Upstart, a company founded by former Googlers Dave Girouard, Anna Counselman and Paul Gu, led the round. the Stellar Development Foundation Venture Fund participated, along with new investors Kindred Ventures and J. Safra Group.
Existing investors IVP, Revolution Growth and Lowercase Capital also joined the round which brings Tala’s total funding to just over $360 million.. The new investment values Tala north of $800 million, according to a source close to the company.
yetcontrary to last round of funding where Tala raised $100m in debt funding on top of its $110m Series D, the microlender only raised equity this time.
In 2011, Shivani Siroya founded Tala after leaving his position as an investment banking analyst. The idea came while he was doing research for the United Nations Population Fund. She found that many people she spoke to in emerging markets were creditworthy but did not have immediate access to credit and quick loans.
To add to this, more than 2 billion of these people have limited access to financial services and working capital. according to World Bank statistics.
Carefully Investigating the issues behind this problem, Siroya concluded that the financial system in these markets was essentially not designed to meet the needs of the underserved segment.. And Tala could change that; and so far it has (to some extent).
In 2014, Tala first launched its mobile app to offer unsecured credit and loans to consumers in Kenya, but has since expanded to the Philippines, Mexico and, more recentlyIndia. The company uses user phone data and activity (for example, how often and how quickly phone bills are paid) to create credit scores that determine the amount of credit a user can receive..
More than 6 million customers in these four markets use Tala, and the company claims to have disbursed more than $2.7 billion in credit since its inception. creation.
And with 12,000 new users signing up for credit every day, Tala is transitioning to offer a wider range of financial services around an account and drive more value across the supply chain..
“Our Android app gave over 6 million people access to our first product, which was access to credit,” Siroya told TechCrunch in a call.. “And now we’re going beyond that to become this complete financial account for our clients. And, again, in all of our markets, that’s what we’re looking to do with this fundraiser.
The founder and CEO emphasized that the new product offerings will help customers “better use, save, protect and grow their money.”
Think of it as a credit-first approach to digital banking that leverages a credit card or similar offering (in Tala’s case, credit via mobile phones) and provides other services around a bank account. Neobanks like The Brazilians Nubank and Neon and the Nigerians FairMoney and Carbon have explored this model.
So what made Tala go down this path? According to Siroya, users reduced their use of money during the pandemic and showed Tala different pain points for why customers needed more financial products beyond credit.
“Because of the relationship and trust we have with our customers, we really wanted to move quickly to be able to meet those needs,” Siroya said.
With Tala, users have access to an account and other tools to borrow, save and manage their money, the company said in a statement. In turn, Tala says it will offer an expanded range of customized credit options, including longer-term loans to match customer revenue cycles..
Integral to this new direction is the use of crypto and decentralized finance to enable the company’s roadmap.
PayPal-backed company says it wants to develop first mainstream crypto product for emerging markets and make crypto affordable for its users. Next, Tala plans to use blockchain-based finance to refine its capital market strategy and connect investors and borrowers on the Tala platform..
Reached and the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), two round investors, are key to this next phase of growth for Tala. An AI lending platform, Upstart has helped banks and credit unions originate over $13 billion in loans. The same time, SDF — the non-profit arm of the Stellar Network – leverages interoperability with existing financial systems around the world.
“For us, it’s really sort of matches both things. We keep getting better and better in terms of our credit offerings,” Siroya said. “And then the other side is really think about how can we accelerate this experience and leveraging crypto with these platforms.
Following the announcement, Paul Gu, the co-founder of Upstart and Denelle Dixon, the executive director and CEO of the Stellar Development Foundation, will join Tala’s board of directors..
During our conversation, I made reference to Branch, a close competitor to Tala, and noted that it was interesting that both platforms were simultaneously considering providing services other than credit..
Like Tala, Branch started out as a digital lender offering loans to customers in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and India. But now the company, backed by Visa, IFC and Andreessen Horowitz, is becoming a digital bank that offers bill payment, money transfer and investment features..
Although Siroya can spot the coincidence, she doesn’t hesitate to praise her business above any other apparent competition.
“I think that through all our markets, we are really see that many fintechs are coming in and seeing the same opportunity. But again, when you think about the design of these platforms and products, there is no one really which has the global breath that Tala has for the underserved segment in our four markets,” said the CEO.
With her new capital, Tala also plans to grow her team in the four markets she serves and in the United States, where she at his seat. The company says it will also push forward its geographic expansion plans, though it’s unsure what markets those might be.