Finance / Funding / Investing / Startups

Baltimore’s Early Light Ventures leads $1.5M round for fintech startup helping people on the climb to better credit

Credit Mountain is helping those who were turned down for a loan to improve credit. The company is planning to grow its remote team.

Credit Mountain cofounders Frank Santoni and Nathan Pinto. (Courtesy photo)

For borrowers applying to a product like a mortgage or refinancing an auto loan, often the answer is yes or no. But for those who came close but ultimately fell in the latter camp, a fintech startup that recently received investment from a Baltimore-based venture firm is aiming to help them get on a path to approval.

It can be a climb to get there, but Credit Mountain is seeking to use technology to help ease the journey.

“We don’t provide just a map to the mountain, we provide a sherpa and a donkey we can strap them to and take them to the top of the mountain,” said CEO Nathan Pinto. The company’s software tools, he said, are “doing the heavy lifting for them.”

After launching a product and attracting interest among credit unions, Credit Mountain has new fuel to grow. The company raised $1.5 million in a seed round, led by Early Light Ventures, which provides seed stage funding for software companies. The round also included investment from New York-based Forum, Colorado-based SpringTime Ventures, Pittsburgh-based 412 Ventures, San Francisco-based Underdog Labs and D.C.-based CUCollaborate.

Founded by Pinto and Chief Product Officer Frank Santoni in December 2020, the company offers a white-labeled software-as-a-service platform for lenders. It’s designed to engage applicants for a loan product that were a “near miss” for being accepted, and help to improve credit. Pinto said it’s a good time to reach out to folks, since they’ve already expressed interest in a loan.

We think that people are more than just a score.

The company is seeking to go beyond monitoring tools that currently exist by offering tools that address the action items needed to improve a credit score over three to six months. It does this through a mix of tools that get granular about a credit score and automate processes that get key info to credit bureaus, as well as with elements that personalize the experience, and provide a look at opportunities that can arise when better credit is achieved.

“We’re trying to help more credit-worthy individuals obtain higher-quality credit from lenders. We think that tech gives us the ability to get a strong lens to each individual,” Pinto said. “We think that people are more than just a score.”

With the product now live, the company is looking to grow its team as it launches with credit unions. For the lenders, it offers a way to provide a third answer in addition to yes and no: “not yet.” Pinto said Credit Mountain can be a tool to help retain potential borrowers since, in the current modes of operation, many of those who are turned down for a loan don’t reapply. It also stands to work as part of a growing number of digital experiences and fintech tools that are standing up inside financial institutions.

Mike Leffer

Mike Leffer. (Courtesy photo)

Based in Austin, Texas, Credit Mountain is building a remote team. The company will be hiring, and has an opening for a chief technology officer, as well as other engineering roles.

Mike Leffer, principal at Early Light Ventures, said the firm was impressed by Credit Mountain’s “tenacious” founding team, and the progress with the product. Leffer previously was on the team at Baltimore-based VC firm Squadra when it invested in since-acquired Baltimore charitable giving startup Pinkaloo. Based on that experience, he saw how this startup also stood out as one that can make a positive impact while building a business.

“It absolutely fits in with investing in passionate, mission-driven founders,” Leffer said. “Helping consumers build their credit and get loans that are actually accretive and asset-building is huge. Fintech needs to be more equitable, and this is one solution that will help get us there.”


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