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This is the seventh of 10 profiles provided by the North Carolina Technology Association highlighting its newest Beacon Award category, Ten Startups to Watch. The companies will be recognized during the organization's November 6th NC Technology Awards Gala.

By Ann Revell-Pechar

When nCino launched just two and a half years ago, there was a pretty good indication that its cloud-based bank operating system was going to resonate with the market. 

It was initially designed for use within Live Oak Bank, one of the largest originators of small business loans in the country based in Wilmington.
Bank executives recognized an unfilled need for a technology that would offer transparency and time savings for loan production at other banking institutions. Spinning the technology off into its own company, their long-time colleague Pierre Naudé accepted the position as CEO. That was 2012. 
A short two plus years later, nCino has more than 60 bank and credit union customers spanning 19 states. Employee growth echoes sales growth with nearly 100 people in its office in Wilmington. 

The company is consistently named among the fastest growing startups in North Carolina. And yet, when you ask Naudé just what makes nCino a really great startup, he does not refer to its fast growth. He refers to the creative culture his team is building. 

A Culture of Creativity 

Wilmington is a creative community, so, in some ways, nCino’s mission to have a culture of creativity seems logical. But this is a tech company in the banking industry. So, what does Naudé mean? 

“We’re attracting knowledge workers focused on banks and credit unions,” he says. “We’re creating a company out of the norm, where it’s not a top-down management approach. Instead, employees vote each other off the island when it’s clear there is not a good fit, which has not happened very often. They also praise each other, literally giving hard workers with great ideas a trophy. We recognize that everyone’s ideas are valid, and work to be sure everyone’s ideas are heard and considered. We’re giving them the opportunity to innovate.” 

What does this innovating talent pool look like? They are well educated (1/3 are UNCW grads), experienced (more than half have worked in banking), and, for the most part, young (half are under 30). Each nCino employee is given the opportunity to own shares of the company. 

Though nCino recently raised $9 million in an over-subscribed capital raise, it will soon raise another $1.5 million from employees who did not previously have a chance to buy in. 

Quality of Life 

When asked why start a fast-growing tech company in Wilmington—or, better yet, why keep it in Wilmington, the answers fly from both Naudé and Director of Marketing Jonathan Rowe. Answers focus on Wilmington’s quality of life: relatively little traffic, low cost of housing, the beach, historic downtown, a highly sophisticated workforce, UNCW… the list goes on. 

When asked if North Carolina as a whole is a draw? “While most other states have some form of association that supports entrepreneurs, most of them are not as well run as are NCTA or CED,” says Naudé. “And those organizations help expand and nourish our technology industry.” 

The Future: Expansion 

Growth is the only word to describe what this company sees for the future. It expects to add 50 more employees next year, and will soon add to its existing office space and take additional space in a new Live Oak Bank building. Though today, the company is focused on technology for commercial banking, by year’s end, it’ll add small business. Next year, solutions for retail banking and enterprise content management will be released. 
“There is a bright future here for nCino,” says Naudé. “Watch. We’ll be Wilmington’s SAS.”