|Power Score: 47.76||Momentum Score: 35.00 (5)||HQ: San Mateo, CA||CEO: Dave Girouard|
Valuation: $7.9 billion (+52% YoY)
Amt. Raised: $1.1 billion
Lobbying Spend: $0
Industry Orgs: SFA
Headcount: 1,267 (+108% YoY)
Engineering Headcount: 281 (+0% YoY)
Big Tech Experience: 7.1%
Open Roles: 174
R&D Spending: n/a
Patents Applied For: 0
Patents Owned: 1
Acquisitions: Prodigy (March 2021)
While SoFi has famously targeted HENRY (high earner, not rich yet) clientele, Upstart has cast a wider net in its approach to personal loans, focusing on the broad array of consumers underserved by traditional credit products as opposed to just high earners. Founded by former Google executive Dave Girouard in 2012, Upstart sits somewhere between a loan marketer and a lender itself, leveraging AI to offer higher approval rates and lower APRs, providing instant loan approvals 67% of the time.
The company operates on a lighter-weight business model than the two companies above it on this index, assuming much less of the macroeconomic risk and instead creating nearly all of its revenue through referrals to the bank partners that underwrite the loans. Upstart is coming off of an up-and-down year that included massive stock gains (to the tune of 700% post-IPO growth) as well as huge dips. And though the stock price may be volatile now, the company is approaching the loan market with an as-a-service strategy that could make its revenue streams more predictable than firms with greater credit exposure.
Upstart went all in on the auto loans market in late 2021 by building on the back of its acquisition of Prodigy earlier in the year. As of the company’s latest earnings presentation, it had signed 291 dealerships, which represented 46% quarter-over-quarter growth. That number accounts for a little less than 2% of the dealerships nationally, but the expansion unlocks a new total addressable market of $672 billion, according to data from TransUnion, and the partnership model gives the company access to customers right at the transaction point.
The company came under fire for what it called a “large, coordinated effort to obtain loans fraudulently” from its marketplace. While Girouard noted that there was ultimately no “material financial impact” because of the effort, the idea of fraudulent activity on fintech lenders has come under increased scrutiny following some reports of fraudulent PPP loans, even if the company’s fraud rates are near-zero. Looking ahead, the company now expects $1.5 billion to be processed on its auto-loan marketplace in 2022, saying that the funnel performance for auto loans now matches its personal loan performance in 2019. Moreover, Girouard noted on the most recent earnings call that the company would enter the small business-lending market this year and is currently targeting 2023 for mortgage lending.
They Said It
“As a company focused entirely on improving access to affordable credit for the American consumer, fairness and inclusiveness are issues we care about deeply. The opportunity for AI-based lending to improve access to credit for the American consumer is dramatic. But equally dramatic is the opportunity to reduce disparities and inequities that exist in the traditional credit-scoring system.” – Girouard, in a May 2021 testimony to Congressional AI Task Force on the use of A.I. to assess creditworthiness
Return to the Consumer Lending Power Index here.