JONATHAN PATRICK FIGHTS FOR the dreams of entrepreneurs with the same single-minded intensity he showed as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.
“Fighting taught me discipline and drive,” says Patrick, now senior vice president and chief lending officer for UT Federal Credit Union in Knoxville, Tenn.
“One of my attributes as a fighter was to outwork everyone else. I’ve always leveraged those things. When you get knocked down, you get up again,” adds Patrick, who years ago fought in the U.S. and Japan.
Now, he’s fighting to cultivate emerging business ventures at the credit union through a microfund called Line12Fund. With Patrick’s guidance, UT Federal rolled out the fund in March.
Since the launch, the fund has made more than $100,000 in small-business loans to new ventures.
“It’s what a credit union should be doing,” says Patrick. “This is someone’s dream you’re talking about. Helping bring that to fruition is good for them, the credit union, and the community. It increases the chances for success and helps them beat the 70% failure rate of new businesses.”
The fund has loaned money to start-ups that produce video, integrate software platforms, sell e-cigarettes, and develop software for on-demand poster printing.
“Really, it’s my team that makes all this possible,” Patrick says. “I’m just an orchestrator.”
The Knoxville area has a solid entrepreneurial ecosystem, with access to research engines such as the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. But, like many other metro areas, it’s challenging for pure start-ups there to find the cash to thrive.
The fund uses a proprietary software system to score business ideas, similar to systems venture capitalists use. In addition to evaluating a start-up’s financials, the program—developed with Patrick’s help—assesses the business plan, the total market, the management team, and the entrepreneur’s borrowing history.
“With this software, we’re combining the two worlds and we think the use of the software is going to get bigger,” adds Patrick, noting that a West Coast credit union is now beta testing the software for its use.
But Line12Fund goes beyond lending. It connects entrepreneurs with expertise, advice, and business connections, and sponsors events at which business people pitch their products.
Malinda Wood, UT Federal’s vice president of marketing, says Patrick’s work has helped capture the market for small-business lending.
In each of the two years (2012 and 2013) the credit union has offered Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, UT Federal earned Credit Union of the Year honors from the Tennessee SBA. The credit union leads in SBA loan volume again in 2014.
“The credit union movement can learn how to reinvent itself from Jonathan Patrick,” Wood says. “He took boring business lending and turned it into an exciting opportunity to be an investor in small-business dreams.”
As for MMA, Patrick still trains and does some coaching. But as for competing in the sport, that’s behind him.
“It’s not something you do at age 40 and then try to go into the office the next morning,” he concedes.