Local FinTech Company Makes Strides

Originally posted on: Northern Nevada Business Weekly

By: Annie Conway

Bristlecone Holdings, a Reno financial technology start-up, develops software to lend directly to consumers and small businesses.

The company’s founder and CEO, Dusty Wunderlinch, launched the start-up company in 2013. They have quickly grown into a thriving FinTech company with 42 employees. Six of those employees started in early January.

“Historically people have been judged on their FICO score, which is a great algorithm and it is predictive of whether people pay or not,” Wunderlich said. “But sometimes people don’t have a (credit) past which is where a lot of the Millennials are at right now.”

Bristlecone uses their software to look at leading indicators such as bank accounts, social data, public records to develop algorithms to make decisions before lending money.

“We are taking information from our technology platform from the consumer, that is then being managed in a database and then from there we have a data analysis team that analyzes the data,” Wunderlich said.

All of their software is custom built in-house. They create different software products with different finance options for the various types of market niches.

“(Other finance companies) approach their customers the same whether they are buying a car or a house. We decided to create a brand in a specific product and messaging around every vertical we go into. We believe that is a better way to approach the customer.”

Bristlecone Holdings has 3,000 small businesses that use their products and 40,000 consumers that use their product.

“We were able to recruit I would say the most talented people in Reno to solve a problem,” Wunderlich said. “That problem is really access to credit, ease of credit, credit for consumers and getting credit for the Millennials.”

Bristlecone grew by 600 percent in 2015. They anticipate to double the company in the next year.

And the FinTech industry is growing as a whole.

According to statistics from CB Insights, $10.49 billion dollars was invested globally in FinTech companies in the first three quarters of 2015. Comparably, $1.3 billion dollars were invested globally in FinTech companies in 2010.

“(The FinTech industry) is at a very interesting convergence,” Wunderlich said. “Before I would say FinTech was mostly a nuisance to the banks. Now you are seeing the first steps toward this (industry being) a real threat … I think in 2016 you are going to see whole new relationships between banks and FinTech companies.”

This is due partly to the advances in technology that allow companies to gather and manipulate larger amounts of data.

“What we are starting to see from firms like ours and others is that we are having access to bigger and bigger sets of data,” Wunderlich said. “We are using that to make better decisions.”

Only approximately 3 percent of their business is done in Nevada the rest is done throughout the country.

Wunderlich was born and raised in Elko. Even though he had opportunities to leave the Silver State he made a conscience decision five years ago to start his business in Nevada.

“I figured the economy that gets hit the worst is going to have a lot of potential for recovery,” Wunderlich said. “I made a commitment to build my future businesses here and I am glad I did. I think there is a tremendous amount of untapped talent in this region, and a lot of opportunity.”

Company culture was also very important to Wunderlich when creating the business.

“One of the first people I hired was a director of people and culture,” Wunderlich said. “We knew early on that we had to create a culture and environment that we could recruit the best talent because we are a small market.”

Wunderlich modeled the company culture based on businesses in Silicon Valley. Bristlecone recently scored an 86 percent, in a report from Gallup on Employee Engagement. This score places their company in the 99th percentile of the report.

The company also uses data intelligence to place their employees in the positions that are best fit for them by using the data from personality tests each employee takes to determine their strongest aptitudes.

Bristlecone Holdings is currently in the process of transitioning to a new office. They are moving into the old Heritage bank building in Midtown. They want to create an office space similar to offices at companies such as Google and Facebook. They are working with Henriksen Butler Design Group in Reno to design an open space. They are planning to move in early summer 2016.