Esusu founders Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel have announced that they’ve raised $1.6 million in venture capital from Acumen Fund with participation from Sinai Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Katapult Accelerator, Plug and Play Tech Center, Global Good Fund, Temerity Capital Partners, among other angel investors, to scale, expand market share and focus on product development for their two apps: a savings app and a rent reporting app, both designed to help people save money and build credit.
The savings app, launched in 2018 and available on iOS and the Android store, serves as a group savings model where customers form trusted groups with which to pool their money. “They essentially take turns buying big ticket items from the group pot. It’s got many names across the world, and it’s very common to immigrant cultures,” Goel told TNJ.com in a recent interview.
There’s also a solo savings option where people will form a credit building loan on the app. They make 12 payments and then they will get their money back and those funds go towards building their credit. Wemimo, a former employee at Goldman Sachs and Price Waterhouse Cooper, says they conceived the idea after meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, staying in touch and realizing their backgrounds were similar.
“When my mom and I emigrated from Nigeria, we didn’t have a credit score. We walked into a big financial institution and were denied a loan because we had no credit data. We went down the street to a pay day loan lender and borrowed money at an interest rate of 400 percent,” he says. “My mother also sold my father’s wedding ring so she could afford my first year of college. Inspired by this experience and the experience of working in the private sector, Samir and i decided to create these products so that what happened to me and my mother doesn’t happen to others.”
Goel says he witnessed his parents struggle to make ends meet for years after his father was mugged on his first day of moving to America from India. “We are really focusing on the millions of people, pre-dominantly low to moderate income immigrants and minorities, who don’t have a credit identity,” he notes. “The idea is that by helping them establish this financial identity, we can unlock trillions in capital in terms of financial products and opportunities.”
As for the rent app, due out next month, the two are partnering with landlords nationwide to capture rental payment history and report into credit bureaus to help people build and establish their credit scores. “Predominantly, a lot of our initial partners are public sector affordable housing outlets. We secured a lot of them through partnerships with organizations such as the Credit Builders Alliance, a local initiative that introduced us to affordable developers and landlords. We reach out to them, and talk about what our platform does and the impact it can have on the lives of their tenants,” Goel explains. “The other value they see is it helps them do their reporting with HUD and apply for grant money. Then we’ll integrate with what they use to collect their payments and plug the information into the credit bureaus.”
There’s also an app for tenants. They download the application, and receive their credit score for free so they can measure their financial health. “It boils down to two things,” Wemimo says. “When they pay their rent on time, their credit scores go up.”
Goel, a former employee at LinkedIn, says he and Wemimo have plans to become the go-to company that provides financial identity for underserved communities. “There are 45 million Americans and residents here who don’t have credit identity, and that means they are stuck,” he says. “We want to help those individuals to have a fighting chance in our current economic system.”