How Fundwise grew from a kitchen table collaboration to a company that’s generated over $150 million in funding
Following the real estate crash in 2008, Leo Kanell was looking for new opportunities. With a background in starting and running multimillion dollar companies in real estate and finance, he had his eye on the finance industry. He was contacted by an individual who wanted to start a company that helped business owners find credit lines to help them grow.
Corey Price owned his own marketing company and had an interest in generating leads in the finance market. He had worked with a couple credit repair companies, and through networking, he was introduced to Leo and his business partner. Corey saw an opportunity that had a lot of demand. He left his SEO business to go full-time into helping this new funding company grow by developing the referral partner program and the online marketing.
The company started showing a lot of promise in the first few months, but Leo and his business partner had different ideas about what direction they thought the company should go. “From my perspective, it looked like the company was growing well,” said
Corey. “Everything changed when Leo and I shared an office.”
Leo shared his plans and ideas with Corey about leaving the company and trying something new. Corey recognized the different directions the partners wanted to take the company. Ultimately, he valued Leo’s approach of prioritizing transparency and communication when interacting with clients.
“I knew we’d hit a ceiling with the current people we had there and the current culture that existed,” recalled Leo. “We weren’t going to be able to take that next step. We weren’t going to become a $100 million company.” Around Thanksgiving in 2015, Leo and Corey started working every night, developing how they could create more value, create more education and empower clients. They were designing a new business that could deliver a better experience—the best possible experience—in their industry and niche.
In April of 2016, Leo and Corey decided to break away from their current company. The timing couldn’t have been better, as Corey’s truck had just been pounded in the parking lot by a semi truck, and he wouldn’t have a car to get to work for a few weeks. “We were thinking, ‘Well, Corey’s going to have to work at home anyways!’ It was an opportunity, a blessing in disguise,” said Leo.
Leo and Corey bought tickets to San Francisco to attend Experts Academy in order to learn how to build a better brand and company. From there, the wheels kept turning. The two worked at Leo’s kitchen table for months, while Leo’s wife made lunches for the small crew during the long hours required to start a new business. “The kids would come home from school and we’d have to tell them, ‘Kids, you’ve got to be quiet while we’re on the phones,’” laughed Leo.
The company was pivoting weekly and adding new members to the team. Leo and Corey brought on Mitch Plowman, the top sales guy at his current company. Corey and Mitch had met at a previous credit repair company, and Mitch was invited over to test his skills in this new funding niche. He experienced tremendous success due to his incredible work ethic and dedication to helping clients. Fast-forward a few months and Mitch, Leo and Corey signed a two-year lease on a small 1200 square foot office.
Fundwise then became a product of its product. “We were going through our savings at this point, starting to live off some credit cards to fund the business and pay employees,” said Corey. “We had to pay our house rent with some of those credit cards. Leo guided me through the funding process. That was the money we used to pay our bills to get the business growing. The product that we put our clients through is the same product that got us started.”
“We were so excited to have our own office and run the business the way we believed it would benefit clients the most: with complete transparency and as much value as we could possibly provide,” said Leo. In June, the company’s first month of business, the team made $4,500. In July, Mitch brought on Ben Doxey, another extremely talented salesman who has a great mind for growing and building businesses. Ben had other job opportunities but wanted to try working with Fundwise for a couple weeks before accepting a job elsewhere. He saw the potential of where the company could go and decided to stay long-term.
Payton Thomas, another talented salesman, entrepreneur, and friend of Mitch and Ben, would come to the office and play Spike Ball during lunch. He loved the idea of the company and was brought on to help grow Fundwise.
The new office needed some help. The carpet made your feet turn black, there was no AC for the first month, the team had to run an extension cord from the company next door so they could have power and a bathroom needed to be put in. “We had to use the grocery store bathroom around the corner or the pine tree out back,” said Corey. “The pine tree had never looked better by the time we left.”
They hired a couple more individuals, including COO Isaac Freckleton who brought Fundwise to the structural level it needed to be. The company moved into a nicer, bigger office and, three months later, moved again into an even bigger office. “Very talented individuals joined our team (like Jamie Arancibia), and Fundwise began to take off because of mainly two things: providing a valuable service that is in high demand and bringing the right people onto our team,” said Corey.
In contrast to the $4,500 made in sales in June of 2016, Fundwise reached $1 million in total revenue in March of 2017.
“If you want to grow a company and create the right culture and value for clients, everyone needs to participate,” said Leo. “Everyone’s ideas matter because they see things that you don’t. The best thing we did is we got the right people on the bus. If you have the right people on the bus, it can change directions and changes can be made. Magic happens. People aren’t the difference, but the right people are.”