Cincinnati-based fintech company Payload saw an opportunity to eliminate paper checks and wire transfers for buyers who put Earnest Money Deposits (EMDs) toward home purchases. In 2020, Payload launched a targeted version of its integrated transaction platform, sub-branded Earnestly, to the real estate market.
Last year, the re-branded and expanded Keybox saw 800 percent growth, and this year, it’s projected to handle $1 billion in real estate transactions – ranging from agent commissions to property management fees. We spoke to co-founder and CEO Ryan Rybolt about the future of Keybox and how the tech startup culture in Cincinnati has supported the multiple fintech companies he’s helped launch in the city.
What about the real estate market led you to break out a sub-branded product?
Rybolt: If you think about a real estate transaction, digital signature platforms have automated the home buying experience, and yet the payment innovation was left behind in the whole digital disruption. That really was pronounced during the pandemic, when agents weren’t there when the customer was ready to submit a deposit for a home contract. They historically would pick up the check, take it to the home office, and then the home office would deposit it. But there is no one at the home office, right? Everyone’s virtual.
We happened to have a solution that addresses that and had a number of brokerages sign up for that solution. Then we were seeing instant adoption across our entire agent base to transfer funds for the deposit. And then they were asking, ‘Can we use Payload for dispersing commission checks or billing our agents for insurance or marketing fees?’ There are 15 different entities that get paid at a real estate closing. Can we use Payload to disperse funds into those different endpoints?
To what do you attribute the 800 percent growth in a single year?
Rybolt: Obviously, the pandemic definitely supercharged our growth in the real estate vertical. But also, people liken our payment experience to a Venmo for consumer-to-business or business-to-business payments.
What type of back-office integrations do you have in place currently?
Rybolt: We probably have six or seven integrations currently, and probably about the same amount lined up either in active integrations or in conversations, at least, within the real estate vertical. We have many more industries that we plan to launch into in ‘22.
What’s your level of penetration into the leading systems at this point?
Rybolt: The way that we segment out the real estate is, you have the transaction management platforms, which are the E-signature platforms that the agents use to track the activity of a real estate transaction. I would say that we’re in 70 percent to 75 percent of those right now.
And then you have the broker management platforms that can manage the brokerage’s relationships with the agents for commission disbursements or billing fees. I would say we’re only about 20 percent integrated into those platforms. As for title, we’re probably in the early innings there, at maybe 10 percent penetration. There’s a ton of runway.
What about the ecosystem in Cincinnati makes it fertile ground for fintech?
Rybolt: Ian [Halpern, Payload CTO] and I met when he was launching RentShare, which then became Place, and our companies were both acquired by the same company (Nashville-based i3 Verticals), that ultimately went public. But I would say that Cintrifuse has done an incredible job in creating a platform where entrepreneurs can connect with key providers and partners within the community. Even today, I serve on a FinTech Advisory Committee under Cintrifuse, where we meet a couple times each month, either virtually or in person, and share ideas and really support each other’s growth. A rising tide lifts all boats.
What are your plans for the future?
Rybolt: We’re in the early innings of this payment transformation. There are a lot of disruptive technologies that are forthcoming, and we believe we’ll be ready to create rails where real-time transfer of funds can take place with a click of a button. What we’re building here with real estate plays out in so many other industries, whether it’s insurance or professional services, or a number of other historically legacy payment industries.