By Katy Spence
2018 was a big year for Figure.
Not only did the company raise about $50 million in a Series A round, but it introduced two new products and grew to 103 employees nationwide — 19 of whom are in Helena and 11 of whom are in Bozeman — with plans to further expand their Montana team.
Oh, and the company was founded.
It doesn’t look like things are slowing down anytime soon for the new FinTech company, which also has locations in Reno and San Francisco, and has continued plans for hiring and expanding offered services.
What they’re about: Figure leverages blockchain and AI to make home equity financing faster, more secure
In February 2018, Mike Cagney, the founder and former CEO of SoFi, co-founded Figure in San Francisco with a team of entrepreneurs and finance experts including Alana Ackerson, Cynthia Chen, June Ou, and Sara Priola. Figure uses blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics to provide home equity solutions for their clients. The blockchain component ensures that when an asset, such as a loan or debt, is transferred, it’s exactly what it appears to be.
Matt Conroy, senior VP of engineering for Figure, compares buying an asset through blockchain to buying a house: If the house is advertised as fully clean and furnished, that’s what you should expect to find. On top of that, you’ll have access to all the information about the house, such as previous owners and maintenance history.
Nate Lampert, people operations for Figure in Bozeman, said the company aims to be able to originate, trade, and secure loans and assets, as well as improve liquidity for clients and reduce some of the costs that come with traditional lending.
Figure’s flagship product, the Figure Home Equity Loan Plus, can be used for a variety of purposes, including home improvement projects, debt consolidation, or major purchases. Figure originated their first loan on the blockchain at the end of July. Since then, Figure has received more than 10,000 applications for home equity loans.
About a month ago, Figure released its second product– Figure Home Advantage, which allows homeowners to sell their house but remain in the home and use that equity for other purposes.
“It’s really an updated, modern, non-predatory, kind of reverse mortgage-type option that offers more cash, lower fees and fewer worries compared to a traditional reverse mortgage,” Lampert said, adding that it can be particularly useful for folks who are looking to retire but may not have a lot of assets aside from the equity in their home.
Unlike a more traditional reverse mortgage, Figure has no age requirement and can unlock up to 90% of a home’s equity, compared to 38-60% of competing offers.
The Figure Home Advantage is available in 12 cities, and Lampert said the company is excited to expand the product in 2019.
Who they employ: Military veteran forges new career path hiring tech talent in Montana
After 20 years of serving in the Marine Corps, Nate Lampert decided to retire from the military and look for opportunities in the private sector. He and his family knew they liked Bozeman after having spent a few decades visiting family in the area.
As he started looking into the tech industry in Montana, Lampert connected with other veterans and the Montana High Tech Business Alliance in his quest to find a good fit. Through networking, Lampert got the opportunity to work at Figure, a fast-growing FinTech startup. He started in July 2018.
Six months later, Lampert works in the new Bozeman office with 10 software engineers. Figure moved to its new location in the Cannery District a few months ago and shares a campus with onX and Perficient. Lampert said the new office space is large enough to hold a substantially larger team, and Figure is looking to grow the Bozeman software engineering arm to about 20 employees.
Lampert said the decision to grow the software engineering team in Bozeman was very purposeful.
“One of the exciting things about Montana is you really have very hardworking, entrepreneurial, problem-solving oriented individuals,” Lampert said.
One such employee is Great Falls native Devin Gray, who bought experience from RightNow Technologies and Workiva to Figure. Gray is Figure’s Director of Engineering and got his undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science from Montana State University.
Gray said that it’s his first time working in the FinTech space.
“There’s a steep learning curve just on the business side and there’s also some new tech that I haven’t used before,” Gray said. “It’s exciting.”
He added that working for a startup is a new experience for him.
“It feels way different compared to larger companies,” Gray said. “It’s very fun… you’re a lot more agile, and you can change your mind, but there’s also challenges with that as well.”
Where they’re going: Figure looks to hire diverse talent, build positive workplace culture
Figure is experiencing many of the same challenges a new startup may face, Lampert said, including establishing company culture and controlled growth.
The key, he said, is utilizing the experience of the company’s established and diverse leadership team.
“Figure is an opportunity to take those lessons learned over a career or previous jobs and really build this company the way we want,” Lampert said. “Culture’s a big part of that.”
Right out of the gates, Figure emphasized cohesive culture and diversity. Lampert pointed to Figure’s large People Operations team, noting that many new companies don’t build out that department so purposefully in the first year of operation. Figure has done so to ensure a quality workplace experience for its employees right from the beginning.
In addition, Figure’s executive team is more than 50 percent women and 20 percent of Figure’s software engineers are women, and Lampert said the company is dedicated to increasing that number.
Despite already employing more than 100 people, Lampert said Figure’s hiring practices have been more about the quality of growth than the speed of growth.
“We really are trying to spend a lot of time and effort on pulling in the right people,” Lampert said. “Very skilled, high-quality folks …We’re looking for quality over quantity.”
With a new office in Reno, an expanded office in Bozeman, and a second product on the market, Lampert is optimistic about Figure’s trajectory and the potential of blockchain to revolutionize this market.
“We’re really trying to do something that hasn’t been done before,” Lampert said. “[We’re looking to] solve some of these problems and challenges that haven’t been addressed or solved yet.”
About the Author: Katy Spence is the Communications Director for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and has an Environmental Journalism Master’s Degree from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of more than 350 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org or subscribe to our biweekly newsletter.