CNBC Disruptor 50

29. TALA

Founder: Shivani Siroya (CEO)
Launched: 2011
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California
Funding:
 $317.2 million (PitchBook)
Valuation: $560 million (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
 AI, deep learning, machine learning
Industry:
 Financial services
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

George Kavallines

TALA is a Santa Monica, California-based company that makes microloans — anywhere from $10 to $500 — to people in emerging markets without a credit profile. The company does this by looking at a user's texts, merchant transactions and other behavioral data through its Android app to create a credit profile. Its machine learning algorithms evaluate all this data to determine the customer's risk profile. Legacy banks typically rely on a credit score to determine a person's eligibility for a loan, and most online lenders check a person's financial history.

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The company says it can approve a loan within minutes and disperses the money via mobile payment platforms. TALA says it has lent over $1 billion to more than 4 million customers in Kenya, the Philippines and Mexico. It charges a one-time fee as low as 5% for each loan, and the company says more than 90% of its customers repay their loan within 20 to 30 days. Most are recurring customers.

In August the company raised $110 million in new financing to enter India's burgeoning fintech space. This brings the start-up's total funding to more than $317.2 million from investors, including RPS Ventures, GGV Capital, Revolution Growth and PayPal Ventures. TALA is also piloting a free financial coaching program and an insurance program with Turaco, an insurance company based in Kenya, to subsidize the cost of health insurance.

To help communities cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, TALA launched the Covid-19 Rebuild Fund. Through the fund, it has disbursed long-term 0% interest loans to hundreds of entrepreneurs who are providing jobs and essential services such as clean water and accessible food to their broader communities. The company also is offering flexible payment plans and waiving late fees to help customers who are struggling.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies