Nick is CEO of Ignify Technologies, an early stage fintech company whose SPARK loan origination platform facilitated 50,000 SBA loans worth $7 billion in two weeks last year. Those loans in turn helped save 500,000 jobs. During this One Take CEO Interview presented by Platinum Group, he explains how the company quickly scaled up to meet demand, how it plans to grow and how it does well attracting and retaining talent—something its top three leaders spend 30-40 percent of their time doing. Ignify is a public benefit corporation (PBC) spun out from Minneapolis-based Community Reinvestment Fund USA in 2020. Ignify/SPARK is the nation’s only SBA loan origination PBC.
- 00:51 What’s unique about this fintech concept?
- 02:26 How did you process 50,000 loans worth $7 billion within the first two and a half months of the PPP last year?
- 06:12 Are you worried at all about getting to a point where you’re so big you’re not that nimble anymore?
- 07:54 How are you going about hiring the right people so that you remain nimble and continue to evolve the way you want to, but get much larger as an organization?
- 09:26 How—and how often—do you assess how each employee is doing, where he or she wants to be at the company, what is their perfect role, what may be getting in their way, etc.?
- 10:28 What do you call your periodic check in with employees if not “reviews?”
- 11:07 Tell us more about the concept of “buying back time” when hiring others.
- 11:55 What percentage of your time is focused on talent versus on technology?
- 12:41 How are you finding the right talent, and how much of it must work in the office or can work anywhere in the world?
- 14:30 What about collaboration and innovation that can only come about by casual in-person meetings?
- 15:55 How have you shifted gears from all the PPP activity last year to what your business model was originally, and how to grow from here?
- 17:40 You mentioned last year’s work was able to help save 500,000 jobs. How does this reflect on the fact you are a mission-driven public benefit corporation (PBC)—the only SBA loan origination PBC—and why are you a PBC?
- 20:30 When did you launch SPARK and its parent company?
- 22:25 How many years, at your present cash-burn rate, does last year’s spike in business fund before you might need to raise capital?
- 23:50 What’s the barrier to entry from others doing exactly what you’re doing?
- 25:03 What are your annual revenues?
- 27:04 You received a great financial shot in the arm last year with all the PPP-related lending activity. As you now spend to scale up, how are you going to maintain a healthy operating profit margin and high quality?
- 27:46 Anything else that I should have asked you today that we didn’t get to?
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About One Take CEO Interviews: In each episode, one CEO shares his or her take on leading through myriad challenges ranging from Covid-19 to attracting and retaining great talent. Each interview is recorded in one take with no edits, and runs 10 to 20 minutes in duration. The interviews are produced by award-winning journalist Dale Kurschner, who today serves as a management consultant with Platinum Group, Minnesota’s most experienced firm helping business owners and leaders with extreme challenges ranging from rapid growth and acquisitions, to turnarounds and divestitures.