March 8, 2023 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Statehouse Convention Center Little Rock
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Teslar Software

Teslar Software
Innovation Pacesetter

Teslar Software has been innovating since Joe Ehrhardt founded it as 3E Software in 2008, and when Teslar innovates, so do the community banks that are its clients.

"We want community banks to seem more sophisticated than Bank of America when you deal with them on lending," Ehrhardt said. 

Originally in the business of exporting data for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Teslar developed software to help financial institutions make sure loans meet established lending standards. Teslar also developed a full suite of software for internal bank operations.

Then came COVID-19, and Teslar and its clients faced an unprecedented challenge for loan applications: the Paycheck Protection Program, which ultimately made 11.5 million forgivable business loans. Teslar gained 50 new client banks in 90 days in 2020, and its software was used to process more than 20% of PPP loans. Teslar also worked with billionaire Mark Cuban to develop a website to help PPP recipients apply for loan forgiveness.

The deluge of PPP business allowed the company to more than triple its headcount from 21 at the beginning of 2020 and to create more innovative products. In September, Teslar launched Community Connect, which gives community banks a chance to compete with the likes of Synchrony Financial or Wells Fargo when a local business — HVAC installer, jewelry store, etc. — has a customer who needs to finance a purchase. With the right system, Ehrhardt said, community banks can finance consumer loans profitably while offering interest rates that are better for the borrower than typical credit cards. "The consumer gets a better product; the bank gets a new customer," he said.

Two more products are also on the launch pad. One streamlines the chore of collecting annual financial information from every owner of every business that has an outstanding loan. Ehrhardt said. The other overhauls loan portfolio management.

Community banking may not sound as sexy as cryptocurrency or artificial intelligence, he said, "but it can really have an impact. One of our goals is to be an innovative leader for an industry that doesn't want to innovate."

Previous Arkansas Business of the Year Honorees