Social media activity is now providing an important new data point for financial start-ups to use when evaluating whether or not someone is eligible for a loan.
A Chicago-based startup called AvantCredit has raised a $20 million series B round for its personal loan service that uses machine learning algorithms to assess credit-worthiness. AvantCredit closed a $34 million Series A round earlier this year. It’s taking a page out of the ZestFinance playbook — lending to underserved markets at rates less usurious than traditional payday-loan providers — although that company now acts only as an underwriter rather than an actual lender.
ZestFinance, the machine learning meets personal loans startup from former Google CIO Douglas Merrill, has raised a $20 million series C round. The company’s model analyzes more than 70,000 variables in trying to provide good loans to folks with bad, or no, credit.
Lending firms like Zest and Kabbage are doing a better job than jobs at deciding if a person or small business should receive credit. Their advantage is thousands of data signals that banks don’t even consider.
Is the world of big data one in which information about us allows us to personalize services and benefit from that personalization, or is it one in which our data is used against us by companies and governments?
Even if you don’t agree with ZestFinance’s business, it’s hard to argue with its grasp of big data and applied mathematics. Now, the company has added a human touch to machine learning in order to make its models for assessing repayment risk even more accurate.
By becoming an underwriter for some of the world’s largest banks and credit card companies, ZestFinance might actually be able to achieve its goal of using big data to supply the underbanked with needed credit. It’s not altruism by any means, but here’s how it works.
ZestCash, the startup co-founded by former Google CIO and VP of Engineering Douglas Merrill to provide short-term loans to the underserved, has changed its name to ZestFinance and its business model, as well. Now essentially an underwriting service for lenders, can ZestFinance remain ethical?