Earnest is a startup that provides small loans to people based on their earning potential.
The big difference between Earnest and traditional lenders is that Earnest looks beyond credit history to where a person attended school, what she studied, and her current job and income.
The proposition isn’t so unlike that of another venture-backed startup, Upstart, which also recently jumped into the small loans business, though Earnest asks applicants for much more information, including access to their checking, savings, investment, and retirement account balances.
The loans that Earnest offers customers – 5.5 percent interest on a one-year loan and 6.5 percent for a two-year loan of up to $20,000 – aren’t just hard to beat; they’re too low margin for Earnest to produce a meaningful return for the investors who’ve given the year-old company $15 million.
To learn more about what’s going on – and what’s next – I talked yesterday with Earnest founder Louis Beryl, a Princeton and HBS graduate who has worked on Wall Street and at Andreessen Horowitz.
You spent a year-and-a-half at Andreessen Horowitz before founding Earnest.
As it relates to Earnest, I started thinking: If you were going to build a financial services company from scratch, using data to understand people, how would you do that?