CNBC Disruptor 50

15. Better.com

Founder: Vishal Garg (CEO)
Launched: 2016
Headquarters: New York City
Funding:
 $254 million
Valuation: N/A
Key technologies:
AI, cloud computing, machine learning
Industry:
 Digital mortgages
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

George Kavallines

This digital mortgage company has seen a 200% increase in applications since the coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S., funding $1 billion in mortgage loans in March and $1.4 billion in April. The New York City-based company was started in 2016 by Vishal Garg, a former analyst with Morgan Stanley, after a deal to buy a house for his family fell through. An all-cash buyer was able to beat the timing of his traditional mortgage lender, and that's when Garg figured there had to be a better way. He used the down payment he had set aside to start Better.com.

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Better's platform works by moving the mortgage process completely online. Customers are able to upload and eSign documents and can leverage technology to complete every step of the mortgage process, thereby cutting the closing time from an industry average of 42 days down to 21 days, it claims. The company's digital-only approach, Garg says, is also helping to decrease bias against minorities when applying for mortgage loans. The company sites a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research showing that face-to-face lenders reject minority applicants about 6% more often than comparable non-minority applicants, and also charge minority applicants more for their mortgages.

The company is certainly getting the attention of some heavy hitters. Last year it closed $235 million in funding from Ally Financial, Citi and American Express, bringing its total to $254 million. The money is being used to expand the business — Better.com also now offers homeowners insurance, title insurance and bought a real estate agency — and to beef up its workforce. Its goal is to bring on 1,000 more workers and more than 300 have already been onboarded since the pandemic began. The company had around 1,600 employees in February. Better.com also partnered with one of its investors, American Express, last year. Amex cardholders that refinance their mortgage with Better.com get a $2,500 credit on their account.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies