Banno to receive $2 million in loans, make 20-30 hires

As he wrapped up a phone interview Monday afternoon, Banno CEO Wade Arnold expressed a bit of self-effacing gratitude for the coverage of his company, which, as he put it, hails from "the cornfields" of Cedar Falls, Iowa. The comment was at once completely sincere and utterly misleading. There's no question Arnold appreciated the coverage.

As he wrapped up a phone interview Monday afternoon, Banno CEO Wade Arnold expressed a bit of self-effacing gratitude for the coverage of his company, which, as he put it, hails from “the cornfields” of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The comment was at once completely sincere and utterly misleading.

There’s no question Arnold appreciated the coverage. But, anymore, there’s also no mistaking Banno for a company that’s wide-eyed about the attention it’s getting.

Not with some of the world’s biggest banks lining up to learn more about Banno’s latest offering. Not with a staff that has ballooned by 50 percent in the last year and now fills offices in Cedar Falls and Des Moines. And especially not after the company’s announcement Monday.

Banno (formerly T8 Webware), which provides custom-branded mobile applications, websites and personalized payment card services, on Monday announced it will receive a $1 million loan from the Iowa Economic Development Authority‘s Innovation Acceleration Fund and a matching $1 million loan from the private sector.

“$2 million will help us grow a lot faster, a lot quicker and manage the company with bets on the future that are 6-12 months out,” Arnold (left) said. “Right now we do a lot of things on a quarterly basis or even less, so getting to change our time horizon and double down on some of the things that are working really well is exciting.”

The $2 million is the only outside capital in more than four years for Banno, which was founded in March 2008 with $500,000 in angel investment and has funded its expansion organically ever since. (The company announced more than $120,000 in state incentives in January, but Banno says that money won’t be used on account of the new funds.)

Banno has grown by 50 percent, to 61 employees, over the last year. But even with that additional staff, the company has struggled to keep up with increasing demand.

“We have more orders than we can fundamentally fulfill right now with our current staffing levels,” Arnold said. “So this is just awesome for us, because now we can ramp up our staff to keep up with our demand.”

Arnold said about 80 percent of the funds announced Monday will be used to make new hires. He projects Banno will add another 20-30 employees over the next year. The bulk of the remaining money will be spent upgrading data center infrastructure.

The Innovation Acceleration Fund from which Banno will take the $1 million loan is designed to boost Iowa’s technology-based businesses. Arnold said the debt financing was attractive because it didn’t dilute shareholder equity in the company and didn’t come with lots of restrictions about how it could be used.

“We don’t need to build a building. We don’t need to hire XYZ types of employees,” he said. “We can just grow the business. To me, that’s exciting.”

Monday’s news follows closely on the heels of Banno’s release of a revamped version of its application Grip earlier this month. Arnold and Banno’s Ben Metz (left) unveiled the upgraded application Sept. 12 at FinovateFall 2012 in New York, and Arnold said they were greeted with a “fantastic” response.

“At one point I had Citi, Wells Fargo and Capital One at one table with me talking about all the data services things that power the Grip product,” Arnold said.

“We had toys that the largest banks in the world wanted to have as well,” he continued. “So my October is looking really exciting as far as trips and in-person demos.”

For more on what Banno’s been up to recently, check out the video below, in which Arnold demonstrates the upgraded version of Grip.


Credits: Photos of Arnold and Metz courtesy of Banno. Video from Royal Media Group on YouTube.


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