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Jannae Gammage of Foresight Is on a Mission to Broaden Lending Practices for the 'Little Guy'

Jannae Gammage of Foresight Is on a Mission to Broaden Lending Practices for the 'Little Guy'

Published 02-16-24

Submitted by Northwestern Mutual

Originally published by Northwestern Mutual on February 1, 2024

Company: Foresight

Founder and CEO: Jannae Gammage

Year founded: 2022

We’re proud to be investing in Foresight through the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator® in collaboration with NM Future Ventures.

From a young age, Jannae Gammage learned from her mom’s example that being an entrepreneur means being able to set your own path in terms of how you want to make a living and create the life you want. But her own journey toward becoming a mission-based entrepreneur was more circuitous.

While serving as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, Gammage was considering a career change—perhaps becoming a basketball coach or going into sports psychology. But while still in the military, she opened a gym because where she was stationed didn’t have the type of facility she wanted for working out—and then she sold it to a franchise.

For her next career move, she drew on her background in marketing and sales, and started up a company where she worked with several large corporations. That experience taught her what she did not want to do. “I decided I wanted to serve little guy and work with small businesses,” she said. “To package the same high level of marketing for a small budget meant incorporating technology—and that eventually led me to becoming a tech founder.”

After selling her marketing business, she decided to stay within the tech sector. In 2022, she founded Foresight, a company that aims to open doors for consumers underserved by traditional banking services by leveraging technology to assess credit risk, fraud and bias.

Below, Gammage shares how being a small business owner inspired her career, offers her perspective on the particular challenges Black woman entrepreneurs face and explains why she believes building relationships and community are key to being a good leader

What inspired you to found Foresight?

I’ve been a small business owner who has had trouble getting the money I needed to either get started or to scale my business. Then while I was helping a friend through a lending process, I started digging deeper into the problem and found that in our society, the little guys get looked over, or outright stomped on, through no fault of their own. Where you come from shouldn’t be a determining factor as to whether you can get the resources you need to bring something good into the world or to start or grow a business.

How does your platform work?

Banks typically use a manual, hands-on approach that takes months to get to the information they need to make a decision on whether they can loan a business money. Foresight solves this problem by connecting the dots for the lenders by vetting the applicants and asking these key questions:

  • Is this company thriving?
  • Is it profitable?
  • Can it grow?
  • Will this money actually be able to help the company?
  • Will they be able to pay it back?

Foresight sifts through the noise and answers those questions in a couple of seconds rather than months.

Another issue is that almost every application a lender receives is incomplete or incorrect—usually because there’s a knowledge gap on the business owner’s side. So Foresight clears up those issues as well.

Foresight is able to do all of this with just a few pieces of information from the borrower, which also gives them also a better experience because no one wants to fill out 1,000 different questions on a loan application. Our goals are to simplify the process for both the borrower and the bank, so that the transaction can get done in a timely manner.

How do you use technology in this process?

We use a proprietary combination of machine learning, computer vision and AI to connect the dots for lenders and fill in the knowledge gaps for borrowers. I am very fortunate to have Joel Ward (chief technology officer) and Alaia Martin (chief lending and risk officer) on the core founding team of Foresight with me. They're two of the smartest humans I know. Their expertise and contributions have been crucial to making the platform what it is today. But they are also committed to our mission of serving others. Plus, they’re really scrappy and gritty like me. We have fun together.

What traits are the most important for a CEO?

That front-facing charisma—always projecting confidence to any room that you’re in and being at the ready for any situation. You need tenacity and flexibility to sell the company, push the company, get a customer, get a partner or talk about your company in a way that inspires people to get involved.

But it’s also important to know your own purpose. I think I was created to serve others so I was looking for a path that allowed me to do my best work while living the life that I wanted to comfortably. My last company was serving others but it wasn’t necessarily mission based. With Foresight, I’ve been able to build something that’s at the intersection of what I believe is my life’s purpose, while helping the little guys and getting people out of the situation I’ve been in. That’s what’s fulfilling to me.

What challenges have you faced as a Black woman entrepreneur?

I was in military intelligence where there are barely any women—and definitely no Black women. The tech world is the same. I think it’s sad but it doesn’t faze me or change where I feel I belong in the world. I hope I can provide a leadership example for some Black girl or woman that can help them understand that while these barriers definitely exist, the only way to change it is for us to step up and do it ourselves.

In your journey, has there been bias that has made it harder for you?

My customers are bankers, who, statistically, are not young, not women and not Black. The bias I’ve experienced has been inherent and unconscious, rather than blatant racism. So for me, showing up as yourself is the best way to prove your worth.

Having Northwestern Mutual’s support has been a big stamp of approval, but it also helps build credibility for us to expand our network, get more partnerships and more investment. The capital investment was huge, but the also company showed us a deeper level of community in the way that they approached supporting us. So now, when we approach building community, it’s more about being relational than transactional, and being able to take advantage of the connections that we make. It’s increased our bottom line significantly but it’s also given us a new outlook, especially when we consider the people that we want to bring on board as our company grows.

What is your biggest goal for the company for 2024?

We have roughly 300 banks onboarding to the platform in 2024. They all hit their milestones that we set for them. We will help them deploy around $100 million over the next year into small businesses all over the nation. And we’re really excited about that.

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Northwestern Mutual has been providing financial security for over 165 years through personalized planning and industry-leading products. The company manages over $570 billion in assets and provides insurance and advisory services to over 5 million people. 

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