Black-owned fintech startup Esusu made history on Thursday, with its latest funding round catapulting the four-year-old company to unicorn status. Esusu secured $130 million in Series B funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, Motley Fool Ventures, Schusterman Foundation, the SB Opportunity Fund, Related Companies, and others.
Esusu will use the funds to triple its workforce and bolster its platform, which helps renters build their credit by reporting on-time rent payments to the three major credit bureaus. The company currently works with more than a third of the nation’s largest institutional landlords, who represent a whopping $3 billion in gross lease volume.
“By using alternative data to enhance credit scores, Esusu can open up financial opportunities for millions of underserved American households,” SoftBank Investment Managing Partner Vikas Parekh said in a statement. “We believe that Esusu has built a leading rental reporting and financial platform through partnerships with renters, property owners, and lenders that can become the central data hub for consumer financial health.”
Co-founders Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel said Esusu’s platform has grown more than 600 percent since 2018, as the demand for a more holistic credit scoring model grows stronger. The duo said many renters in low-income and minority communities struggle to build their credit through traditional means and reporting on-time rent payments — which for 90 percent of renters totals more than $1,100 per month — are a solid metric for measuring creditworthiness.
“We founded Esusu with the vision of using data to bridge the racial wealth gap and create more equitable financial opportunities for low-to-moderate-income households in this country,” Wemimo and Goel said in a statement. “By establishing and improving credit scores, we are strengthening financial identities while empowering individuals, families, and communities to meet their long-term financial goals.”
Esusu works with landlords to report their tenants’ on-time rent payments through the Esusu platform, which provides predictive analytics to measure building and portfolio-level performance, and environmental, social and governance metrics tracking. Landlords pay a one-time $3,500 set-up fee and then $2 per month per unit, and renters pay a $50 annual subscription fee to report their rental payment data to credit bureaus.
Lastly, tenants living in Esusu-supported buildings can apply for a no-interest loan to cover their rent. During the two-minute application process, tenants must provide a referral code that links back to their building. Once the loan is approved, Esusu will pay the landlord directly, and tenants have up to 12 months to repay their Esusu Rent Relief Loan.
The Esusu platform has led to a 25 percent increase in on-time payments for landlords using their platform, the company said, and tenants have improved their credit scores by as much as 90 points.
Wemimo and Goel told Forbes they’re eyeing an IPO in the near future, as they’ve joined a small number of Black-owned businesses (Calendly, Zepz, Marshmallow, Flutterwave, Chipper Cash and Interswitch) to reach a valuation of at least $1 billion.
“Just watch for us. We’re going to go public, and it’s going to be an exciting time for all of us,” Goel said.