LA TechWatch Sits Down with Sunbit Cofounder and CTO, Ornit Maizel
Sunbit is the Buy Now Pay Later Solution Helping Thousands of Local Businesses Increase Revenue
4,500+ merchants have already signed up to use Sunbit, the omnichannel financial solution helping local businesses generate revenue while giving consumers flexible payment plans for everyday essentials. In 30 seconds, consumers can sign up for a 3, 6, or 12-month payment plan that will finance total purchases ranging anywhere from $60 – $8K. Merchants such as auto shops, eye doctors, dentists, and veterinary clinics can provide omnichannel payment experiences to make payment as seamless as possible.
LA TechWatch caught up with Cofounder and CTO Ornit Maizel to learn more about Sunbit’s plan to Buy Now Pay Later solutions more accessible and applicable to everyday purchases.
Tell us about the product or service Sunbit offers.
Sunbit is the preferred buy now, pay later technology of service providers and retailers fulfilling the needs of thousands of local communities. Sunbit eases the stress of buying everyday things by offering access to fast, fair, and transparent payment options to people across the credit spectrum. Our technology is used in-store and online at more than 4,500 locations, including 1-in-5 auto dealership service centers, optical practices, dentist offices, and specialty health care services.
Our technology is helping thousands of local community-based merchants like auto shops, eye doctors, dentists, and vets, take better care of their customers with a BNPL solution that works for them. Sunbit continues to evolve as true omnichannel payment solutions are needed now more than ever. Sunbit’s technology includes Sunbit In-store, which is as an associate guided process from a tablet app that requires no paperwork, automated data entry, and a simple user interface; Sunbit On-the-go, a contactless process that can be completed by a customer from their own connected device; and Sunbit Online, an e-commerce solution that integrates Sunbit technology directly into an online checkout process.
Tell us a little about your background and what inspired the business?
Before launching Sunbit, I served as the Vice President of Research and Development at WhipClip, a social TV app, and as a Research and Development manager at SuperDerivatives, a financial services company. In these roles, I was responsible for overseeing end-to-end product development, managing all aspects of the business requirements from development to deployment, managing teams of web, mobile, and backend developers, QA engineers, architects, DBAs, and data scientists, as well as product and tech-operations. Outside of Sunbit, I advise the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist with insights on software innovation within fintech companies.
Prior to these roles, I was a software developer at Intel where I served on a team that was responsible for all manufacturing information systems. I received my MBA in Finance from Tel Aviv University and my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Systems Engineering from Ben-Gurion University where I ranked 1st in my class and graduated summa cum laude.
After close to a decade of managing and leading fintech software development, I knew my next step would be starting a company, and I was looking for the right opportunity. I worked with Arad Levertov, (Co-founder and CEO of Sunbit) many years ago at Intel and he told me about his idea of creating a new payment category that would help people get more out of their hard-earned money. This immediately got my attention. Ultimately, the size of the opportunity, the caliber of the founding team, and the potential to “make the world a better place” made Sunbit the ideal startup opportunity for me.
As the cofounder and Chief Technology Officer for Sunbit, I oversee the organization’s technology and development. In this role, I ensure that we bring data and decisional technology to the point of sale through an easy-to-use payment method that provides customers with tailored installment plans in seconds. Our technology moves at lightning speed so that more consumers can access the payments they need to make purchases that are essential. Our goal has been to help approve more applicants in more places – and my team helps ensure the technology drives these goals through a simple user experience (UX). Sunbit leverages AI, ML, data, and more – all on the backend – to ensure the front end of our product is painless.
How is Sunbit different?
Many of the services and products we need, as opposed to want, are obtained locally in a way that involves a human-to-human interaction – like getting your car fixed or getting an annual eye exam.
These local providers are part of the fabric of their communities. Many service providers and retailers are essential to communities and the ones who will get it right will be those who offer a hybrid checkout solution and be able to show the customer the entire experience, right in front of them. This means that wherever the customer feels more comfortable paying – the payment options should be right there where they are – online, in-store, on-the-go, etc.
Sunbit began by designing a solution that fits seamlessly into an in-store, person-to-person experience. This meant the process had to be lightning-fast, simple, and approve nearly everyone who applied for large and small purchases alike – reducing the likelihood of credit declines and rejections. Now, we help thousands of local merchants like auto shops, eye doctors, dentists, and veterinary clinics, take better care of their customers with a solution that works for them.
Starting with a solution designed for relationship-based experiences has made BNPL accessible to a broader set of merchants and consumers, for the things they need every day. Of course, we now offer an online solution to help our merchant partners provide an omnichannel experience too.
The evolution of the BNPL category is to make this new payment option accessible to as many people as possible for whatever it is they’re buying, wherever they’re buying it. Getting the in-store, person-to-person experience right is the linchpin to making this happen—and we believe we’ve cracked it.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
When we launched Sunbit, we were in a handful of merchants in select verticals. While our technology can certainly be implemented in any type of brick-and-mortar business, where we’re growing and improving is with auto repair shops, eyewear retailers, veterinary offices, dentists, and more.
Recently we announced that Sunbit is available in one-in-six auto dealership service departments nationwide. Since that time, we’ve already seen a dramatic increase of our technology being used in dealerships and today Sunbit can be found in one-in-five service departments.
In early 2020, we were proud to have launched Sunbit in eyewear retailers across the US –helping more consumers purchase a second pair of eyeglasses or a year’s supply of contact lenses.
Sunbit helps everyday Americans obtain their everyday needs—stress-free. And as more brick-and-mortar businesses recognize the need for a flexible payment option available at checkout, Sunbit will continue to offer its technology in more stores, in more verticals across the US.
What is the business model?
We started Sunbit by designing a solution that fits seamlessly into an in-store, person-to-person experience. What we found early on was that we wanted the product to be a part of a human transaction – in other words, the technology we built was designed for commerce transactions where relationships matter. Sunbit isn’t a one-size-fits-all BNPL service, but rather an individually tailored experience that fits the specific financial lifestyle of each applicant.
In order to accomplish this, the process had to be lightning-fast, simple, and approve nearly everyone who applied for large and small purchases alike – eliminating the public embarrassment of credit declines.
We also had to create a business that was streamlined, completely omnichannel and had operational efficiencies coupled with low costs so we could pass the savings on to our users.
The model we use helps retailers:
- Increase conversions with 90% of customers approved
- Keep business moving with a lightning-fast digital application
- Avoid awkward conversations. No hassle at the time of payment. Just more great experiences for everyone
- Finance total purchase from $60-$8000
- Rates & Terms
- APRs ranging from 0%-35.99%
- Down payment due at checkout
- Soft credit check for a credit decision
- Approximately 90% of customers approved
- Loans are made by Transportation Alliance Bank, Inc., dba TAB Bank, which determines qualifications for and terms of credit.
The model we use helps consumers:
- Choose from 3, 6, or 12-month flexible payment plans
- Have a transparent interaction with no hidden costs or fees
- Not have their credit score dinged for checking their options
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
The shift to contactless payments has been a major change in in-store shopping trends, and we accelerated our own development schedule to meet these changing demands.
Over the past several months, we have augmented our established in-store BNPL offering with contactless payments, and e-commerce capabilities, so that consumers can comfortably use Sunbit technology wherever they shop in their local communities, whether it is an auto body shop, or an eyewear retail center, or a dental office.
As we expand our footprint, bringing on more merchants, more people will have access to fast, fair, and transparent financing for buying the everyday things they rely on. We’re excited to continue our progress in bringing Sunbit to more communities across the country.
Tell us what building your company in LA has been like?
One of the benefits of operating out of LA is that there is a wonderful startup and tech community. We’re among some of the greatest innovators and thinkers in the market. And we’ve been able to pull from a pool of talented professionals to help grow our business. We’re proud to be Made in LA and be a part of LA’s tech community.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
In the last year, we’ve increased our footprint in the number and type of brick-and-mortar stores our technology is offered in. We’re now available in one-in-five auto dealership parts and service departments nationwide. Our goal is to increase our merchant footprint and continue to innovate as the worlds of physical and digital continue to merge. We are at the forefront of payment technology and are helping more local service providers and retailers provide an omnichannel experience while transforming the way people pay. We are expanding our product line to support the needs of local merchants that are quickly modernizing their operations to adapt to evolving consumer demands. Many of our solutions have already been rolled out in the past few months.
If you could be put in touch with one person in the LA Tech tech community who would it be and why?
One entrepreneur that has disrupted an entire industry, and someone I would enjoy having sushi from Sushi Sushi with, is Scott Painter, founder of Fair.com. Painter’s ability to see an antiquated way of business (like used car shopping) and turn that model upside down in an innovative and transparent way is admirable. While Fair.com had some operational challenges —as much as any business can have—the company reinvented itself and continues to help people purchase used cars in a transparent and fair way.
Sunbit understands the nuances of the auto dealership industry and companies that are looking to ease the shopping experience are ones we pay close attention to.
What does being “Made in LA” mean to you and your company?
We’re proud to have established our company in LA, an innovative and tech-savvy community. Our love for the community can be seen through our efforts to give more people, across the credit spectrum, better access to credit, and the ability to fulfill their everyday needs. By working with local, regional, and national retailers, we’re giving consumers the power to leverage their own financial lifestyle regardless of where and how they shop.
As a female, immigrant, and tech founder, I know LA has been the right place for our business and a great city to raise my family.
What else can be done to promote early-stage entrepreneurship in Los Angeles?
As a female founder, I have been privileged to share my own experience with other entrepreneurs and women founders. I’ve participated in mentorship programs where I can help the next generation of women leaders. I believe with more programs that foster shared experiences—especially among women in business, women in leadership, women in tech, etc.—we can support one another and lean into our shared resources, personal experiences, and business acumen, so more innovative companies can come to life. Your gender, immigrant status, or any other life factors should not detract from one’s ability to achieve their dreams.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
My favorite LA restaurant would be Sushi Sushi in Beverly Hills. What makes this place special to me, is it’s not just about the amazing food you enjoy, but an overall experience. Much like you might enjoy an art show where the artist creates a magnificent piece right before your eyes, so does the chef of Sushi Sushi create and engage his guests with each handmade item he serves. Dining at this place is a delightful example of wonderful customer-oriented service, with hand-selected fish fresh from the markets, personalized meals, all made just for you the moment you order.