SmartHippo, based in Montreal, has had quite an exciting week. In addition to launching a new version of the site, a US mortgage search engine and comparison community, at Finovate San Fransisco, George Favvas SmartHippo’s CEO has managed to bring together a fantastic advisory board. Board members include Lori Collins, former Senior Vice President and General Manager for LendingTree Exchange; Bill Rice, CEO of Kaleidico; and Toronto’s very own John Philip Green, Founder and CTO of LearnHub.
SmartHippo is an interesting startup launching a product into a market in turmoil. Interest rates are all over the map, housing prices are deflating, and homeowners are nervous. While there is possibly going to be less action in the mortgage business while the market finds it’s bearings, it may be just the time to bring together a community to ferret out the best mortgage rates.
LowerMyBills.com was acquired by Experian in 2005 for more than $330M. Bankrate.com has a market cap of $986M. And LendingTree.com is being spun off by IAC. Mortgage origination pays. SmartHippo’s main challenge now is building a community. He is on the right track by “not letting the business model get in the way of business.”
“LendingTree and LowerMyBills are pure lead generation plays that match the consumer with the banks that pay the most for the lead (not the ones with the best rates). Bankrate lets banks advertise ‘bait and switch’ rates.” While like its competitors SmartHippo makes money with mortgage application origination, their approach is much more transparent: finding and rating mortgage rates and banks is driven in large part by user reports. Transparency works. It is probably only a matter of time before SmartHippo has to deal with a stampede of smart borrowers.