Serena Williams is investing an undisclosed amount in Esusu, a fintech start-up that allows tenants to build and improve credit by reporting their rent payments to credit bureaus.
The tennis superstar provided the support through her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, as part of the start-up’s first round of funding.
“I started Serena Ventures to invest in diverse founders and start-ups that outperform and generate impact, while empowering others and creating opportunities. Esusu is definitely one of those companies.” Williams told CNBC. “Esusu is truly focused on building credit and creating pathways to financial inclusion, not just for working families, but for individuals as well.”
The Series A funding round raised $10 million led by Motley Fool Ventures, the investment arm of the personal finance site. Esusu, headquartered in New York City, has raised more than $14 million. Past investors include Global Good Fund, Next Play Ventures and Zeal Capital.
“Esusu is an excellent example of an innovative fintech company that is using technology to deliver scalable and much-needed financial solutions for underserved populations,” said Ollen Douglass, CEO of Motley Fool Ventures, in a press release. “Their inclusive credit building offerings could unlock access to credit for low-to-middle-income households across the country.”
Esusu was founded in 2018 by Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel, who saw their immigrant families struggle to pay rent and build credit after moving to the United States.
About 41 million families live in apartments, according to the National Multi-Family Housing Council, and 45 million Americans have no credit score, according to a 2020 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Esusu uses its platform to record and report rent payments to the largest credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
“When my parents moved here, our journey to pursue the American dream was just harder than it should have been,” Goel told CNBC. “I remember how my parents worked miracles with no credit and limited financial resources. Abbey and I like to say that we were inspired by our experiences.”
Esusu now works with 30% of the largest landlords in the National Multifamily Housing Council. Its partners include Goldman Sachs, Related Companies, Winn Residential, Camden Property Trust and Starwood Capital Group.
Wemimo and Goel say the new funding will be used to scale the business and increase cybersecurity.
“We exist in 2 million households in all 50 states. We want to expand that number to cover 5 million households in the next year,” Wemimo told CNBC. “This Series A financing will enable Esusu to double its growth through product innovation, recruit top talent and build the most comprehensive financial health platform in the market for low- to middle-income families.”
“This is a really huge market that has been understaffed for a long time,” Williams said. “We have invested in Esusu’s mission and have a strong belief in the potential of this space. The tech-enabled model truly creates a win-win for stakeholders, tenants to landlords. Our significant investment in Esusu will help the business scale and unlocking opportunities.”