In conversation with Chris Rentner, Founder & CEO, Akouba, Inc.
This second time around we are in conversation with Chris Rentner, Founder and CEO of Akouba, Inc. Akouba provides a digital end-to-end platform enabling regulated financial institutions to lend to small businesses simply, efficiently and profitably.
Your evolution can seem eclectic. Travelling the world on oil tankers, working in a small tugboat operation, a corporate job at BP, founding a shipping logistic and an asset management company and entering the lending business with Akouba. What is the link between those industries? Is there one?
My background is very diverse, it has given me some great perspective from meeting people of so many different cultures and ways of life from all over the world. You will also see I was in the military for a chunk of time. What this all means, my passion for continuous learning, helping people and service before self is very important, but also identifying market problems in any industry and building a company specifically to address those problems is how I have operated as an entrepreneur for almost 10 years.
So I did a bit of research and Akouba comes from Greek and means to “reach out”. Is it because you are focused on reaching out to small businesses and help them get loans? How did this business idea come to you?
Many people don’t realize what Akouba means until we tell them. We take the meaning of “reach out” just a bit further and see its meaning as “to reach out and help.” We reach out to banks to solve their technology problem and solving that issue allows the banks to more effectively reach out and solve the SMBs access to capital problem and by providing that capital the business owner can more effectively reach out and meet their customers demands which helps the community. In the end, by building this company, we create a ripple effect that can change the way America, maybe even the world runs their businesses. We felt that was a big enough problem that needed to be addressed.
There are a number of companies that also have a similar objective: helping SME’s to get access to financial services. Why is Akouba working better than most?
Many of the early businesses provided a great user experience with their technology and had a balance sheet of lending capital to work with. Unfortunately, the market has shown those businesses have difficulties turning a profit (even with extremely high interest rates) and maintaining the growth they projected. Akouba has been successful because we attacked the problem with a business model providing the tech to existing financial institutions with very low capital costs and a customer base that already trusts them. This allows us to focus only on the customer experience of the product and we are a clear leader in that area.
In your opinion, will SME’s attain the same borrowing powers that some of the larger corporations have. Why?
I think when you combine technology from Akouba with an existing trusted financial institution SMEs could actually gain better access to capital than large corporations. Large corporations are complex, filled with bureaucracy and think they should be catered to more specifically, and hey, maybe they should. Technology can streamline workflow, but it is just not there YET to transact large complex corporate deals. With Akouba, we can streamline the simple data collection as well as the decisioning of a loan for an SME and actually give them an advantage in the market to larger companies that are too complicated to address and therefore giving them an edge in the market.
Chris is a successful serial entrepreneur and currently is the Founder and CEO of Akouba, a cloud based technology-lending platform for regulated financial institutions. Chris has overall responsibility for the vision, growth and strategy of Akouba. Furthermore, Chris maintains Akouba’s relationships with organizations such as FIS, D+H, Bank Director, the ABA and government agencies including the CFPB.
Prior to Akouba, Chris was educated at the United States Merchant Marine Academy where he graduated with a BS in logistics and was commissioned in the United States Navy Reserve. After a number of years working in the oil and gas industry, Chris founded an asset management company, Full Ahead Ventures where he worked with companies to develop their ideas, build products, raise capital for growth and advise through a successful M&A process.
Chris Rentner will be a panelist in the session De-risking Business Banking Lending through AI at BAI Beacon Atlanta 2017 on October 5th at the Georgia World Congress Center. Take a look at the Agenda and find which other panels and keynotes are of your interest!