An early morning story about a coffee stain, a divorce and a new unicorn?

Almost five years ago, on July 7th 2016, Sunbit’s Co-Founder and CRO, Tal Riesenfeld, introduced me via email to Co-Founder and CEO Arad Levertov. We met a couple of weeks following that introduction at a small office in Westwood Los Angeles back then when breathing near others maskless was acceptable.

At that brief forty minute meeting, Arad and Tal presented Sunbit’s product. Co-Founders Tamir Hazan and Ornit Dweck Maizel (Head of Analytics and CTO, respectively) also joined via conference call from their R&D center in Binyamina, Israel and shared their vision for the company.

I admit that after seeing the product and listening to their pitch my jaw dropped. I found in front of me, quite early in my venture capital career, an A-team with a revolutionary technology that was (and still is) 10X better than anything else out there, solving a problem most Americans face in a massive, blue ocean market.

At the end of the meeting I told them I wanted to lead their first institutional round, and asked for only one thing: to allow me to join Tal Riesenfeld over the weekend for sales and activation meetings with merchants at a few points-of-sale where the technology was already in place..

As you can see in the photo from the summer of 2016 below, I wore the Sunbit shirt and drove with Tal to sell Sunbit’s system to a Honda Service Center in Carson ,California.

Tal Riesenfelf and I going on sales calls in the summer of 2016

The service manager we met with had a huge coffee stain on his shirt and told us he was having a terrible day because he just found out that his wife was leaving him and he was getting divorced so we only had five minutes before he had to leave.

I congratulated him on his new marital status and Tal gave him a demo of the product. In 30 seconds he was sold. He asked, “Can I have it operational next week?” Tal answered “absolutely” and that we would be there to train the service-center staff next week and that the contract would be sent shortly.

At the end of the weekend after visiting a couple of other stores, I was convinced Sunbit would one day become a massive, category-defining company and so I decided to lead the company’s first financing round, join the board, and embark on a partnership with the company which has lasted half a decade now.

A couple of years later in Q3 of 2018, I introduced Oren Zeev of Zeev Ventures to the company and (luckily for all parties involved) he chose to join us by leading the company’s Series B and joining the company’s BOD alongside us and Stuart Larkins of Chicago Ventures, who has also been with us since the company’s early days (see photo below from January 2020 when we reached 100,000 loans).

January 2020 BOD meeting, when Sunbit reached 100,000 loan originations

The Sunbit journey has not been without ups and downs. It was only last year in 2020 when the company finally reached a point of exponential hyper-growth to the extent that it caught the attention of major institutional investors.

Today is an extremely exciting day for me and my team. Sunbit has reached over 1,000,000 loans helping Americans obtain everyday essential services such as car repairs or dental or eye care.

Additionally, Sunbit is announcing today its induction into the global unicorn club after closing a $130,000,000 Series D financing round led by Group 11 with participation from Zeev Ventures and other reputable investors, whom we brought on to join us on this journey — one that has only just begun.

The Group 11 team welcomes Sunbit to our growing stable of unicorns

Welcome Migdal Group, Harel Group, AltaIR Capital, and More Investment House to Sunbit and congratulations to the Sunbit family. Here’s to the next decade as we continue to build one of the nation’s most important and impactful financial institutions.

Dovi Frances is a financial services entrepreneur and founding partner of Group 11, a venture capital firm based in Los Angeles, California.