Serena Williams of The United States celebrates a set point in her ladies singles first round match against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania on day two of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on May 31, 2021 in Paris, France.
Stephane Cardinale | Corbis Sport | Getty Images
Serena Williams is investing an undisclosed amount in Esusu, a fintech start-up that allows renters to build and improve credit by reporting their rent payments to credit bureaus.
The tennis superstar provided the backing through her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, as part of the start-up’s first funding round.
“I started Serena Ventures to invest in diverse founders and early-stage companies that outperform and generate impact, while at the same time empowering others and creating opportunities. Esusu is definitely one of those companies.” Williams told CNBC. “Esusu is really focused on credit building and creating pathways to financial inclusion not only for working families but for individuals as well.”
The Series A funding round raised $10 million dollars led by Motley Fool Ventures, the investing arm of the personal finance site. Esusu, headquartered in New York City, has raised more than $14 million. Previous investors include Global Good Fund, Next Play Ventures and Zeal Capital.
“Esusu is an excellent example of an innovative fintech company leveraging technology to deliver scalable and much-needed financial solutions for underserved populations,” Motley Fool Ventures managing director Ollen Douglass said in a release. “Their inclusive credit building offerings can unlock access to credit for low-to-medium income households across the country.”
Esusu was founded in 2018 by Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel, who saw their immigrant families struggle to pay for rent and build credit after moving to the United States.
Approximately 41 million families live in apartments, according to the National Multi-Family Housing Council, and 45 million Americans do not have a credit score, according to a 2020 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Esusu uses its platform to record and report rental payments to the largest credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
“When my folks moved here, our journey to pursue the American dream was just harder than it should have been,” Goel told CNBC. “I remember just watching my parents work miracles with no credit and limited financial resources. Abbey and I like to say we are inspired by our experiences.”
Esusu now works with 30% of the biggest landlords on 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 across all 50 states. We want to grow that to cover 5 million households within the next year,” Wemimo told CNBC. “This Series A financing enables Esusu to double down on growth through product innovation, top talent recruitment, and building the most comprehensive financial health platform in the market for low-to-medium-income families.”
“This is really a massive market that has been long underserved,” Williams said. “We invested in Esusu’s mission and have a strong conviction in the potential of this space. The tech-enabled model really creates a win-win situation for stakeholders, renters to landlords. Our significant investment in Esusu will help the company scale and unlock opportunity.”