Venture Out: Shivani Siroya, CEO of Tala

Shivani Siroya founded Tala after spending time in emerging markets and found that mobile tech is the best way to solve this problem she was passionate about. Tala provides microloans to people in emerging markets who are unable to secure credit through traditional banks. They use nontraditional data pulled from mobile phones and have extended credit to over 1.3 million customers.

Venture Out is a series that provides a spotlight on start-up companies outside of the Bay Area and New York City.

What is your elevator pitch about you and your company?

The global financial system doesn’t work for 3 billion people. Only 31% of the adult population worldwide is covered by a credit bureau, leading to about $2.1 trillion in unmet need for credit. Tala’s innovation is our use of alternative data and mobile technology to understand and reach the underserved. We’ve developed an app that instantly underwrites customers using Android and proprietary data and delivers credit to a mobile wallet or location of the customer’s choosing. Eighty-five percent of our customers receive credit in less than 10 minutes and 92% pay it back. Our vision is to become the world’s biggest and most trusted financial services partner.

Tell us more about your company – what you do, number of employees?

Right now we operate in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, and Mexico, and we’re testing a pilot in India. We’ve originated more than $376 million to more than 1.4 million customers and are growing an average of 130% quarterly. We have 250 full-time team members across all of our offices – two-thirds of our team is in the markets where we work.

Our commitment to financial inclusion is front and center in everything we do. For example, we have a policy on data ethics that has been in place since we first started lending; we don’t factor gender into our decisions, despite knowing that gender correlates to repayment outcomes. We also invest heavily in user research to understand and measure our impact. Many of our customers are new to credit, and we take our responsibility to them seriously. Increased financial access should not come at the expense of consumers’ financial health.

At what stage of development is your company? Who are your funders?

We raised a Series C in April this year, bringing our total fundraising to more than $105 million. Revolution led the round and partner Steve Murray (previously highlighted on the NASDAQ platform) joined our board. We are also backed by IVP, Ribbit, DCVC, Lowercase, and Female Founders fund. We’ve been fortunate to have investors who share our commitment to financial inclusion and who believe in our customers and our markets.

So you are located outside of the typical startup zones (e.g., NYC and SF), what types of development and startup venture resources have you found locally? What are some of the unique factors of your area that are helping you to be successful?

Santa Monica, and Los Angeles more broadly, is an incredible place to build a company. The growing tech scene is tight-knit and supportive, with increasing opportunities to share and learn together. We’re also benefiting from Mayor Garcetti’s commitment to fostering a thriving, global tech industry – everything from making parts of the city friendlier to startups and co-working to bridging different parts of the city through the light rail.