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Corporate history

Founding through 2000

Advantage Credit International was founded by Tim Handley in California in 1991.

Seeing the value of combining a strong sales model with computer automation, and having programmed since the age of 13, Handley envisioned the market possibilities of automating the order and delivery of different information products. He began his search for an appropriate product & industry in which to put his concept to form.

He identified the mortgage credit reporting industry as a technologically under-served market and began writing code to automate the process, founding Advantage Credit. The technology dynamics of the time required brokers to wait a week to receive a printed credit report. Initially, the company delivered its credit reports via fax or courier, shortening turnaround times from a week to days. The next breakthrough occurred when Handley created the ability to print reports directly on pre-printed forms at customer offices.

1993 saw the birth of an electronic bulletin board system used by customers to order and retrieve credit reports. In 1994, Handley moved the company to Pensacola, Florida, where he hired a highly skilled programmer, Sergei Khvatkov, to code an interface that allowed customers to auto-populate their loan applications with pulled credit data through Contour—the market-leading loan origination software at the time. Nearly half of prospective customers did not have this capability, which made faster sales growth possible. Khvatkov & Handley continued improving the company's software, allowing mortgage brokers to request & receive credit reports through a dial-up connection, and further automating data exchange between the credit bureaus, Advantage and its customers. Interfaces were developed for other popular loan origination software packages, including Calyx Point, Byte & Genesis.

Between 1995 & 1996, Handley secured the company's first Pensacola office space, a 300-square-foot site in Olde Townhouse Office Square (now the Pensacola Technology Centre), and added 11 colleagues. The following year sales more than doubled, the company added some 24 new colleagues, and continued to expand facilities with an 800% increase in office space and network facilities. With these improvements the company gained speed in acquiring industry market share. By 1998, the company's headcount grew to 74 and Handley and Khvatkov began coding for the Internet. Advantage Credit was named Equifax's fastest-growing reseller in 1998. Handley began recruiting an expanded management team to help guide his company's growth.

Advantage broke into the Inc. 500 for the first time in 1999, at #315 with 931% total growth from 1994 through 1998. Also, the company placed eighth on the Florida Fast 100, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the state. In Pensacola, Advantage Credit received the Small Industry of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce, and Tim Handley received the Sam Walton Business Leader of the Year Award.

2000 to the present
In 2000, Advantage Credit placed again on the Inc. 500 at #170.

Handley and his management team developed an expansion plan for entry into other markets by creating the holding company of Advantage Plaza, Inc., in which Advantage Credit became a subsidiary.

Mark Simms, President, joined Advantage Credit in 2000 to implement stronger systems with the goals of increasing productivity, lowering costs and providing a structure for future revenue & profitability growth. Significant technology changes were implemented with the net effect of virtually eliminating system downtime. These and other changes allowed the company to pursue larger accounts, boosting revenues substantially.

The market for mortgage credit reports grew at a tremendous rate between 2001 & 2003, primarily due to interest rate decreases. The resulting growth, combined with increasing customer satisfaction & retention, resulted in Advantage Credit placing on the Inc. 500 for the third time at #249 in 2001, and again for a fourth consecutive year at #234 in 2002.

This period also saw the launch of Advantage Online, the second generation of Advantage's Internet credit reporting system. New products were added to the Advantage Credit suite to allow customers the same ease and speed in ordering and receiving other loan settlement products, including automated valuation models, free Spanish translated reports, flood certifications, CreditXpert® score improvement report, employment screening, and leads & direct marketing services. These achievements put Advantage Credit on the Inc. 500 for the fifth consecutive year at #443, granting the company entry to the Inc. 500 Hall of Fame.

Though the company has continued it's spectacular growth since 2000, continual improvements to internal and external systems have kept the company's operations at peak efficiency, leading to only a small number of new colleagues added.

The future will see Advantage Credit continuing to focus on forming strategic alliances, acquiring related businesses, developing new market channels, and focusing on corporate sales to the top U.S. mortgage brokerage accounts. Stronger strategic relationships with other industry partners has poised Advantage for continued expansion, bringing the company's technology & service benefits to a growing roster of new customers. Advantage Credit continues to broaden its participation in minority home ownership issues as well.

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