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Lenderclose: Corporate to startup

After his dad spent his entire career working for one company, Ben Rempe had dreams of doing the same.

But after the financial crisis in 2008—and being one of the thousands of employees who were laid off—Rempe believed he needed to take more control of his career.

It took a few stops—and nearly a decade—but Rempe took control in 2018.

Today Rempe, 38, is the Chief Operating Officer for Lenderclose, a Des Moines-based digital lending platform that allows community lenders to streamline the lending cycle. After stops in the credit union and financial services industry, Rempe reunited with Omar Jordan, a former colleague and founder of Lenderclose, a company with less than ten people.

Rempe was the first Lenderclose hire.

“It’s going to be interesting sitting on the top of the rocket ship and see what we can make happen,” Rempe said.

Rempe is the second of a three-part series on professionals who decided to leave their corporate job for the startup community.

A three-year conversation

Rempe previously worked with the founder of LenderClose—Omar Jordan—at Household Finance before the financial crisis in 2008. When the layoffs happened, Jordan would go on to start the first of his two companies and Rempe made his way into the credit union industry.

But the two kept in touch and Rempe says about three years ago, Jordan called him saying he needed help launching LenderClose.

“I was in no position to do that, and that was like two or three years ago,” Rempe remembers. “It had been an ongoing conversation and over the course of the last six months some things happened where it became a possibility.”

Rempe says what pushed him over the edge to join LenderClose was that Jordan had secured a $1.3 million investment from Next Level Ventures.

“The fact that the company had some financial backing beyond just he and I bootstrapping the company was appealing to me,” Rempe says. “I’ve got a family with three girls, I could have tried to bootstrap it—and we could have done it—but the fact that we had a group that believes in us, it made it an easy transition to move over.”

A romantic situation

Because of the infusion of capital, Rempe says LenderClose is at a point where any entrepreneur would think “romantically” about what we’re doing.

“We’ve signed an office lease, brought on investors and are talking about a hiring strategy,” Rempe says with a smile. “We moved into our office, we took this place that hadn’t been leased in seven years. It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal but it’s really nice and that’s our place. There are five people in a space ready to go for 25 people. You sit at your desk and look at where these people are going to be and think, ‘We are going to do this.’

“We’re ready to go.”


Lenderclose: Corporate to startup | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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