Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

New online lender Jet Capital targets small businesses

Jet Capital CEO Kenneth Wardle says his target market includes “the guy who needs to add a patio to his restaurant or make repairs on his trucks” but can’t get money from banks.
Jet Capital CEO Kenneth Wardle says his target market includes “the guy who needs to add a patio to his restaurant or make repairs on his trucks” but can’t get money from banks.

Small businesses in need of working capital have a new place to turn online.

Jet Capital, based in North Richland Hills, launched in January offering merchant cash advances aimed at businesses with annual sales ranging from $500,000 to $5 million.

Founder Kenneth Wardle said his target customers include “the guy who needs to add a patio to his restaurant or make repairs on his trucks” but can’t get money from banks. Jet’s online application process at is fast, providing a conditional approval within minutes and funding within two or three days.

Thus far, cash advances have averaged about $25,000. In exchange, Jet purchases the right to future sales and receives a fee, typically $8,000 to $10,000, he said.

Jet is part of a growing group of nontraditional online lenders that have popped up in recent years to fill gaps left by banks that tightened lending standards following the financial crisis.

The firms, such as Fort Worth consumer lender Elevate Credit, are using technology and a trove of big data to create new electronic underwriting models. Many also target non-prime customers — the vast and growing market of Americans with credit scores below the level that allows for the best interest rates.

Wardle, 42, came to Jet from this world, having previously founded and built Irving-based Exeter Finance, a subprime auto lender, and before that spending time at AmeriCredit, now GM Financial, in Fort Worth. 

Wardle said that there’s about an 80 percent overlap in non-prime status between the business owner’s personal and business credit.

“A small-business guy is the CEO, the CFO, the CMO. He doesn’t have someone dedicated to his cash planning needs,” Wardle said. “He doesn’t have 30 days to wait for a banker … That’s where we can step in and help them.”

Jet Capital is owned by Braviant, also based in North Richland Hills, backed with money from a private investor out of Puerto Rico. Braviant also owns another online finance company, Irving-based Balance Credit, which makes unsecured personal installment loans.

Wardle said Jet Capital has initially focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth market and is now expanding across Texas. Over time, it plans to add other products including installment loans and lines of credit.

“Two or three years out, we want to be one of the top shops for non-banking financing solutions for small businesses,” Wardle said.

Chesapeake fights to keep settlement secret

So how does Chesapeake Energy really feel about its partner Total E&P USA settling with the city of Fort Worth last week for $6 million?

Well, while Chesapeake is not talking (its spokesman Gordon Pennoyer in Oklahoma City offered the standard “No comment” line), its continued fight to keep its own settlement with the Fort Worth school district over royalty payments under wraps might lend everyone a clue.

(A quick reminder: The district and Chesapeake settled earlier this year but Chesapeake insisted on a confidentiality agreement. While it’s typical for lawsuit settlements in the private sector to remain confidential, those with public entities are often just that — public. When the city of Fort Worth and the Star-Telegram asked the district to disclose the deal under the Texas Public Information Act, the district referred it to Texas attorney general, where Chesapeake is fighting its release.)

James Harris, Chesapeake’s lawyer, writes in a letter to the attorney general that the company perceives the hundreds of other folks suing it over royalty payments — including the city of Fort Worth — as “competitors” and to see the details would be unfair. Harris wrote that by releasing the information, it could be used by the plaintiffs as an indicator of what the value of their royalty claims is, how future royalty payments can be computed and create “unrealistic or unreasonable expectations,” among other things.

So Chesapeake, and Harris, had to be cringing as the Total deal with the city was laid out — again, in public. Total, which owns 25 percent of Chesapeake’s Barnett Shale leases, is paying back every buck in post-production costs ever deducted from its share of the gas. It also will pay the city the publicly posted price for natural gas at the Houston Ship Channel, minus two cents, in the future. It won’t be recalculated after it has passed through the hands of company affiliates.

The Total deal sets a floor value for the city’s lawsuit of $18 million, while someone familiar with the case suggest it’s actually $24 million. The city has been seeking in excess of $33 million. And while attorney Ralph Duggins, who represents both the city and the district, can’t tell what’s in the district settlement, don’t you think it’s likely he will use that knowledge in future talks?

Deputy City Attorney Gerald Pruitt said the normal timeline for issuing an opinion by the attorney general would be Tuesday. He hopes that it will be in the city’s favor. Pruitt said the city thinks the public needs to see it.

“We didn’t try to hide the Total agreement,” he said.

Stay tuned.

CVB names sports department director

Josh Dill has been named director of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau newly created Fort Worth Sports Marketing department.

He has been with the CVB since 2013 and is credited with increasing sports-related bookings 40 percent already. He represents Fort Worth on the Stadium Events Organizing Committee for major events at AT&T Stadium, for example.

Last year, tourism had a $1.9 billion impact on the Fort Worth economy, generating $111 million in tax revenue for the city, according to the CVB.

Among big events, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl generated $13.5 million in direct spending, Texas Motor Speedway’s AAA Texas 500 Weekend generated $75.5 million in spending and the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Championship at the Fort Worth Convention Center, $1.8 million.

“Dallas-Fort Worth is a leading sports destination in the country,” said Bob Jameson, the CVB’s president and CEO. “The Fort Worth Sports Marketing Department will help further distinguish our city by attracting new events and cultivating resources that support youth, amateur and college competition.” Sandra Baker

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko