Camino Financial is the first AI-powered Community Development Financial Institution
(“neo-CDFI”) expanding access to credit for underserved Latinx entrepreneurs in the U.S. The Company is uniquely positioned to offer affordable loans as it combines its proprietary AI technology with access to CDFI designated low-cost capital and resources.
Camino Financial has also produced the largest bilingual content hub to empower Latinx entrepreneurs to thrive and graduate into lower cost, longer term credit products. The Company partners with banks, corporations and other community partners to educate and finance traditionally underbanked businesses.
Together with its partners, Camino Financial is building the largest network of impact capital and financial resources to guide entrepreneurs along their proverbial “camino” (or “path”) towards building generational wealth for their families and communities. For more information, visit www.caminofinancial.com.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m Sean Salas, the CEO and Co-founder of Camino Financial, a FinTech platform pioneering access to affordable credit to underbanked businesses.
Prior to co-founding Camino Financial, I worked in private equity and investment banking where I oversaw four portfolio companies with combined revenues of over $250 million, invested close to $50 million in direct equity investments, and structured $1.2 billion in debt financings.
While completing my MBA at Harvard Business School, I co-founded Camino Financial with my twin brother, Kenneth Salas, under the notion of never leaving a small business owner behind.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Be sure to over-invest in GREAT people and cut out the mediocre ones. People are what drive the success of the business.
What problem does your business solve?
Minority business owners face some of the same challenges as other entrepreneurs –
developing a sound business plan, understanding the market and competition, and creating a product or service that consumers need.
However, for many minority-led small businesses, there are additional barriers. The most evident barrier is the difficulty in securing funding and a lack of capital on which to draw.
At Camino Financial, we use proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) software that aggregates data and builds machine learning models to drastically reduce financing costs for thin-file, cash-based microenterprises.
Our company’s scoring models are extremely targeted to non-traditional borrowers, predominantly in the Latinx market – a cohort that would generate $1.4Tn to the economy if properly funded.
By having the largest data set on this segment, we are able to create innovative solutions and efficiently distribute capital to these underrepresented populations on a national scale.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Our story begins when our mom opened over 30 Mexican restaurants in the Greater Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, after 25 years of operation, she lost her business. We have since devoted our lives to helping millions of business owners access capital.
We founded our company with the principle of offering simple and affordable loans to small businesses that find it difficult to borrow through a formal bank. Since establishing Camino Financial in 2014, we have made it our mission to create a pathway toward building generational wealth one person, one credit, one business at a time.
What is your magic sauce?
Camino Financial is the first national ‘neo-CDFI’ powered by artificial intelligence that focuses on lending to underbanked businesses. As a tech-enabled fintech, Camino Financial uses machine learning models to drastically finance costs for thin-file, cash-based microenterprises.
First-time borrowers typically experience monthly payments 40% less than those of existing credit products in the market for the same loan size. Utilizing AI-driven business intelligence and behavioral data, Camino makes agile decisions to provide funding to underrepresented businesses that are traditionally left behind.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
To date, Camino Financial has deployed over $100 Million in loans and is on a path to
reach $1 Billion in the next two years, offering loans at a 40% lower monthly payment relative to incumbent lenders.
As a newly certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Camino Financial is committed to leveraging partnerships/coalitions to ensure they are scaling faster through entrenched distribution networks.
Together with its partners, Camino Financial will build the largest network of impact capital and financial resources to guide entrepreneurs along their proverbial “camino” (or “path”) towards building generational wealth for their families and communities.
As a nationally designated ‘neo-CDFI,’ Camino Financial plans to combine the infinite scale of AI-powered systems and data aggregation models, with the lower-cost capital and resources available to CDFIs, to drastically lower systemic costs and increase accessibility to capital among Latino and other underserved business segments.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Raising capital is a faith building exercise and it’s really hard to get investors to buy into problems they don’t understand. Sometimes, getting investors to build faith in your investment thesis, especially when it focuses on misunderstood segments of the market that are Black and Latinx, the challenge becomes exponential.
The challenge is to NOT CHANGE COURSE and keep the faith in your core investment thesis. This doesn’t mean you’re not open to pivoting your tactics, but you need to believe in the underlying mission and over-time build faith across all stakeholders in that mission.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
You can also listen to my podcast Fundamental Fairness, where I speak to FinTech experts that are innovating at the intersection of FinTech and financial inclusion. If you want to get more directly involved with Camino, be sure to apply for a job opening here.