With loans of just $ 10, this startup has built a financial services powerhouse in emerging markets – TechCrunch
Peris Kimeli and Betsy Cheruyot were students at Kenyatta University who were considering starting a business when they applied for their first loans from the mobile loan company, Tala.
Hoping to start a clothing business and earn a living while going to school, the two young Kenyans downloaded the Tala mobile app and, within minutes, received loans from a total amount of approximately $ 15.
“Between us and poverty, we had about 200 shillings,” Kimeli said of her early days starting her business. “We were like, what are we going to eat? Our parents said, ‘No. We’re not going to send money… You’re going to find out. ‘So we went and we did.
Kimeli and Cheruyot took this $ 15 loan and went to Nairobi famous flea market, Gikomba, where they bought 15 dresses at 100 shillings each and sold them to dormitories and hostels for 200 shillings.
“There were two left, but we had no problem – since we could keep them, we could wear them. At the end of the month, we had 7000 [shillings]Kimeli said. “We borrowed again – this time we borrowed 3000 [shillings] – we went out and bought more dresses, and that’s how we were.
Similar stories are unfolding in cities around the world – in countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Tanzania – all because of Tala, a young financial services startup based in Santa Monica, California.
Now in its fourth year, Tala has already distributed around $ 300 million in loans to 1.3 million borrowers like Kimeli. The company plans to continue expanding its geographic reach and range of financial services, in part thanks to $ 65 million in new funding from billionaire-backed investment funds like Steve Case’s. Revolution Growth funds.
“We see Tala as a company that is building the future of finance. They have quickly become one of the leading mobile lenders in emerging markets where more than 3 billion consumers do not have access to traditional banks, ”says Case.
Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala, knows how important – and transformative – foreign investment can be for individuals in emerging markets.
Siroya was introduced to the power of financial independence by working with the United Nations Population Fund.
“I ended up interviewing 3,500 people, in person, in nine different countries,” says Siroya. “What I did was go to their house with them. Walk with them to work and sit there in the back of their stores and count how many customers have come in and how many products they have sold. How much money goes under the mattress and how much money goes to allowances… These people work hard and they are creditworthy, but you couldn’t lend them because they couldn’t be documented.
Siroya launched Tala in March 2014 to create a mechanism to provide credit scores to financial institutions so that these undocumented women can get the loans they need to become financially independent and entrepreneurial, she says. What the founder of Tala quickly realized was that the easiest way to create credit scores that other financial institutions would recognize would be for Tala to start issuing loans itself.
The app – available for download on Android devices – works by collecting data on SMS and calls, merchant transactions, overall app usage, and personal identifiers on a mobile phone to create an instant profile of its potential borrowers. Customers simply download the app, apply for a loan, and receive a decision within seconds. Most Tala borrowers actually receive their credit in less than 10 minutes.
Siroya started Tala’s lending in Kenya – in part because of the strong mobile payment infrastructure that exists in the country – before eventually expanding to the Philippines and then Tanzania. By the end of last year, Tala had added operations in Mexico and India to cover more geographies than any of the other unsecured mobile lenders in the market. The company has 215 employees across its offices in Santa Monica, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Manila, Mexico City, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Tala typically lends around $ 70 to its borrowers, but loans range from $ 10 for the low end to $ 500 for the high end. “The point of credit is to use your income to improve your quality of life,” says Siroya. Lower loan amounts could mean a product more focused on consumption than harnessing a product to invest in economic stability, she said.
“We want to start at $ 10 because we realize that 70% of our clients use it for their working capital. They are small business owners. It’s really the gap in the market, ”says Siroya.
Tala borrowers typically repay loans within 30 days, and the company charges 11-15% interest on the money it disburses.
The company raised its first capital in 2013 from Uppercase lowercase, Google Ventures and Collaborative Fund. With the new financing, led by Revolution, Siroya now has $ 50 million in equity to match an additional $ 11 million in credit facilities. In total, the company raised $ 94 million in equity over three rounds. Steve Murray, managing partner of Revolution Growth – and former board director of corporate lending startup Kabbage – will join Tala’s board with the final round.
Previous investors, including growth investment firm IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital and Female Founders Fund, also participated in Tala’s latest funding.
“We have been fortunate to invest in Twitter and Dropbox and many other companies. but when I think of the companies that we have had the opportunity to support that will have the greatest impact on the world, Tala is certainly one of them, ”says Jules Maltz, General Partner of IVP. “This is because it has the potential to reach the 2 billion people who are unbanked and do not have access to financial products.”
This 2 billion includes thousands as well as the budding new entrepreneurs of Nairobi, Kimeli and Cheruyot.
“I believe in the magic of taking risks and making new starts,” Kimeli says. “If we hadn’t started that day, we might have been desperate now. As in, we might not have a place to eat, maybe. It’s good to take risks, to start something new.