Big data has begun to be used with increased frequency to determine creditworthiness and the ability to get financing without formal bank statements. British startups like HelloSoda and Filipino startups like Lenddo have used social media driven algorithms to provide this service to banks and other businesses. Now another startup, Earnest, is looking to take this big data approach to financing to the $1.2 trillion industry that is student loans.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Earnest founder Louis Beryl announced the launch of a data-driven student loan refinancing service that would use data algorithms to judge borrowers based on a student's long-term financial profile, such as retirement accounts, savings, and possible future education expenses. With this data, Earnest will offer loans with customized APRs as low as 1.9 percent in some cases, supported by an "instantly flexible" online service that allows borrowers to adjust payment amounts or the length of the loan. In addition, Earnest's online service will offer borrowers the ability to skip a payment once per year or split payments up to twice per month, to accommodate for sudden financial changes. Rates can also be switched from variable to flexible, and vice versa, at no charge. By going this route, Beryl claims to be able to save borrowers an average of $12,500 on their loans, though the average loan size during the beta test is only between $55,000 to $75,000.
Investors appear to like Earnest as well. The loan service has reportedly closed out a $17 million Series A funding round, led by previous investor Maveron and included firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, Atlas Venture, Collaborative Fund, and First Round Capital. Earnest already has partnerships with coding companies like General Assembly and has marketing personal loan products that range from $12,000 to $14,000. Eventually, Beryl wants to take the business into the car loan and mortgage markets, once the student loan business proves to be a success.