A fintech startup finds a community for entrepreneurs

As it scales, Lendica started out as WeWork All Access members before signing up for a dedicated office

(From left to right) Lendica cofounders Jerry Shu and Jared Shulman with employees Keith Bagchi and Evelyn Peng, at WeWork 501 Boylston St in Boston. Photograph courtesy of Lendica

The ways we work have fundamentally changed. People no longer seek just work-life balance. They want the power to choose when, where, and how they work. They want the freedom to create their own schedules, to do work they find meaningful, and to be in a space that suits their unique needs. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all nine to five. In All the Ways You Work, WeWork members share how they’re reimagining their professional lives and thriving in this new world of work.

A simple mix-up at a fintech networking event in Boston in 2015 brought Jared Shulman and Jerry Shu together: They were accidentally given each other’s name tags. They soon found each other, exchanged name tags, talked, and developed a friendship. They both had backgrounds in finance; at the time, Shulman was working at ILA Capital, a private credit hedge fund focused on marketplace lending, and Shu had cofounded Manticor, a derivatives exchange for digital assets. Five years later, in 2020, they decided to cofound a new company, called Lendica.

“Our business is what’s called embedded finance,” says Shulman, who serves as CEO. “We give software to other service providers so that all their customers can get access to loan programs.”

Lendica provides financing to small businesses through third-party SaaS platforms. It turns software companies like point-of-sale systems, DRP systems, and e-commerce platforms into banks by helping these platforms lend money and provide other bank-like tools to their small business customers. If a small business owner needs to buy new equipment, for example, rather than put that purchase on their credit card, they can use Lendica’s software embedded in a SaaS platform to access capital or other financial products.

Shulman and Shu started their business by writing software while working from home, but they soon realized they needed to communicate and collaborate in person. They looked for a space in Boston between their respective apartments and found a law firm willing to rent out its conference room. The space was affordable, so the two signed a month-to-month lease. It was winter, and they spent these first months as a team working late into the night, often until 1 a.m.

“The challenge was that the conference room also had a door to the outside, and we quickly learned that it wasn’t exactly insulated,” Shulman says. The office also set its thermostat to automatically shut the heat off after office hours. 

Being very friendly to entrepreneurs and [a] culture of being energetic, hardworking, and collaborative is what makes WeWork special.

Jerry Shu, cofounder of Lendica

They wore parkas and ski hats to stay warm from the wind, and barricaded the doors with copiers and anything else they could find so that the doors wouldn’t fly open. They knew there had to be a better way, so one night, while shivering, they decided to find a space that was friendly to entrepreneurs (and had a different heating system).

“It was a very humbling way to start the business,” says Shulman. “But I think we would probably look back on those days as some of the more fun we’ve had building our company.”

During this time, Shulman and Shu made a few hires, including one in Los Angeles, and decided to hold an offsite there. They flew to the Grand Canyon for some inspiration and then drove to Los Angeles, where they held their offsite at WeWork Gas Company Tower. Their timing was ideal—that location had extra space that was offered to Lendica for a week.

“We got a chance to see what it would be like to be in a team in a WeWork—we were pumped!” Shulman says.

When they returned to Boston, they became WeWork All Access members and started looking for a local WeWork location they could bike to on Bluebikes, the local bikeshare program. They liked one at WeWork One Seaport Square, but the trip from Harvard Square by bike took 31 minutes, and that extra minute would cost an additional $2.50.

“The joke was, we’d either have to shave minutes off of our biking or we’d have to find a more convenient space,” Shulman says.

They finally settled on WeWork 501 Boylston St. One reason Shulman and Shu chose this location is so they can take daily walks in the park. During one of their walks, they noticed three Berklee College of Music students performing. With each lap, they noticed a bigger group of people forming around the student musicians. So before they left the park, they asked the music students to play at Lendica’s two-year anniversary party. The party on the WeWork rooftop was a big success, and part of that success, say Shu and Shulman, can be attributed to WeWork.

Working at 501 Boylston St., they quickly discovered that WeWork wasn’t just an office but a community. They met Dominique Ortiz, the community manager of the building, who, with her team, greeted the Lendica staff every day with a big smile and snacks. The WeWork team ensured that Shu and Shulman had what they needed, especially when they noticed the founders were stressed and needed a break.

“A really friendly hello and a reinforcement of positivity by the WeWork staff,” Shulman says, “I think it went a long way, especially early on in the business.”

Thanks to the efforts of the WeWork staff, Shulman and Shu met other founders at that same location whose companies were at a similar stage. They formed an informal entrepreneur club and frequently played games together as they got to know one another. They also attended various WeWork events like happy hours, Empanada Day, and “It Ends in Y” Day.

“We built this really great community with these other early-stage founders and entrepreneurs, and WeWork did a great job of cultivating that,” says Shulman.

The Lendica team has since graduated from WeWork All Access passes to a dedicated office this year, with a few additional seats for their growing team, at WeWork 501 Boylston St. The team is comprised of talent that can be located anywhere, and Lendica has hired employees in different cities. Its staff in New York and Los Angeles have WeWork passes for when they want to work in an office or need a meeting space.

“Being very friendly to entrepreneurs and [a] culture of being energetic, hardworking, and collaborative is what makes WeWork special,” says Shu.

Andrea Murad is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She covers business, finance, and technology, and her work can be found on BBC and The Real Deal as well as in Global Finance magazine.

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