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Dianrong.com – a major Chinese peer-to-peer (P2P) online lender shaking up the country's traditional banking system – now boasts a valuation of "around" $1 billion dollars thanks to its latest round of fundraising, the company's founder and CEO Soul Htite told CNBC.
The Shanghai-based firm completed its most recent round of funding from Tiger Global - the U.S. investment firm which has holdings in a number of prominent Asian internet companies including Alibaba, JD.com and Flipkart - in January for an undisclosed amount.
Htite remained tight lipped on the actual amount raised, saying, "It's a lot of money….it's enough for us to build what we wanted to build."
"I can tell you internet finance is going to the next level, and we're going to have even bigger rounds coming up," said Htite, who is also the co-founder of the Lending Club – the world's largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors which went public in New York in December.
Peer lending in China has exploded in the past year, with the number of P2P lenders in the country more than doubling to 1,700 in 2014 from 2013, according to P2P001, a widely followed website for Internet lending. P2P credit in the mainland stands at $53 billion.
Such platforms allow borrowers to receive their funds in days compared to weeks for banks and lets lenders generate returns well over traditional investments.
A lender on Dianrong.com receives an interest rate of between 6 and 20 percent from borrowers, says Htite. The rate is based on factors such as credit history, income and loan purpose.
Identifying credit worthiness of borrowers can be a difficult task in the China, where shadow banking is prevalent.
"In China, we have a credit bureau, but we also have shadow banking – a lot of transactions happen here. The biggest problem when we meet a borrower is identifying how much of his transactions are in shadow banking," Htite said.
"Social media is a wonderful tool in getting data to evaluate the credit worthiness of a person," he added.
The platform requires access to a borrower's Weibo account, China's equivalent of Facebook. If a payment is missed, Dianrong.com can post public requests on the social media site to demand recovery, potentially embarrassing the borrower.
The build-up of debt in China has reached concerning levels, with the amount owed soaring to 251 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as of July 2014, up from 147 percent at the end of 2008, according to Standard Chartered.
Htite believes the risks are under control, for now.
"People have been saying China's going to crash for the past 15 years and China keeps growing," he said.
"We have to be responsible players in the market – there are people that should get a loan there are people that shouldn't get a loan."
--Reuters contributed to this report