Consumer Credit is a $10 trillion dollar industry that Al and his team are trying to turn on its head. Aided by Big Data and machine learning, they are creating a direct to consumer lending model that may have far reaching impact on the financial services industry.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. We can talk about your co-founders, but let’s start with your background a bit and share with the audience where you’re from and where your personal journey started.
Al Goldstein: My personal journey started a little further away from Chicago where I grew up. I was actually born in Uzbekistan, in the former Soviet Union. We immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s. I loved America. I went to college at the University of Illinois and studied Finance and Math. Like every budding entrepreneur, I wanted to invest in banking, which is a little far afield. I started my career on the Wall Street and worked at Deutsche Bank. I, very quickly, figured out that while I was learning a ton, it was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my career.
I had the opportunity to join up with a mentor and former boss of mine, for whom I interned while I was in college, to start a business. I left banking about 14 months in and started a company in the sub-prime consumer credit space. My brother joined as a co-founder. His background is in technology and engineering. He had spent seven years working at Sibyl Systems in the Valley under the tutelage of Tom Sybil. We had a lot of success. Thankfully, we hired some really smart folks and ended up selling that business to a public company within about three years. I got the opportunity to run it for about two years through our takeout period.
I left at the end of 2008 when the financial crisis happened. The real estate market blew up. My brother and I, as well as our COO who happens to be one of my close friends, then started a real estate company to buy distressed real estate assets and really focus on bringing a better level of sophistication in managing apartments for middle-income consumers starting in Chicago. We had a lot of success there and the timing was very good. We now own an operation where we have 11,000 apartments. My passion has always been on building a business a la Amazon that really changes the way that consumers behave and provides a better level of service. We weren’t able to do that in my first company because we sold the business and weren’t able to keep our vision.