David Zalik knows how to spot a hot market. The CEO of GreenSky has an app for contractors that lets homeowners qualify for loans in less than a minute. Launched just a few years ago, GreenSky grew from obscurity to serving its millionth customer last December. The reason is simple: Remodelers are hungry for anything that will give them a competitive edge, but they also demand technologies that are easy to use.
The 42-year-old Zalik (pictured) started his first business, a computer hardware company, as a precocious 14-year-old already attending classes at Auburn University. He later sold that business for upward of a million dollars. Zalik then dropped out of college to pursue opportunities that have ranged from real estate to web consulting.
He originally started GreenSky in 2006, with a mission to make it easier for large companies such as Stanley Tools and The Home Depot to offer credit to business customers. Along the way, Zalik saw a more pressing problem: the inefficient way home improvement is financed.
“The paperwork required to apply for bank financing is intimidating, invasive, and wasteful for the contractor and the consumer,” Zalik says. “We believed that making it paperless and noninvasive would help remodelers sell more jobs.”
It was a good call. Five years ago he rolled GreenSky out to the home improvement market as a line of credit that contractors can offer to homeowners at interest rates half those of most credit cards. There’s no paperwork involved: The contractor uses a phone to scan the homeowner’s driver’s license and GreenSky pulls a credit report.
About 13,000 contractors have signed up for the service, many of whom use it to help grow their businesses. “We know contractors who were doing $500,000 in annual business when they started with us and are now at $1 million,” Zalik says.
Of course GreenSky wouldn’t have been possible without the growing sophistication of today’s smartphones and the fact that almost everybody has one. “It’s only in the last five years that Android phones and iPhones have reached the saturation point,” Zalik says. This familiarity has made people feel more comfortable using their phones for financial transactions than they did just a few years ago.
Zalik also believes that further advances in the technology will let remodelers use their phones and tablets to automate even more tasks. “As handheld technology becomes ever more sophisticated, it will open up new opportunities for collaboration and better management,” he says.
One area that’s ripe for automation is the sales process. “Everyone in this industry is time-bankrupt,” Zalik points out. “If you’re selling in the home, you don’t want to be there any longer than you have to.” He is confident that, within five to 10 years, the remodeler will be able to measure a room, specify materials, generate a rendering, give a price, and offer financing—all from a handheld device in a matter of minutes.
But he declines to say whether he is working on such apps. “For now, all I want to say is that we’re focusing on ways to better serve our customers,” he says. Given his track record, however, Zalik is someone to watch.