Microloan Company Tala Lands $145M Raise, Moving It Closer to Unicorn Status

Microloan Company Tala Lands $145M Raise, Moving It Closer to Unicorn Status
Tala’s app monitors merchant transactions and other financial behavioral data to create a credit profile.

Tala, a Santa Monica-based company that makes microloans between $10 and $500 to people in emerging markets who lack a credit profile, has landed a $145 million Series E funding round — its biggest fundraise since its founding a decade ago.
The latest fundraise for Tala, whose parent is InVenture Capital Corp., gives the lender an enterprise valuation in excess of $800 million, a boost of more than $300 million from over a year ago when it was listed by trade organization Pitchbook Data Inc. at $560 million.

The fundraise was led by Upstart Network Inc., a San Mateo-based lending platform that partners with banks and credit unions to provide consumer loans using nontraditional variables, such as education and employment, to predict creditworthiness.

Participation in the round also came from Stellar Development Foundation, a significant step for Tala as the microlender plans to tap Stellar’s cryptocurrency coins to help cut expenses on microloans by about 50 cents on every $1 borrowed, Shivani Siroya, Tala founder and chief executive, said in an interview.

“Our consumers are underserved,” said Siroya. “We are not imagining them buying and selling crypto, but how they can get access.”
New investors in the latest fundraise also include San Francisco-based venture capital firm Kindred Ventures and J. Safra Group, a Sao Paulo, Brazil-based international network of banking and industrial companies controlled by the Safra family.

Existing investors who participated in the round also included venture capital firms IVP, based in Menlo Park; Revolution Growth in Washington, D.C.; and Lowercase Capital in San Francisco.

The Series E round brings Tala’s total funding to more than $350 million.
The company will use the investment to accelerate the rollout of its new financial account feature, which provides customers with fresh tools to borrow, save and manage their money. With the fundraise, Tala plans to grow its teams and product offerings across its main “remittance corridors” in Kenya, the Philippines, Mexico, India and the United States, according to Siroya.

The company hands out microloans by examining merchant transactions, bill payments and other behavioral data through its Android app to create a credit profile. 

Its machine-learning algorithms evaluate this data to determine the customer’s risk profile. Traditional banks typically rely on a credit score to determine a person’s eligibility for a loan.

Tala said it can approve a loan within minutes and disburses the money via mobile payment platforms. It charges a one-time fee as low as 5% for each loan, and the company said more than 90% of its customers repay their loan within 20 to 30 days.

In the crypto area, Tala has been working on a partnership with credit card giant Visa Inc. to help microloan borrowers receive money digitally with cryptocurrency, then deposit the funds in their local bank, remittance centers, where they shop for food, or download into their digital wallet on their mobile phones. Loan repayments can be made to Visa through Stellar’s crypto network, according to Siroya.

In addition to payments and savings, Tala’s expanded account features will offer a range of personalized credit options, including longer-term loans and credit that can be configured to match customers’ income cycles.

Since 2011, Tala has provided more than $2.7 billion in credit to more than 6 million customers.

As part of this fundraise, Paul Gu, co-founder of Upstart, and Denelle Dixon, chief executive and executive director of Stellar Development, have joined Tala’s board.

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