LendingClub co-founder Soul Htite flew to the U.S. from China last week for the online lender's stock market debut on Dec. 11. But he wasn't just in town to celebrate with his former colleagues at the New York Stock Exchange.
Htite was also visiting prospective investors in his latest venture Dianrong, known as the LendingClub of China. One of those meetings was with mega-tech investor Tiger Global, which led a significant, yet-to-be-officially announced, financing round in Dianrong. Tiger's previous deals range from Facebook in the U.S. to Albaba in China and Flipkart in India.
"There are investors eager to get into the China wave," Htite said in an interview in San Francisco, where he's meeting with venture capital firms after a four-day stay in New York.
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Htite founded Dianrong (formerly SinoLending) in 2012, five years after LendingClub got off the ground, but the newer company is already bigger in terms of head count. Dianrong has 975 employees versus LendingClub's 742 at the end of September, according to the IPO prospectus.
While Dianrong promotes itself as the LendingClub of China, the business is quite different, as the Chinese financial services industry is far less developed. According to Htite, his company has been helping to build the banking infrastructure in China, a feat never asked of LendingClub in the U.S.
LendingClub helped pioneer peer-to-peer, or marketplace, lending. Rather than serving as a bank that uses insured consumer deposits to make loans, the company developed a marketplace to bring together borrowers with individual and institutional investors. The capital comes from investors, with LendingClub underwriting and servicing the loans.
Shares of LendingClub have surged 86 percent to $27.90 since the IPO, valuing the company at $10.1 billion.
LendingClub makes money by charging a fee of about 5 percent on every loan issued. It's a Web-based model that's taking on the brick-and-mortar banking system with lower rates than consumers can typically get from credit cards.
In China, there's no ubiquitous banking structure. Little credit is available for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, and given the country's explosive growth, demand for capital is insatiable. So in addition to providing its own platform for borrowers and investors to connect, Dianrong is partnering with banks that are using the company's technology to expand their lending capabilities.