David Stroud | Founder of Mortgage Sandbox

Introduction

Success leaves clues.

Finance Strategists sat down with David Stroud, founder of Mortgage Sandbox. He shared his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.

Who is David Stroud?

Q: Who are you and what’s your background?

I am a Canadian financial services veteran with over 25 years of experience in strategy, innovation, and banking operations.

I have  a Finance degree from Sauder School of Business (UBC) and an MBA from the Beedie School of Business (SFU). I studied at Harvard Business School and the University of Toronto. I also earned certifications as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Six Sigma Black Belt.

I began my career in commercial banking at TD Bank. In 2005 I joined Accenture to work as a Banking Strategy and Transformation Consultant.  As a consultant I helped clients in retail and commercial banking capitalize on opportunities such as post-merger integration, growth strategy, cost reduction, lean process improvement, customer journey design, and significant IT system implementations.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?

I am inspired by my grandfather, who grew up in Germany but left during the economic and social turmoil that followed World War I to settle in Spain. Spain’s infrastructure was in shambles after its civil war, so he bought a small public works company and built the business into a significant national infrastructure and construction company.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?

As much as you may hear that it is easy to raise investment capital, it is much more difficult than you have likely been led to believe. Particularly when your business is pre-revenue.

Prepare to be self-funded, or funded by family and friends, until you’ve reached break-even.

Finally, unless you’re building a straightforward app, expect that it will take your developers three times longer to deliver product enhancements than their initial estimate.

Business

Q: What is Mortgage Sandbox?

Mortgage Sandbox’s goal is to improve your homeownership experience with better information, tools, and real estate professionals.

This began with our fact-based home price and mortgage rate forecasts. We’ve supplemented our forecasts and guides with one of the most comprehensive home buying budget calculators in the market and also an AI-powered app to help consumers find local, pre-screened real estate agents and mortgage brokers who share similar values.

We will continue to build out more tools to help support homebuyers, homeowners, and home sellers.

Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?

Homeownership and rent are people’s most significant annual expenses. We believe Canadians deserve more transparency, simplicity, and fairness than our competitors have been able to provide. Our key differentiators are:

  • Simple tools and calculators to help you ask better questions.
  • Real estate market reports and forecasts augmented with easy to understand data visualization.
  • A professional matching app that helps Canadians find pre-screened and value-aligned realtors and mortgage brokers with whom they are predicted to work well.
  • The most comprehensive home buying and home selling guides available.
  • To support Canadians and their housing dreams, Mortgage Sandbox advocates in favour of changes to industry practices and government policies that shift more power to the consumer.

Q: What led you to start Mortgage Sandbox?

The industries involved in homeownership are highly regulated, siloed, and often have incentives that are a conflict of interest. Also, many lawmakers, regulators, and industry participants have made the process of buying and selling a home excessively complicated, and this increases consumer reliance on industry players.

Our goal is to create a unified platform to support consumers through the homeownership journey and empower them to make better financial decisions.

Finally, I’ve always valued relationships and helping connect people. Mortgage Sandbox amplifies the power of this philosophy with it’s easy to use, data-driven, matching tool that connects Canadians with local, pre-screened real estate professionals, who share their interests, values, and have a complementary work style. I believe aligned values lead to better working relationships and a more successful homeownership experience.

Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?

Building Mortgage Sandbox has taught me resilience and forced me out of my comfort zone.

It’s essential to create a detailed plan and pursue it passionately, however when the assumptions underpinning the plan change, you need to be flexible and agile. I’ve had to swallow my pride on a few occasions to re-plan, re-launch and continue forward, and this has given me a new appreciation of resilience in the face of setbacks.

Before founding Mortgage Sandbox, I was deeply entrenched in sales, business, and IT operations. I had exposure to support functions like human resources, marketing, and accounting, but I wasn’t very comfortable in those domains. As a Founder in a start-up, you often find yourself filling in the gaps, and this forced me further into support areas like digital marketing and analytics.

Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?

Now that we have proven the business model, our goal is to raise capital in the next year to help bring Mortgage Sandbox to the United States and Europe. As well, we will build out our product roadmap to provide an end-to-end homeownership Robo-advisor.