[caption id="attachment_212724" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Marlette Funding recently acquired Till, a flexible rent platform, which will help it to diversify its product portfolio as it seeks new access points to consumers. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – Marlette Funding, the rapidly growing fintech services company, recently acquired a rent payment platform, epitomizing its goal to diversify its product offerings in an increasingly crowded fintech market.The company, started by a few Juniper Bank veterans and now headquartered at The Concord off U.S. Route 202 in Wilmington’s suburbs with about 950 employees, acquired Till on Dec. 1. The 4-year-old online platform allows renters to break up their monthly rent into smaller payments to ease atypical wage patterns and personal budgeting.The Virginia-based startup, co-founded by CEO David Sullivan, had attracted seed funding and early product success, but reportedly faced uncertainty over future funding streams amid a potential economic downturn. In the past year, the two began discussions over an acquisition by Marlette Funding, and closed the deal, the terms of which were not disclosed between the private companies.
[caption id="attachment_212715" align="alignright" width="300"] Marlette Funding CEO Jeffrey Meiler said that the Best Egg products will be focused on "simple solutions" for its customers. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
For Jeffrey Meiler, founder and CEO of Marlette Holdings that operates the Best Egg product brand that includes personal loans, a credit card and financial health tools, the addition of Till was an exciting strategic opportunity.“It really gives us a unique access point to customers … there's just such a big volume of consumers with this problem,” he told Delaware Business Times. “Everyone's financial journey starts with a renting relationship for the most part.”Bobby Ritterbeck, president of consumer lending for Marlette Funding, noted that the annual U.S. rent market totals about $800 billion, with about a quarter of that paid after the first of each month – a typical rent payment deadline.“Most American renters don't get paid once a month, but at the same time landlords want to have a single payment to make it easier from an operational standpoint,” he said.Till, which has been rebranded as Best Egg Flexible Rent, in essence works as a micro-credit line, paying a landlord the full value of a rent on the appointed date and allowing the renter to repay the sum over the month.While the platform assuredly helps those with more unpredictable wages, such as tipped wage workers in the hospitality industry, it’s also useful for many who just have difficulty with budgeting, Meiler said.“We see a lot of consumers struggle with understanding and keeping up without their outflows. From a budgeting standpoint, consumers understand inflows, or their income, but they don't understand their outflows, or expenditures, as well,” he added.That reality may enable Marlette Funding to extend its Best Egg financial health tools to renters or even give them access to its credit card, which seeks near-prime customers who may have a conflicted credit history.Owning the rent platform will also give Marlette Funding insight to data on rent payments, schedules and trends that is not commonly publicly available and unique among the fintech industry.“The rent data is powerful data. A single-digit percent of rent is reported to credit bureaus, so this is not data that's widely available to most lenders,” Ritterbeck said.This week, Marlette Funding announced an integration deal with MRI Software, which provides an online payment platform utilized by thousands of multi-family property managers nationwide. It will begin offering flexible payments as an option to those renters through established payment portals early next year, and the Wilmington company is seeking out other integration partnerships.With the addition of Till’s workforce, Marlette Funding has added about two dozen remote workers, and they expect to add another two dozen over the coming year to support the product, Ritterbeck said. They hope to base as many of those employees in the Wilmington area as possible.It only adds to Marlette Funding’s explosive growth in just eight years, moving from about four employees at the outset to 650 internal employees now, with another 300 external contract workers. Its headcount has grown by about 50% in the last year alone.The company’s success has been driven by the quality of its data, identifying customers missed by larger banks who are not as risky as traditional data may show, issuing $22 billion in consumer loans and 183,000 credit cards. That success has helped it obtain more than $320 million in total venture capital and begin to diversify its portfolio for growth.“Our footprint today is broadly in more traditional financial products … but we love the opportunity to really do something differentiated, like Till is,” Meiler said.Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect an accurate total venture capital funding of $321 million for Marlette Funding. An earlier report relied on inaccurate Crunchbase data.