First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kosta Ligris: Thank you for asking. We are blessed that everyone is healthy and still relatively sane!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stavvy
Kosta Ligris: I’m a lifelong entrepreneur and co-founder of real estate startup Stavvy, a platform for connecting mortgage lenders to their vendors. We offer an all-in-one technology platform, Stavvy Connect, which helps lenders and their vendor partners connect during the underwriting and settlement process of home loans. Stavvy Connect includes remote signature tools and seamless integration with Stavvy Notarize, enabling closing agents to leverage our robust tools for eClosings of various types.
We are passionate about building technology to empower banks and lenders to remain competitive long into the future. The genesis of Stavvy first started on Christmas Eve in 2018. I had a conversation with Josh Feinblum, a classmate at MIT Sloan, about building technology to simplify the closing process and modernize it in states that allow for virtual closings. At the time, Josh was the chief security officer of DigitalOcean but decided to join me in launching this company. We both joined Stavvy full-time in June 2019.
Before starting Stavvy, I founded the Ligris Companies (Ligris), a collection of professional services, real estate, and consulting firms with offices in Boston, Newton, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, and ACES Title Agency – a title and settlement firm with operations in New England, New York, and Florida. I now serve Ligris as chairman and continue to advise startups and founders, particularly in fintech and prop-tech verticals, both as an active angel investor and as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.
How does Stavvy innovate?
Kosta Ligris: At Stavvy, our goal is to make closings – an often arduous process – simple and straightforward. At the same time, we want to maintain the personalization of the experience, especially for smaller lenders, credit unions, and community banks. We know technology and understand the industry; banks know banking and their customers. We’re striking a balance with these partnerships by empowering smaller lenders with innovation that allows them to compete with big lenders. Customer experience is more important than ever: during the pandemic, we have seen the necessity of creating a better, safer, and more convenient way to bank. As innovators, we are mindful of user experience (UX) and design. We want to enhance the customer experience by making our software intuitive and user friendly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kosta Ligris: Layoffs have been an inevitable misfortune of this pandemic, particularly impacting the tech industry. Luckily, one of the benefits of being a part of the Boston tech community is that we could identify and hire some of the awesome talents searching for new jobs. Right now, three out of four employees at Stavvy were former employees of Toast, a fellow Boston tech startup. Josh and I admired Toast’s culture and their dedication to connecting the employees who were laid off to companies seeking talent. We’ve been able to build a great team and help members of the Boston tech community, and that’s been a major success for Stavvy.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kosta Ligris: We have been very fortunate that the tools we are building are more relevant today than ever. The fact that we are an “Always Open” and the global economy has presented opportunities for Stavvy that were moving much more slowly pre-pandemic. We believe that technology can empower and transform the lending experience.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Stavvy in the future?
Kosta Ligris: When it comes to stress, I’m a big believer in hyperfocusing – it’s important to set aside all of the noise and concentrate on dealing with or solving the most critical problems first. One of the keys to success is always being able to prioritize what needs your attention this minute. This can help create a sense of calm and keep anxiety at bay.
Mindfulness is a particularly useful tool that I turn to almost daily. I prioritize my health – sleep, nutrition, hydration, and meditation – to perform under high-stress situations. Allowing myself at least seven minutes every day to breathe and recalibrate puts me in the right headspace to take on the day.
All of these tools and behaviors tone the antifragility that we need to compete and perform at the highest level.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kosta Ligris: There are many companies that are engaged in our space. But frankly, as my co-founder, Josh says, – “There are lots of companies building technology in this space, but there are not many technology companies.” In fact, many of them are focused on very large national lenders, custom solutions, solutions that are really service business, and the like. We build technology; – we don’t do closings or manage workflow. We empower the relevant shareholders with the best tools and tech to not only stay relevant – but to thrive.
Your final thoughts
Kosta Ligris: Innovation in consumer lending, payments, and financial services is at its infancy, in my opinion. We are just starting to scratch the surface, and that, to me, is a very exciting time to be an innovator and entrepreneur in this vertical. The ability to play some role in shaping how people interact with their banks and lenders is overwhelmingly exciting.