Two Atlanta-based brothers are looking to make the lending space more equitable.
Unlike traditional lending platforms, VIVA Finance looks primarily at an applicant’s job status and not a credit score. “Due to the difficulty in accessing reliable employment-based data, these data points are not as heavily weighted in typical underwriting models,” co-founder Jack Markwalter told Hypepotamus via email. “By combining our ability to service loans directly through payroll and access to public and private employment databases, we felt that we were uniquely positioned to create a model that uses employment history as the primary metric.”
Beyond providing an alternative underwriting model, VIVA has built out financial coaching tools, where account holders can learn more about important financial topics such as the road to homeownership and how to improve a credit score.
VIVA’s $2.3 million seed investment, which closed in late 2020, was used to replicate and scale its business. Jack said that while 99% of its 2020 loans went to Georgia residents, VIVA has quickly landed borrowers across the Southeast region of the US.
The new Series A funding round, totaling $6.2 million, will be used for “nationwide expansion,” according to Markwalter. In a statement, the co-founder added that VIVA’s approach to lending is designed to build an “inclusive financial system” by providing “consumers with the tools to achieve financial freedom.”
While a full list of investors in the Series A round was not disclosed, Markwalter told Hypepotamus that Acumen, which led VIVA’s seed round, joined in participation in the latest Series A.
VIVA Founding Story
VIVA has scaled to date through a mixture of word-of-mouth referrals and employer partnerships designed to help employees navigate debt and other financial questions.
Brothers Hodges and Jack Markwalter both started their careers in finance before turning to build VIVA full-time in May of 2019. VIVA’s lending platform launched first in partnership with Clayton County Public Schools, but quickly received calls from employees around other school districts.
The pandemic, of course, created a unique need for alternative lending platforms like VIVA. “The pandemic forced us to take much of our advertising online and build out a robust referral program for our customers to continue our growth. In the long run, this made us significantly better as a business and helped us to build out some of our most successful customer acquisition channels early on in the business,” added Jack.
VIVA is one of a growing number of FinTech startups focused on improving access to credit.