted, guess what, that homes already gone and off the market, because you don’t have your act together, or the mortgage lender doesn’t have their act together. So the home is actually gone. And if you needed to get into that home, maybe to start a new job and get close to work, maybe you’re moving your family and starting school. Now you’re you know, you’re stressed out, you’re freaking out, you’re probably fighting with your significant other and and it’s a mess. And so this is this is sort of the day to day headaches that that people deal with

Alexander Ferguson 6:59
your actual client is the mortgage broker or the the agency, is that correct?

Stephen Bulfer 7:05
Yeah, in this case, it could be a mortgage broker, or could could be a mortgage lender to be kind of more generic, anybody who’s helping you with the mortgage process lending you money or finding you a trail to, to a pot of cold that allow you to buy your place. But it’s That’s exactly right. There are tons of inefficiencies, roughly $8,800 of inefficiency on the lender side, right. That’s, that’s a huge amount of inefficiency to tackle. I mean, even if you save, you know, 10 20% that’s a, that’s a massive, massive impact you can have on the industry,

Alexander Ferguson 7:37
how many mortgage lenders are there.

Stephen Bulfer 7:39
So the MBA track something around 6500 lenders, that that they, you know, sell sell the data for. So that’s kind of what we follow, we believe that there are probably as many as twice as many, there’s hard money lenders, there’s other types of lenders out there. But, you know, for the ones that are aboveboard and pretty well known doing any reasonable volume, you know, it’s, it’s 1000s

Alexander Ferguson 8:01
Got it. And each of them could are the potential ones that could be using your platform to streamline the entire process.

Stephen Bulfer 8:09
Absolutely, you know, as as we’ve described, you know, the complexities around communication, you know, building something simple as a secure compliant chat application with a document workflow where you can move documents around Hey, you know, entire companies are dedicated to that, you know, Dropbox and slack and box and you know, a number of others, right, so we’ve built a lot of those capabilities into the product and that’s just the communication piece. How about gathering all your financial data? Well, how do you do that today? You have to go into Wells Fargo, you download some statement, login, poke around try to find the date range, well, are those the right dates for the underwriting requirement from the lender, like all this nonsense goes on. So we we’ve you know, also kind of stepped into the world of kind of, you know, robotic process automation or AI, such that you just log in once to your financial institution whether it’s you know, Charles Schwab or ETrade or Wells Fargo Bank of America will go get all the relevant documents and data pull them in match you with what you need and get it to the lender all that happens in a minute or two

Alexander Ferguson 9:09
you simply just log in into your your your bank account and through through your application and and then it takes care of the rest takes care

Stephen Bulfer 9:17
of the rest right so when you think about when we say streamlining, you know, this is not just a placate you know, placated word, like we really are doing heavy lifting on behalf of the borrower. And you can do this from your phone, right? You can be, you know, run running between meetings, or catching a flight or at your kids soccer game. And instead of like downloading attachments, and data matching and all that nonsense, that’s the borrower side. So we provide those tools to get things done. And then on the lender side, we provide similar capabilities to allow for automation and workflow to be really smooth basically, you know, you can do more with last is the big idea.

Alexander Ferguson 9:52
There was that process to build that out and to now have it capable and do you where do you see have that you currently have but also looking to expand even further.

Stephen Bulfer 10:01
Sure, yeah, so I think, you know, the minimum viable product, you know, to kind of, you know, kind of turn from kind of lean, lean startup and Steven blank. And what Eric Ries are doing out there is, is a lot more than we initially anticipated. We’ve invested heavily, we’ve invested everything in a cloud in a revenue and venture capital investment, and you have sweat equity and everything into the product in the platform, right. So as we talked about, you have a number of different actors, right. So you need role based access and security for all of them, you have the headache of connecting to all the financial institutions to acquire the data in a secure and safe and simple way. On the back end, we have other partners that are loan origination management software companies, like Ellie Mae and Linda Gibby, and many others that we partner with. So there is a substantial amount of work to make sure that our technology works in harmony, and many of our, you know, competitors out there, you know, have some of these integrations done, but they don’t quite work, in my opinion, as they should write enterprise grade, bidirectional data, you know, making sure that all the plumbing works. So you have that, and then you have all of the workflow in between, right, and, and giving the right notifications to the right user at the right time based on some interaction. So there’s a lot a lot going on, and which tasks can you automate? And how do you automate those in a consistent and secure way, you know, through, so there’s a lot of technology that we built, you know, sort of, you know, RPA AI, and some of those capabilities to, to automate the process are part of the foundation, but, you know, secure secure, multi party chat, right, is another entire platform and product that we’ve built. And so we’ve invested, you know, five years of, you know, of some of the smartest, you know, engineers on the planet working on solving some of these hard problems

Alexander Ferguson 12:01
being now four or five years into this, how many, then customers and clients are being able to utilize this?

Stephen Bulfer 12:07
Yeah. So we’ve had, we think of the world in terms of users and transactions, dollars matter to us. That’s how mortgages are sort of measured. And that’s how our lender partners make money. So we’ve had billions of dollars of flow through and you know, 10s of 1000s of borrower transactions and hundreds of loan officers on the platform. Many more real estate agents and borrowers and such. But again, you know, we get paid when lending users subscribe to the platform, engage in the platform, and ultimately, you know, we all win when when they close loans. So

Alexander Ferguson 12:45
got it, hundreds of lenders of billions of dollars being able to have loans that have gone through here. Your solution is very, if I understand correctly, is a white label solution for the lender so that the lenders don’t have to say they’re using it or how does that work, then that you’ve positioned? Yeah, no,

Stephen Bulfer 13:02
it’s a it’s a good question, right? So you can appreciate the complexity. And so typically, lenders are really great at the lending business, and that’s what they should focus on. Right? It’s it’s specialization and sort of economics 101, do what you do well, and partner for the rest. It’s no different with this technology, right? We’ve, we’ve had a group of dedicated team members here at streamline for four years working on solving this one problem and solving it and what we believe is the best and most efficient kind of solution platform on the planet, for the category. So if you think about taking something like Rocket Mortgage, which you know that Dan Gilbert and his team have done an amazing job of sort of being iconic, and building out sort of digital mortgage, every bank cannot afford to put that same type of multi 100 million dollar investment to work. So we’re, we’re coming in, and we’re allowing more of a neutral playing field, right? Whether you’re a small lender doing, you know, 30 million a year in, you know, transactions, or if you’re in a mid to large size lender doing billions, or 10s of billions of dollars in transaction,

Alexander Ferguson 14:13
we can help you. That’s awesome. So looking forward now, five years, what where do you see your company?

Stephen Bulfer 14:22
So we invested extremely early in mobile technology, you know, we believe real estate is actually mobile. And it’s a bit of a kind of counterculture way of thinking about it, because, you know, for the last 100 years, real estate is, you know, it’s brick and mortar, and it’s hard, and it’s papers and its signatures. And it’s it’s, you know, it’s this complex thing. We see it differently. The entire real estate transaction can be done on your phone, people are on the go, you know, our our core users are really loan officers and lending users who are salespeople and real estate agents who are also salespeople and of course, the borrower, and you know, very rarely are you sitting in front of your laptop all the time, you know, especially when you know when some specific transaction or certain need has to take place, you know, you might be at lunch, or you might be in it might be over the weekend, like, you typically don’t have a laptop with an Internet Explorer browser version eight, in front of you tethered to, you know, some, you know, mainframe solution on the back end, which is unfortunately that you see that all too often. So we really believe mobile is the way of the future, we have the richest and most robust mobile solution in the entire industry and entire the entire category. So So kind of, you know, where do we see this going? And where do we see our company in five years? Everyone has a mobile device. And, you know, we we would be hopeful that, you know, that the mobile engagement, you know, for this category in five years is close to 100%. Everybody will think about sort of the real estate transaction as mobile,

Alexander Ferguson 16:03
where can people go to to learn more? And what’s a good first step for them to take?

Stephen Bulfer 16:07
Yeah, and it’s great. So again, we serve a number of number of different users, if you’re a lender out there, and you want to get on board, you know, please, you know, reach out to us, you know, via our website, request a demo, reach out to, or just hit stream on di our, our website, and somebody on our sales team, or executive team will, will definitely get in touch and answer any questions and see if we can be a good partner, we, you know, we evaluate fit up front. And if we believe we can be mutually successful, we’re happy to, you know, continue to invest in engaging, if you’re a borrower buggier bug your lender and real estate agents to make sure that they’re on the streamline platform. It’s it’s, it’s a beautiful solution. We’ve invested a lot in the UI and, and usability, user experience. And so, you know, we’re very proud and excited about what we’ve done. If you’re a real estate agent, very similar, we can get yourself and your brokerage set up very similar to a lender, where you can use you know, tools like mortgage calculator and chat and other things and then refer business in. So it’s almost like a free, lightweight CRM tool. And then you can refer business and to lenders that you trust, and then you can track the progress and status of that through the entire transaction. So if you’re one of those three profiles, that’s how you can you know, if you’re an insurance company or an appraisal company, please reach out to partners at streaming MondayA. We have an entire partner ecosystem and network to provide other digital transactions and flow. We will be making some announcements in the next call it 30 to 60 days, on some things that we’ve we’ve had brewing for a while, so we’re very excited to share that with the market soon.

Alexander Ferguson 17:44
Be sure to check out part two of our conversation with Stephen when she tells us about the importance of focusing on human behavior as opposed to technology development, and offer some insights on how to look beyond the problems you’re currently solving.



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