CASE STUDY
Snap.Build
VERTICALS
Fintech
Proptech
SERVICES
Product Strategy
Product Management
Product Development

Building better with better construction loan administration

In vertical construction, good management is everything. Speculative builders manage every aspect of building single-family homes — from framing to finish-out — on their phones. But lenders have yet to serve this market with loan administration that moves at the pace of construction. What if builders could attract the best possible subcontractors by paying them faster for great work?

Client

Snap.Build is revolutionizing construction loans to enable builders to operate more profitably while maintaining better subcontractor relationships. By applying state-of-the-art financial technology and improved user experiences, Snap.Build enhances builder’s ability to communicate with lenders, get paid for completed phases of work, and pay their valuable partners and trade workers in a timely fashion — thereby mitigating risks for lenders and helping builders perform to their top potential.

The old way involves too many lags and approximations to keep people productive and relationships strong. Today’s builders deserve tools that enable them to manage the money side of the operation in an easier, more transparent, and immediate manner that up-levels professionalism from the boots on the ground on up to the balance sheet.”

Matt Merritt, CEO, Snap.Build

Challenge

Snap.Build envisioned dramatic improvements to the speculative homebuilding business with a next-generation fintech platform specifically suited to the needs of vertical construction builders. Snap.Build envisioned dramatically streamlined loan administration and draw management that would help builders borrow more efficiently, move fast, and pay faster. Snap.Build’s solution would improve five key areas of construction lending to strengthen end-to-end construction delivery:

  1. Planning: Snap.Build’s platform would enable builders and lenders to agree on detailed construction project plans tied to each construction loan.
  2. Drawing: The platform would also empower builders to make daily draw requests against the construction loan as each task in the project plan is completed.
  3. Verifying: Then, lenders could verify the completion of tasks against pre-approved cost-coded budgets via photos, videos, and documentation submitted with each completed task.
  4. Partnering: Meanwhile, builders using Snap.Build’s platform would be able to skip time-sucking vendor management tasks with automated electronic Lien Waiver management.
  5. Payment: Finally, Snap.build would enable builders to create stronger vendor and sub-contractor relationships by paying them in real-time as compared to the typical 1- to 2-month wait for lagging draws to catch up with completed construction work.

To get from vision to custom software product, Snap.Build needed meticulous alignment between executive vision, market drivers, and what construction crews care about on the job site. Snap.Build approached Altus Nova as their existing development team began a 30-day phase out. Snap.Build needed a new team to onboard fast, learn the business and the system in development, and take over without missing a beat.

Altus Nova began by conducting an in-depth audit of the existing system. After looking at back- and front-end architecture as well as the environment and infrastructure, Altus Nova proposed two parallel workstreams. One would leap to remediating the issues found during the initial audit. The other would analyze Snap.Build’s full business picture in order to define the current state, establish the future vision, and map Snap.Build’s best path to success.

Discovery

The Snap.Build leadership team saw multiple avenues to grow with custom software development. However, differing visions for the best way to drive revenue led to a lack of clarity around software development priorities. For example, Snap.Build saw potential in every aspect of courting the vertical construction lending market:

  • Geographic expansion: How might Snap.Build develop a national footprint? How might hyper-localization play into their growth?
  • Targeted Builders: What would make the platform attractive to enterprise-sized builders? Could it gain traction with smaller players?
  • Construction types supported: Single-family homes are just one kind of venture. Could builders manage more complex multi-unit residential or commercial ventures with Snap.Build?
  • Loan Types supported: How might different loan types, like Dutch Interest, Interest-as-drawn, with or without Escrow expand Snap.Build’s reach?
  • Saas Revenue models: Could Snap.Build white-label their solution rather than continue as the sole servicing team?

Knowing that the vast majority of custom software development projects fail due to a lack of definition, Altus Nova worked closely with Snap.Build to define pain points as well as success criteria, and to fully document end-to-end business processes for loan origination, draw management, and loan payoff processing.

Through Altus Nova’s work, Snap.Build gained detailed definitions on the lending side for everything from borrower and project approval to titling, funding, and closing. Additionally, on the builder side, they gained process definitions for project creation, vendor management, inspections or task completion reviews, and draw request processes.

Altus Nova responded to Snap.Build’s ultimate desire to transition from being a simple loan services company to being a loan servicing technology platform by creating a rational, prioritized product roadmap — one specifically formulated to create a solid technology foundation AND pursue revenue opportunities at the same time.

Despite fixed budgets and aggressive timelines, Altus Nova’s process definitions and phased approach gave Snap.Build new confidence about what technology spend would be needed, how to get moving, and what success might look like all the way to market dominance.

Roadmap

Altus Nova’s discovery solidified a smart, 6-phase roadmap to get Snap.Build onto their breakthrough path. Six critical phases would modernize Snap.Build’s technology while also delighting builders and ultimately, lenders. Snap.Build’s leadership team appreciated this phased approach that would build a customer base while continuing to launch features and functionality that set Snap.Build apart from the competition.

Phase 1: Retire Legacyware
As is often the case, Snap.Build had been relying on a legacy Draw Management System while developing a modern system that could accommodate Snap.Build’s full vision over time. Altus Nova would first work to close the gap between the new, unfinished system and the old so that the legacy software could be confidently retired.

Phase 2: Delight Builders
Next, Altus Nova advised Snap.Build to implement the most critical features to satisfy and delight builders, winning their support as Snap.Build customers. The key would be to create a streamlined, intuitive experience to address the majority of builder activities — most importantly to improve their ability to pay partners in real time.

Phase 3: Expand Lending
Then, focus can shift to expand the lending side of Snap.Build’s competitive equation. By offering more loan types to include Interest-as-Drawn loans, with and without Escrow, builders would be able to borrow more affordably, and more of them would be interested in using the platform.

Phase 4: Expand Construction Types
Making it easy to build bigger projects with Snap.Build’s solution comes next. Adding tailored loan administration for not just single-famiy homes, but attached and multi-family residential projects would enable Snap.Build customers to take on bigger opportunities.

Phase 5: Automate Servicing
With a strong technological base and a great feature set, now Snap.Build would be able to truly differentiate by decreasing the friction involved in construction lending. Scaling servicer functions by automating user-friendly loan origination, underwriting, and payoff processes would appeal to the entire financial and construction industries.

Phase 6: Dominate Lending
Finally, with a fully operational and proven platform creating dramatic benefits on Snap.Build-managed construction projects, the brand could offer its capabilities as stand-alone technology to third-party lenders who wanted to get in on the construction loan business. When it’s as easy as implementing a user-friendly platform, why not?

[object Object]

Method

Clarity of purpose, priority, and price helped Snap.Build align on how to realize their industry-transforming vision for construction lending. After exploring and documenting the winning features for each stage of the roadmap, Altus Nova helped Snap.Build prioritize and sequence efforts on each high-level feature.

From there, it was easy for Snap.Build and Altus Nova to confirm the level of effort and cost for the first two phases of development. With approval from the Snap.Build team, Altus Nova supplied rational resourcing, budget, and date-based milestones for completing Phase 1 and 2, and got to work.

[object Object]
[object Object]
[object Object]

Solution

With careful planning, clear alignment, and a smart roadmap, Altus Nova was able to replace Snap.Build’s previous development team with a near-zero drop in velocity. Altus Nova’s transparent processes dramatically increased the Snap.Build team’s “voice” into product requirements, which also increased executive confidence and comfort with the work’s progress.

Altus Nova executed aggressive milestones within the agreed budget. Reliable deliveries against each milestone enabled more accurate business planning for expected features. Quality development work delivered success after success. Altus Nova was able to:

  • Cut code redundancies to reduce web app package download size from 5+ MB to < 1 MB, speeding each visit for busy builders
  • Optimize mobile performance and iffy job site connections by improving page-load times from 10 second average to 1 second average
  • Improved user experience to save significant time and frustration by reducing in-app navigation for both builders and loan servicers by 90%

Along the way, Altus Nova helped the Snap.Build team make decisions to reduce risk and secure project success. Fast, effective research helped Snap.Build decide to simplify vendors’ use of the platform, and to use responsive Web apps rather than develop a native mobile app. Altus Nova also trained a Snap.Build subject matter expert to handle product management, including them in every phase of development for easy hand-off.

Experience

The Altus Nova team created simple, clean user experiences to ease builders through the process of creating a Snap.Build account, setting up project plans in communication with lenders, adding vendors, and more. Ultimately, these experiences will allow builders to manage monetary draws and payments to partners in real time.

[object Object]

The best thing about working with Altus Nova is the team’s ability to assess business opportunity and technological strategy to find the best possible journey from idea to custom software. We knew what we wanted and why. Altus Nova helped us create a rational, step-by-step process to get there while capturing growth all along the way.” 

Daniel Pickens, VP of Product, Snap.Build

Technologies

Front End
  • Programming: Angular, TypeScript, NGRX, ApexCharts, Material UI, Tailwind
  • Code Analyzers: Eslint (angular-eslint + typescript-eslint + custom eslint rules), Prettier, Stylelint.
  • XLSX Parsing and Generation: XLSX (SheetJS)
  • User Experience Tracking: SmartLook
  • End-User Bug Reporting: UserSnap
  • UI Design: Figma
Back End
  • Programming: Microservices based Azure solution using App Services, Azure FunctionsIdentity Management: Active Directory B2C
  • Data & Storage: Azure SQL DB, Azure Blob storageMessaging & Data Flow: Azure ServiceBus, NServiceBus
  • PDF Generation: Select.HtmlToPdf
  • Messaging & notifications: SendGrid (Email notifications, MFA)
  • Dashboards: Power BI
  • Integrations: Dwolla for Builder and Vendor ACH payment processing, API based integrations into Granite Inspections, Zyla API for banking API , Plaid (bank account verification), Webhooks
  • Deployment: Azure Pipelines, Terraform

Quality Assurance
  • TestRail, Playwright, SpecFlow, NUnit, Azure Pipelines

Are you ready to make your breakthrough?

Let's find your competitive advantage, today.

Schedule a call:

© 2023, Altus Nova Technologies, All rights reserved.