The Silicon Review
Getting Small Businesses the Financing They Need
Nav is a free site and app that gives business owners the fastest, easiest and most trusted path to financing. Today, the company proudly boasts one of the largest aggregated selections of business credit cards and financing options—more than 110 different financing products.
Launched in 2012 by Levi King and Caton Hanson, lifelong friends and experienced small business owners, Nav’s mission is to align financing qualifications, predicts needs, and facilitates transactions between data providers, lenders, partners, and small businesses.
As King and Hanson experienced first-hand, access to capital is one of the biggest pain points business owners feel every day. And, many business lenders also struggle, desiring to improve the underwriting process and connect with customers. These two factors make the entire business financing ecosystem perfectly poised for an overhaul, and Nav is uniquely positioned to solve for both the business owners and lenders/financial institutions due to its robust matrix of partners and entrepreneurs, access to credit data and an in-house proprietary algorithm that matches and facilitates financing.
“When we started the company, we knew how life-changing our service could be for small business owners, but we also knew the hurdles that we’d have to jump over to get the right partners on board to make our business possible and visible to business owners. As most business owners can relate to, the first years were very hard. As we’ve grown the hurdles continued, but our acquired knowledge and vast partnerships have made us able to adapt and stay nimble, allowing us to enhance the offerings we have for small business owners,” says Caton Hanson, Nav Co-Founder and CLO.
At Nav, the team focuses on analyzing data, including business credit, personal credit, and business cashflow insights, to solve the financing pain points for business owners, lenders, credit card issuers and the broader ecosystem.
Nav operates on a “freemium” business model, giving entrepreneurs free access to customized credit card and financing recommendations in the company’s online marketplace, based on the customers’ actual credit qualifications. Nav customers also get to see their personal and business data that lenders and other businesses will use to judge them.
Nav’s innovative approach to demystifying the business lending ecosystem has resulted in two recent milestones for the company: First, an integrated partnership with Clover to provide Clover users access to their free business credit scores, as well as business financing and credit card offers; Second, a collaboration with Equifax, making Nav the first and only provider of free small business credit data from all three major business credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and Dun & Bradstreet.
Nav CEO Levi King talks about the challenges in his first small businesses
“First and foremost, when I opened my first business I suffered from a spooky condition known as being a credit ghost. Owing to some well-intentioned but bad advice I received as a kid, I avoided debt and paid cash for everything instead. This meant that when it came time for basic business strategies like applying for financing or seeking advantageous terms with vendors, I was out of luck because I had no credit history to indicate what kind of risk I was.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this led to some truly nightmarish scenarios. I couldn’t even get a credit card worth more than a couple of hundred bucks, so I paid for everything--help, equipment, supplies, etc.--out of pocket. I was cash broke all the time and each new day was a scramble to survive.
The lesson for fledgling entrepreneurs is to learn all that you can about what you need to get financing and credit, and how to manage your personal and business credit scores and to build them and safeguard them as if the survival of your business depends on it — because it does.”
The growth of the company
This year has already been a record one for the company. In February 2019, Nav announced it secured $44.8 million in Series C funding. The most recent round was led from a large, strategic investment from Goldman Sachs, and Nav’s other prominent investors include Experian, Kleiner Perkins and other top venture capital entities.
With money in the bank, Nav is poised to expand services and headcount to continue to create intelligent, simple, personalized online solution that works to help all small business owners get the money they need to run their business. In the next two years, Nav plans to nearly double the employee count in its Utah-based headquarters, and to accommodate the influx of team members, Nav is investing in a custom-built office space in Draper, Utah.
A continuous award winner, Nav has been included on the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row and named to other prestigious lists such as Entrepreneurial Company of the Year, Fintech Breakthrough Awards, and several Best & Brightest lists.
The future roadmap for Nav
Nav’s plan for the future is serving the entire small business ecosystem by bringing more certainty, transparency, and trust to business lending for lenders, borrowers and processors by connecting its data and expertise to business owners when they need it.
Currently, Nav presents business owners pre-qualification offers for SBA loans, term loans and lines of credit. As the company is focused on eliminating the guesswork of applying for business financing, making it quicker and easier than ever to apply and receive funding, Nav plans to expand pre-qualification offers to credit cards and a handful of other lenders in the next few months.
Additionally, Nav envisions casting a wider net to help small business owners worldwide, expanding financing offers and data access to business owners outside of the United States.
The founding duo
Levi King, Co-Founder and CEO:
Levi is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who has started seven different small businesses in the last 20 years. During this time, he had to overcome the same issues faced by most small business owners – access to capital, financing, and marketplace credibility. After getting a handle on how business credit works, Levi was able to get business loans and financing more than 30 times.
Prior to Nav, Levi co-founded Lendio, a business financing marketplace that links commercial lenders and small business owners. During his time there, Levi saw too many applicants get denied for financing or only get approved for financing they couldn’t afford. He realized someone needed to help business owners become better-qualified applicants, which led him to start Nav.
Caton Hanson, Co-Founder and CLO: Prior to founding Nav, Caton owned a legal services law firm that helped business owners understand their business credit, business plans, financial models, and legal entities. His firm partnered with commercial lenders to serve more than 20,000 businesses nationally. It was during this time Caton realized someone needed to help small businesses better understand the importance of business credit. His expertise in this area ultimately led him to co-found Nav. In 2019, Caton was named Chief Legal Officer of the Year by Utah Business Magazine.