Esusu, a fintech company that uses data to close the racial wealth gap by reporting rent payments to credit bureaus, is now a unicorn, making it one of the few black-owned startups in reach a valuation of $1 billion. The company announced Thursday that it has raised $130 million in a Series B fundraising round.
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the funding round, with participation from Jones Feliciano Family Office, Lauder Zinterhofer Family Office, Schusterman Foundation, SoftBank Opportunity Fund, Related Companies and Wilshire Lane Capital, TechCrunch reported.
Esusu’s co-founders, Nigerian-American Abbey Wemimo and Indian-American Samir Goel, experienced financial exclusion growing up in immigrant homes. They said their families had no savings or credit, forcing them to rely on payday lenders who charged exorbitant interest rates.
Every month, about 44 million households spend an average of $1,100 on rent. However, more than 90% of tenants struggle to build a credit rating by paying their rent on time, which prevents them from accessing quality financial products. It also limits their ability to qualify for a mortgage, Wemimo and Samir said.
So they founded their company in 2018 to help turn the tide. Esusu reports on-time rent payments to major credit reporting agencies to help tenants improve their scores and qualify for financial products. The New York-based company has partnered with some of the top property managers in the United States, including WinnResidential, Mercy Housing, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and related companies in this regard. More than 2.5 million households currently use Esusu’s service.
The company charges property managers and landlords a $3,500 setup fee and $2 per unit per month, while tenants pay a $50 annual subscription fee to report their rental payment data to agencies. or credit bureaus.
“We founded Esusu with a vision to use data to close 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 strengthen financial identities while enabling individuals, families and communities to achieve their long-term financial goals.”
Esusu plans to use the new capital it has received to triple its number of employees and “drive growth through product innovation.” The fintech now joins a small group of black-led startups around the world that have achieved unicorn status, including UK fintech Zepz, US scheduling app Calendly and digital insurance startup Marshmallow. African startups Flutterwave and Chipper Cash have also achieved unicorn status.
Esusu co-founder Wemimo, who is a Face2Face Africa YACE winner, has extensive experience in marketing, consulting, project management and market research. Prior to Esus, he founded Clean Water for Everyone (CWFE), an organization that provides access to clean and affordable water supplies in developing countries by working with local people and organizations to achieve social, economic and positive and measured environmental factors. CWFE has provided access to clean water to more than 48,560 people in four countries.
Wemimo came to America from Nigeria in 2009 with his family. According to The New York Times, his mother had no choice but to accept a loan with an interest rate of 400% so that she could settle the family and pay for Wemimo’s university studies. He told The New York Times that immigrants with no credit history are typically denied loans from traditional financial institutions. “You have to go into debt to get some sort of credit history, which doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
After earning a degree in business management and public administration, Wemimo decided to create a program for immigrants like himself and low-to-middle income people in America to save money and establish a credit. This gave birth to Esusu. In 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, his company handed out $250,000 in interest-free loans to New Yorkers who couldn’t pay their rent.