Vero Announces New $8.5 Million Series A Investment, Continues to Drive Growth Across the Wholesale Financing Market

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Vero on Growing Tech Fast – The Org3D Podcast

Holly Wilson: Hello and thank you for joining Growing Tech Fast, the condensed all-3D podcast where we talk about growing tech startups with those who have grown them. So today I am joined by John, CEO of Vero Technologies. It’s great to have you on the podcast today. How are you doing John?


John Mizzi: Doing well, thanks for having me.


Holly Wilson: Yeah, it’s an absolute pleasure. Well, I’m really excited to hear all about Vero Technologies, but for the benefit of our listeners, John, can you tell me a little bit about who you are and what the mission is with the work you’re doing?


John Mizzi: Absolutely, so I’ve spent my career in financial services, but the last five years have moved over to the fintech space from the banking world. Recognizing that there are so many different use cases in fintech these days, I’ve really zeroed in and spent my career on the b2b side of things.


Here at Vero, we’ve built out a commercial lending platform specifically focused on providing inventory financing to dealerships of manufactured goods. This isn’t all commonly known, but when you drive by those auto dealerships in town, they don’t typically own the vehicles on their lot. Those vehicles are financed by a third party; and banks don’t typically play in this space given the operational intensity of the credit product, so the space is dominated by specialty finance companies, and we’re coming in to really digitize and provide a different unique borrower experience for the dealerships that we’re working with.


Holly Wilson: Amazing, and how did Vero Technologies come about? What kick-started this journey?


John Mizzi: Yeah, you know in my last role, we were working with another auto finance business. I very much got in the weeds in the space and how things operate; and I stopped a massive market opportunity that, frankly, and a lot of competitors in the space who were running very solid businesses but had never really contemplated what an innovative model, utilizing open banking tools, digitizing workflows, providing any type of kind of modern borrower experience would look like.


So the further we got in the weeds, we saw a real gap in the market where many of these dealerships, specifically outside of urban areas were doing banking with the local community, or community bank or credit union. However, these smaller financial institutions weren’t able to support a broader set of their commercial banking needs, i.e. inventory financing.


We’ve built our platform out to actually be the bridge between the community banks that dealers are working with today and ultimately provide dealers a lower cost of funds, and a better borrower experience relative to what they’re accustomed to with the specialty finance players to come to dominate the space historically.


Holly Wilson: Great, okay, and amazing. Now, onto what I suppose is the journey of Vero Technologies and also your journey. Are there any particular moments that triggered a change in your approach to start up life?


John Mizzi: Yeah, I think it’s one of those transitions that you kind of dip your toe in and the further you get in, the more exciting it becomes. Obviously, leaving the institutional banking world was a big choice, but it ultimately was the conclusion of several years of feeling a little bit like a cog in a wheel. No matter what position you get into, you realize that these large financial institutions are set up so that they will exist forever in a lot of ways; and no matter what you bring to the table, it becomes somewhat of a commoditized space to operate and selfishly, I’ll disclaim my own point of view.


Nonetheless, I initially worked as an entrepreneur in residence for a software development business, which allowed me to kind of start spinning up new businesses, albeit in a safe space. And having done that for about four years, it became inevitable that you realize you want to take ownership of your work, you feel like you’re qualified to make the decisions that need to be made in going off on your own and founding a business; and at a certain point, it becomes impossible to ignore. So it was about a year and a half ago when I was fortunate to partner up with my co-founder Isaac and we’ve really just hit the ground running since.


Holly Wilson: Wow, okay, and have you overcome failure throughout your career; have you got any good anecdotes you can tell our listeners?


John Mizzi: I think we overcome little failures every day here. It’s really an attitude shift; so yeah, I you know there’s been some career moves where it’s been you know a question mark as to whether or not I made the right decision. Ultimately, you find the silver lining in any role that you’re in and ideally take, and learn from it what you will, and then figure out how you reorient in your next one, but, I think ultimately there’s been disappointments, but not necessarily failures.


I’ve looked at it as certain dead ends or things that you would expect to work out that did not work out that provided an often painful lesson to be learned, and then you move on and you figure out how to optimize from there.


Holly Wilson: For sure, just continuously learning. I love that, okay.  And it’s January 2022 now and so, on to a new year, but could you tell us maybe some of your favorite moments of 2021?


John Mizzi: Yeah, I think we started 2021 as a team of two. It was Isaac and myself. We had just closed our pre-seed round and through the course of the last year, we’ve built a team of 10 full-time and another 10 contract employees. We’re in the process of closing our seed round now, so obviously getting the term sheet for the four million dollar round that we’re raising was very exciting; and getting that across the finish line is obviously a bit of a complicated process, but comes with the territory, but getting and hitting that million dollar loan origination number, and hitting the five million dollar number, and approaching the 10 million dollar number as we are now, have all been very exciting moments to kind of take a step back and realize that we’re onto something, we’re moving quickly, we’re being efficient and we seem to be on the right track.


Holly Wilson: Yeah, amazing, okay. And onto I guess Personal Development your personal development, you were saying with disappointments in this industry that you definitely learn and move on, but have you seen any changes in your personal development and your personality, I guess since starting the company?


John Mizzi: Yeah, I think that that was one of the quickest lessons I had to learn was that really when you go off on your own, there’s no one else to make the hard choices, especially when things don’t go the way you expect them to. So if you’re working with a vendor and the deliverable doesn’t come through to the level of quality you’re looking for, or you’re working with a client and the client takes advantage of the relationship, or is creating too much of an operational burden, you ultimately have to be the… Pardon my language, but the dick and make the hard choice, go toe to toe and ultimately have a very difficult conversation.


And so, I think early on it was not a role that came naturally, but it’s something that you had to kind of dive into and deal with the discomfort around, simply because no one else is going to do it for you.


Holly Wilson: Absolutely, I love that, okay, great. And do you have any more role models and if so, who are they and why?


John Mizzi: That’s an interesting question, I’ve contemplated it previously. I think there’s no one that…I don’t really look at like the Elon Musk’s or Bezo’s or large entrepreneurs as role models necessarily as the trailblazers that show you that it can be done and that it’s possible, but frankly, there are some friends, and family in my life who show me what it’s like to be a good person, who reminds me of the realities of being a human, and the fact that we’re going to make mistakes and no one’s perfect. And I think if there’s anyone who has played a critical role from a role model perspective in my life, it’s those people who bring me back down to earth because sometimes you have got to check your ego when you’re trying to move as quickly as we are in this business environment.


Holly Wilson: Yeah, 100, it’s so easy to get caught up on all that stuff, so great answer. Did you set any new year’s resolutions this year, John?


John Mizzi: Go to fewer weddings. That was a… I think it’s just the phase of my life we’re in, but I had my 10th wedding last year. I was a little bit exhausted.


Holly Wilson: Right, I see. I think everyone came to that conclusion last year. Okay, I also hear, John that Vero Technologies is in the process of securing its most recent funding rounds; so can you tell us a little bit more about that?


John Mizzi: Yeah, so we’re raising a four-million-dollar seed round at a 16-million-dollar pre-money valuation, and it was a grind. I think everyone kind of warned us before we kicked off the process that it was going to be a roller coaster and it was most definitely a unique gauntlet to navigate. So we’re fortunate that we’ve got a syndicate of investors who are really excited about being on board. Obviously, these earlier rounds are very important in terms of finding institutional investors who not only provide h5 support and signal to the market from a validation perspective but are also able to really strategically help you make the right connections and avoid missteps, so we feel great about who we got on board. It’s a handful of groups who are really subject matter experts in the auto finance space, in the inventory or commercial ending space, or working with small and medium-sized banks and helping us navigate those conversations as well, so we feel very well equipped to really hit the ground running through the course this year


Holly Wilson: For sure, that’s so exciting and great. Obviously, 2022 looks like it’s going to be a massive year and I know you’re on the hunt for the best candidates to grow even more. What are your hiring plans and I guess just your plans in general as a company?


John Mizzi: Yeah, so our goal is to… We’re at 30 dealers today and our goal is to get up to 250 dealers by the end of this year, along with five banking partnerships. So obviously, there is a lot of leg work to be done in terms of, getting plugged in with dealers, continuing to build out our technology platform capabilities, finding the right banking partners, and supporting the kind of smart growth of the organization from an operations perspective, so right now, we’re hiring a director of operations.


We just recently hired a program manager to manage our banking relationship or kind of the outreach there on that front but really focused on building out the core technology team and making sure that while we really have assembled a unique team of auto finance professionals, as well as product, and technical, and business talent with startup backgrounds, we want to continue to have a diverse mix of people at the table who are bringing great ideas around, how we can solve legacy problems with very innovative and bespoke solutions.


Holly Wilson: Yeah, it sounds like it’s going to be a big but exciting year. Okay, what are the best bits of advice you’ve been given in your career? I find this is always an interesting one.


John Mizzi: Yeah, I think it was a neighbor who advised me at one point when I was kind of at a crossroads between deciding between the two different opportunities, to pick the one that was going to provide the best story. And I think in a lot of cases people put an unnecessary amount of pressure on certain career decisions because they believe once they go down that path, there’s no turning back. And that’s not to say that, that is the case in many career paths. I think in the entrepreneurial world, we’re fortunate that the diversity of experiences that you have and bring to the table ultimately, differentiates you as it relates to being successful.


So I think coming up with experiences that provide you that story that exposes you to new ways of thinking, and really throw you into the deep end, and figure out if you can swim, are the best types of experiences that ultimately position you to be successful down the road.


Holly Wilson: For sure, that’s some great advice; and one, I think our listeners could definitely use them, anyone could use really I suppose, so great. So to wrap up the episode, since it’s the New Year, John, what should our listeners be doing more of in 2022?


John Mizzi: Keep working hard; I mean, I think there’s only… especially if you’re in the hiring market, there is a multitude of opportunities. Admittedly, it’s been challenging to hire because we’re up against a bunch of other great hiring companies that are in the market today; and so, if you’re not necessarily actively looking, but you’re contemplating looking, have those informational conversations, invest in the process because ultimately I think the more conversations you have, the better sense of what an ideal outcome looks like and the more conviction you can have when you do find that dream job that comes across your face.


So, it’s a matter of putting yourself out there and making that upfront investment but then also, not being afraid of the hard work that comes with the environment that we’re living in.


Holly Wilson: Yeah, I love that, I absolutely love that, okay. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you, John. Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast and giving a little bit more insight into Vero Technologies and your journey; so thank you so much for sharing everything today.


John Mizzi: Thanks for having me.


Holly Wilson: No problem.

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