Fintech, construction, peer-to-peer lending,
alternative lending, platform technology
Reinventing the way the world gets built.
From startup to $21M in funding, I named, branded, and designed the foundations for a new way to manage construction loans.
2014 - 2015
Naming, branding, strategy,
research, UI, UX
Built was founded in 2014 with a mission to simplify the residential and commercial construction lending experience. Our vision was to create the new standard for construction lending software, streamlining the loan management process, and providing unprecedented portfolio insights. We wanted to change the way the world gets built.
As employee number 11, I was the initial "head of design" (aka, the only designer), and responsible for everything from early product strategy, UI and UX design, to the nuts and bolts of naming, branding, and preparing Built’s go-to-market strategy.
Name & Identity
The name is where it all starts. From ancient figures like Arazu (a mythological god of finished construction) to names with more modern appeal, I had a lot of fun curating concepts, but when I pitched ‘Built’ to the team it stuck right away.
For the logotype, I took a structuralist approach, referencing Herbert Bayer’s "universal" typography principles. The logotype relies on interchangeable geometric parts to produce a final rational solution, like many philosophies in construction.
Why does Built exist?
The financial recession of 2008 had a lot to do with housing. Long story short, homebuyers were buying houses and later defaulting on their mortgages, while builders and bankers were off building more new homes. After a deep trough of new starts through 2009, the market started to normalize to mean, but problems persisted.
Perceived as risky, banks were now more cautious than ever about deploying capital into construction lending, but needed to do so to stay competitive in a space where 89% of lending institutions were still investing. Meanwhile, borrower trust in banks had worn thin, and no one was focused on improving the borrower experience.
How does the platform work?
The Built platform puts the trust back in the construction lending relationship through transparency and efficiency. For borrowers, Built offers rapid, accurate assessment of their borrower capacity and quality through a highly differentiated borrowing experience.
For banks, the platform is a streamlined tool for allocating capital into a construction lending portfolio, and uses technology and expert human capital to provide macro- and micro-level market intelligence for assessing borrower creditworthiness and risk.
Everyone has a place in the Built ecosystem: title companies, inspectors, and developers alike each have an important role that they play in maintaining a healthy, thriving construction platform.
Getting to first customer traffic
To capture first-mover advantage, we needed to act fast. With an untested idea and a product that didn’t yet exist, our first steps had to be precise. The jobs-to-be-done framework is my favorite tool for situations of uncertainty, because Jobs Theory transcends the making of superficial assumptions, and instead exposes the functional, social, and emotional dimensions that explain why people make the choices they do by talking directly to the end-user about their goals.
I kicked things off by setting up an interview tour with 28 bankers, title companies, builders, and inspectors to find out who they were, how they currently accomplished their jobs, and how Built’s platform could help them manage their construction loan portfolio. By the end of our research, we had a map of jobs-to-be-done, and began looking at patterns between user segments to start envisioning our MVP. This early research also helped fill gaps in our first user personas.
Then something interesting happened. Almost all of these people, who were supposedly at arms-length with one another, were in total agreement on one concept: if Built could nail the Loan Origination process (aka, applying for a new construction loan), we would solve the most frustrating problem in construction loan management: paperwork. And that would be enough to start earning their trust.
Now that we had a clear direction to head in, we immediately went back to our users. We picked 3 people from our core user segments (Builders, Banks) and began prototyping new UX concepts with them. By the time we arrived at a design-ready UX, we were outpacing the traditional loan origination process by a factor of 500x. What once took weeks, now took a few hours — sometimes minutes! We locked on a UX strategy, and started fleshing out the UI design.
With the UX defined, it was time to start in on the visual layer. When building design systems for large applications, I always insist on following the principles of atomic design. In addition to front-end efficiency, having an atomic design system helps individual UI patterns scale into a cohesive, learnable UX for the end-user.
Users of a design system benefit from a consistent UI across all of their repeatable tasks, enabling a more learning-friendly interface. The full Origination product was built responsively, and adapts gracefully across any device; desktop, smartphone, or otherwise.
The preceeding assets were built on top of brand design work that was established early on in the venture. Most of the artifacts below remain in place today, helping guide the Built brand into the future.
Stay styled moving
between meetings, and
dry on messy jobsites.
Leisure caps, hardhats,
and clipboards complete
the essentials kit.
Crisp, casual, confident:
perfect for meetings or
We ended up creating two icon systems for Built: one for in-product applications — where speed-to-understanding is most vital — and a separate set of market-facing icons that touch on a more colorful and fun side of the business.
Last, but not least, the marketing website, affectionately known as the ‘dotcom’ asset. Featuring case studies, executive team bios, blog content, and a tool to help search for lenders, the new site helped catapult the brand into the market, and capture new leads.
Over $1B in new start construction loans
funded in the first year of business.
Secured $23M in Series A funding in
2017 from Index Ventures.
Processed over 130,000 new residential
construction loans in first year of business.
49 banks and 3k+ users
Onboarded 49 new bank relationships, and
added 3,200+ new users in the first year.
Housing Wire winner
Winner of the Housing Wire 100 award for
2018, a prestigious industry recognition.
And more awards...
FinXTech 2018 finalist; Digital Banking Judge’s
Choice, AIGA Tenn Show best in branding 2015.