Esusu – generating financial access for everyone

Esusu is a fin-tech startup that aims to provide under-served communities with accelerated access into America’s financial mainstream.

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Eligibility

  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States

Gender

  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

New York City, New York (multiple zip codes).
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise

Date Started

Esusu was incorporated on 11/17/2017.
The co-founders worked on prototyping 18 months beforehand.

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

https://esusu.org/

Twitter URL

https://twitter.com/getesusu

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/myesusu

LinkedIn URL

https://www.linkedin.com/company/esusu/

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

My name is Samir Goel. I am a second generation American raised by Indian immigrants who arrived in this country with very little money. Growing up, I noticed that my parents relied on rotational savings practices within our immigrant community in order to build up their financial resiliency. They had no other choice because the mainstream financial system in America made it extremely difficult for them to open bank accounts, obtain loans and build up their credit scores. My co-founder and I know from personal experience that solutions are needed to help marginalized people become more financially resilient.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

THE SAVINGS/RESILIENCY PROBLEM
According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 57% of U.S. consumers are financially unhealthy, which means they struggle to meet their financial obligations.

THE CREDIT SCORING PROBLEM
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 26 million Americans are “credit invisible.” This means that roughly one in every ten adults does not have a meaningful credit history with a credit bureau.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Esusu is working on a suite of solutions to address the problems identified above.

THE SAVINGS PROBLEM
Esusu has developed a smartphone app that helps Americans save more readily, access larger sums of capital, and build credit profiles through the digitization and scaling of rotational savings club practices that have deep roots in many world cultures. Rotational savings clubs are a globally popular form of peer-to-peer lending that is utilized by America’s immigrant communities. The Esusu app makes this practice convenient, while leveraging user data on the platform to build up credit profiles that can be shared with community banks and credit bureaus.

THE CREDIT SCORING PROBLEM
Today less than 1% of all credit profiles include rent payments, despite this being the largest expense most Americans pay on a monthly basis. We want to ensure that this data is reported into the credit bureaus, so we will shortly be rolling out a rent reporting service that will allow our customer base to do just that.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Below is an outline of the customer journey for a user of the Esusu mobile app:
1) The user downloads the Esusu app, registers, links their bank account to the platform, and invites trusted friends and family members to join a savings group.
2) The user sets a savings target and cadence interval for payment flows between group members.
3) The app facilitates scheduled fund transfers from each group member’s linked bank account into a collective pool, and directs the aggregate funds to one group member on a rotational basis for purchasing or investment purposes.
4) The regular group transfers that each member makes are reported to credit bureaus as loan repayments: when a member keeps their savings group commitments their FICO score improves over time.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

We look to serve the following populations:
• There are over 40 million first generation immigrants in the USA, and every year approximately 1 million foreigners receive green cards to live and work in this country. Many of these people struggle to integrate into America’s financial mainstream.
• American college students (~ 20 million) are known to be burdened by high levels of student debt. Millions have low credit scores and virtually no savings that they can fall back on in a crisis.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • immigration status
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

THE SAVINGS PROBLEM
The following companies are trying to provide users with a similar value proposition.
1. eMoneypool: Has adopted a market-place approach that runs counter to the need for personal trust within successful rotational savings clubs.
2. ROSCAFinance: Has pitched its solution to people who are unfamiliar with rotational savings clubs, and has failed to gain traction.
3. Puddle: Has adopted a highly complex pricing structure that confuses users.

THE CREDIT SCORING PROBLEM
These companies report rent payments to credit bureaus:
• RentalKharma
• RentReporters
• Pinch

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

TRACTION SO FAR
We released our first iOS savings app early in January 2018 and have on-boarded 1,000 revenue generating beta testers. Our Android savings app was deployed at the end of May. Most of our target users have Android phones, so the release of this app will significantly improve Esusu’s ability to scale. Our goal is to have a user base of over 50,000 individuals six months from now. This equates to approximately 10,000 active savings groups.

MEASURING IMPACT
We believe the best way to measure our impact is through long term studies with non-profits and academic institutions that are focused on financial inclusion and resiliency. Our goal is to formulate and conduct studies that will assess:
• Changes in Esusu user credit scores over time
• Changes in Esusu user debt burdens over time
• Changes in Esusu user savings levels over time

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

1 – BANKING PARTNERSHIPS – we look to partner with CDFIs such as Spring Bank to help them reach their target market. For example: the Esusu savings app can be used by a CDFI over time to gauge the credit risk profile of an app user, and this information can better inform lending and banking decisions involving that user.

2 – CAMPUS PARTERNSHIPS – we look to partner with campus administrators who are serious about helping their students become more financially resilient. We do this by offering financial literacy content to students that introduces them to our products and services.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Trainings, Consultation

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Esusu is a C Corp, and the founding team is committed to building a sustainable business.

SAVINGS CIRCLE APP: Esusu charges each group a flat subscription fee of $10 per pay-in cycle, which is allocated equally amongst the members in the savings group. Our fee structure incentivizes users to invite more people into their savings groups.

RENT REPORTING SERVICE: We plan to charge a registration and set-up fee of $25. Thereafter, users will be charged a monthly reporting fee of $7.99.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

1) Samir Goel, Co-CEO. Full Time. Focused on recruiting, strategy and business development.
2) Abbey Wemimo, Co-CEO. Full Time. Focused on product management, strategy and fund raising.
3) Rob Henning, CFO. Part Time. Focused on compliance, controllership, risk management.
4) Aditya Kandari, Technical Lead. Part time. Focused on product development.

Further details, and advisor backgrounds, are available online at: https://esusu.org/team

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Su Sanni

Great idea! I love this because it's community-based and culturally relevant. Growing up in a Nigerian household, I definitely recognize susu's and believe your mobile app solution should make susu's more accessible and transparent for people.

As a business model, collecting only small transaction/commission fees on each Esusu pool means that you'll need a TON of volume in order for this single revenue stream to sustain your business. As competition heats up in your space, there will be downward pressure to cut fees (in order to compete), which inevitably will make it even harder to operate the business off transaction fees only.

You may want to aggressively explore partnerships with colleges/schools, local credit unions, and other financial service companies. For schools, the value you provide would be low-cost/free financial products that help students with saving, paying down student loan debt, etc. For financial service companies, Esusu could provide the new (qualified) consumers for their bank products (i.e. savings accounts, loans, etc).

-Additional Revenue streams-
Ultimately, Esusu could be the bridge for the "unbanked/underbanked" to eventually get into the traditional banking system. In which case, banks and financial service companies would pay you to access those new prospective customers. You could monetize these partners by erecting a subscription service on top of simple Saas product, where they could manage and monitor their members' Esusu pools.

-Distribution-
To avoid the rate race of transactional revenue models, you could also explore publishing an open API so that other organization can support Esusu pools in their owns apps/websites. Easier said than done, but this strategy would open your technology up to other multi-member organizations who could do the "marketing" and "selling" to their members for you. Similarly, colleges and institutions where there are many underbanked consumers are where you could provide your API service.

Nonetheless, good job guys. And good luck!

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