The Story of LendUp
From a family of five to a fast-growing company with more than 250 employees, step brothers Sasha Orloff (Chief Executive Officer) and Jake Rosenberg (Chief Technology Officer) are building a financial technology company with a groundbreaking mission: to improve Americans’ financial health.
Growing up in Oakland, CA
Sasha and Jake became stepbrothers in grade school when Sasha’s dad and Jake’s mom met and married. Sasha and Jake liked each other, but they were different. Sasha focused on grades, soccer, and acquiring a taste for terrible music, while Jake preferred computers, hockey, and Star Wars.
Separate paths. In college, the two embarked on different journeys: Sasha studied applied math and behavioral psychology at the University of California in San Diego (when he wasn’t surfing), and later earned an MBA from Georgetown. Jake, always a tinkerer and a builder, pursued his goal of becoming a software engineer by studying computer science at Rice University—all the while maintaining a healthy gaming habit.
After graduating, Sasha got his first taste of tech life working as an analyst at a startup that was soon acquired by AT&T. As fate would have it, a friend gave Sasha a copy of Muhammad Yunus’ “Banker to the Poor,” which inspired him to move to Honduras to work for the Grameen Foundation, a highly-regarded microlending organization started by Yunus. A six month internship turned into four years with the organization’s technology group. Following Grameen, Sasha worked in consumer credit for the World Bank and then Citibank, and later joined the investment arm at its subsidiary, Citi Ventures.
Jake, meanwhile, got an internship with Yahoo! at 16 and continued to work for the company throughout his college career. He eventually became Yahoo’s 80th employee, staying with the company for more than a decade. At the age of 29, he became a platform CTO at Zynga, the game developer behind Farmville, Words with Friends, and other popular games.
In August of 2011, everything changed. Sasha and Jake got together for a grilled cheese lunch one day in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood, and Sasha shared with Jake some of his frustrations with the financial services industry.
There just wasn’t a company that focused exclusively on the financially underserved, where profit and purpose could go hand in hand.
Working at the time at Citi Ventures, Sasha explained that he was eager to invest in a company that offered the customer-service focus of American Express combined with the social mission of Grameen. Nothing fit the bill. No company seemed to exist that focused exclusively on the financially underserved, where profit and purpose could go hand in hand. Jake listened and understood the crux of the problem immediately: it was a technology issue. Without custom-built software, neither banks nor fintechs were equipped to create the kind of products and services that Sasha envisioned.
For Sasha, a light bulb went off, and the idea of LendUp began to emerge. He wanted Jake on board.
For Jake, it took a little convincing. He loved gaming and he loved Zynga. But the more Jake listened to Sasha, the more he became convinced that they could build the technology from within to create the mission-driven, consumer-focused company Sasha had envisioned.
And just like that, a conversation over grilled cheese led them to apply for funding with Y Combinator, one of the world’s leading startup incubators and launchpad of recognized brands and tech innovators like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Stripe. LendUp was accepted and Sasha and Jake joined the winter class of 2012.
A New Era for the Emerging Middle Class
Today, we’re well on our way to disrupting the financial services industry by becoming the destination for the emerging middle class—those consumers who’d historically been abandoned or mistreated by mainstream banking or predatory options.
“Thank you for helping me reestablish my credit.”Michael, LendUp Customer