Mallory Van Dover remembers meeting Jennifer Carlisle for breakfast two years ago, just before the two became co-workers at CARTI in Little Rock.
The two bonded over their love of data and helping organizations use it to gain efficiency. That breakfast became lunch and then frequent talks about data at CARTI, where Carlisle, 49, was COO and Van Dover, 50, was vice president of the CARTI Foundation.
The two women took a leap of faith when they formed Data Driven Partners this March in Little Rock. Actually, Van Dover founded the company in March, and Carlisle joined two months later; both are listed as owners and partners.
“She didn’t know she was always going to join me, but I knew that she was,” Van Dover said.
The partners’ business is designed to work with businesses and nonprofit foundations to gather and formulate their important data into easy-to-read and accessible dashboards. One of the company’s products is a mortgage research tool they are calling Lending Intel, which becomes available in 2021 in central and northwest Arkansas counties.
Each dashboard is flexible depending not only on the client’s desired information but also on how it wants to present that information. Some companies may want their data as a pie chart, others may want a spreadsheet, and clients can get the analytics of different sets of data.
“Data is such a hot topic,” Van Dover said. “When we talk to people we ask, ‘What keeps you up at night? What are the questions you wish you always knew?’ We build a customized solution so that your solution doesn’t look like Jennifer’s solution and Jennifer’s solution doesn’t look like Tom’s. What Jennifer wants may not be what is important to Tom. When people ask who is your target customer, we say yes.”
Mortgaging the Data
Van Dover and Carlisle said much of their work has evolved from discussions with clients about what they need from a business intelligence provider.
That is the case with the company’s Lending Intel service. After speaking with bank lending officers, they realized that a dashboard that could show a bank answers to such questions as what kind of loans were being made, where they were being made and who was originating the loans would be valuable.
Carlisle said the information is publicly available, but many banks don’t have the resources or staffing to delve into the data or the expertise to make it easily accessible.
“Our initial business model didn’t have anything to do with the product we’ve developed,” Van Dover said. “Then we realized there was an opportunity to help lending institutions understand the environment in central and northwest Arkansas. We started demo-ing it to friends in the banking world and they would ask us questions: Can you figure this out or can you track this? Jennifer and I said yes as often as we could say yes.”
Carlisle said banks are interested in using Lending Intel as a human resource tool. She said when bankers interview potential employees, there isn’t an easy way to double-check how successful the candidate may have said he or she had been at a previous stop.
By accumulating loan origination data, the company can provide banks with a BS detector at their fingertips.
“It has been one of the pieces of the product that has been very interesting to a lot of folks because it allows them to possibly prospect for new loan officers, not just customers,” Carlisle said.
The women started their company just as the COVID-19 pandemic rolled into the country, but Van Dover said the pandemic really hasn’t cut into their early business. Much of the the early months were spent building the products for clients, and then the pandemic has made businesses more focused on improving operational efficiencies.
It’s the main reason that Data Driven Partners has found willing partners in the corporate world more than in the nonprofit sector, where the founders thought their extensive backgrounds would help generate clients.
“We were surprised,” Carlisle said. “It wasn’t a surprise like ‘Oh, my God,’ but I do think it was a turn of events that we probably wouldn’t have envisioned originally. Data is data no matter what sector.”