This next article in our “Simplex Ventures Founders Series” will feature CRS, an innovative fintech company that created an all-encompassing platform designed for companies to access credit data.
A Q&A with CRS and its Co-Founder & CEO, Marco Buhlmann
Thanks for taking the time, Marco! Can you tell us a little bit about CRS and your role?
I’m Co-Founder and CEO of CRS, which is a single platform for all credit, fraud and compliance needs, helping companies make powerful, accurate data-driven decisions.
With CRS, customers can build products on a regulated data stack without having to concern themselves too much with compliance requirements, data storage, audit requirements, etc. All of that is done by us.
CRS was founded in 2019. What inspired you and your co-founder to join forces and start the company?
My co-founder, Stephen Hawkins, has a very strong background in credit and compliance. In fact, he worked on the first API to transmit credit electronically! For many years, he worked in large credit reporting agency bureaus and then operated a data consulting firm.
Prior to CRS, Stephen and I co-founded the company Zingo, which was later acquired by Credit Sesame. At the time, Zingo’s purpose was to provide consumers with the ability to improve their credit scores via timely rent payments. However, during that time, there was no platform like CRS, and so we had to build out data relationships with credit bureaus, public records, databases and bank connectors. The process was very challenging, costly and time consuming, taking us about six months to a year for each and every data source in the bank.
Building Zingo exposed us to all the difficulties we’re now solving at CRS. We thought about how there needed to be some kind of connective tissue in the industry that allowed for a more seamless way to build products on regulated data. That’s how CRS was born.
Credit API technology is a powerful way for businesses to make better credit decisions at scale, and CRS can do that while also simultaneously enabling fraud, detection, security and compliance. How is CRS uniquely positioned to succeed compared to other credit reporting services?
What’s unique about CRS is it’s one of less than 100 credit reporting agencies (CRA) in the US. The majority of those are traditional mortgage lenders, so there really is no fintech company that is a CRA. The combination of our tech stack and that kind of designation as a company allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
We also have a machine learning (ML) deployment framework fully integrating the data stack. This means our customers can run on any data and can test assumptions or challenge existing algorithms.
What type of company should be using CRS?
Pretty much anyone who touches money! We have a very broad user base even throughout all the macro shifts that we experienced in the last couple of years. We have exposure to all facets of an economy whether it’s new loan origination through lenders, B2B, B2C, ecommerce or buy now pay later. In addition, we have a very strong following in PropTech, which is commercial real estate/multi-tenant management. We are also pretty big in debt consolidation, settlement and bankruptcy. Our customer base is varied, but if a situation deals with money and people, we can help.
We’d love to hear about a recent success story you’ve had.
At CRS, we’ve been able to enable customers to enter the market with a company’s new product and facilitate nearly the entire go-to market and launch strategies. A process that would once take a customer at least six months, we can do in a matter of days. And, we’ve successfully achieved that several times.
Recently, we had a case where a major data source, due to a configuration error, had to take their data product offline. It took them several days to resolve the issue. Luckily, our customers were not impacted at all because we immediately switched them over to a comparable data source, and by doing so kept that downtime to minutes instead of days.
How long does it take a company to integrate with and start using the CRS API?
There’s virtually almost no limitation on speed on our end as we can integrate as slow or fast as a customer needs. Typically, we can get them set up within 24 or 48 hours. Most of the time, that’s not the case, though. We have two general classes of customers. One is ‘rip and replace’ and the other is ‘new’ – ‘new product’ or ‘new service.’‘Rip and replace’ means they already have a data solution. They will come to us to get the exact same data solution that we can literally spin up in a day.
From your perspective, what are some best practices for customers to get the most value out of your products?
Engage early in the process. There’s a lot of different data and data solutions in the regulated data space. Data has what’s called a permissible purpose use case. Essentially, each data is well defined on how it can be used. Understanding what’s available and if/how you can use it is imperative. The earlier customers engage, the better informed their product decision will be.
Another best practice is establishing a go-to point of contact on the customer side. Having clarity internally on how to manage the relationship and the best channels of communications is a key factor of success we often see.
How do you and your team work to keep the company continuously innovating?
We spend a lot of time in the field with other companies and connect with relevant organizations that have an impact on the regulated data space. This is done to ensure we’re on top of what’s coming next from a regulatory perspective. By spending time with our customers, we also understand where they’re currently at and where they’re going so we can have the solutions needed when they get there.
So, as CRS’s success continues, where do you see the company expanding the remainder of the year and beyond?
We plan to expand into a couple new verticals – InsureTech and healthcare. We also are working on increasing our self-service offerings to companies that might not qualify to have direct data access. So, we’re introducing a lot more self-service and decisioning products, making it safe and easy for even the smallest startups to receive access to decisioning products.
Where can people find you to learn more?
Feel free to visit us at https://crscreditapi.com/.
Since opening its venture capital arm, Simplex Ventures, Simplex Trading has invested in more than a dozen high-growth companies and funds – ideas that are shaping the future of finance. Through strategic investments, Simplex Ventures is creating collaborative partnerships with visionary founders of fintech companies who are driven to disrupt and transform the financial industry. Discover more information about Simplex Ventures and our portfolio companies.