Tala, fintech for unbanked, raises $145 million for global, crypto

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TALA founder & CEO Shivani Siroya

TALA

Fintech start-up Tala said Thursday it raised $145 million in a Series E funding round that the company intends to use to expand its borrowing, savings and money management options across Kenya, the Philippines, Mexico, India and the United States, including crypto offerings.

Tala is a two-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company that ranked No. 20 on this year’s list, and has raised more than $350 million in venture funding from investors including PayPal Ventures, GV, and Revolution Growth.

The Santa Monica-based company says it can approve a loan within minutes and disperses the money via mobile payment platforms. Founder and CEO Shivani Siroya says it has lent over $1 billion to more than four million customers. It charges a one-time fee as low as 5% for each loan, and the company says more than 90% of its customers repay their loan within 20 to 30 days. Most are recurring customers.

“From the very beginning we’ve been very intentionally focused on building a global platform that’s truly scalable across these regions, but that also has the ability to be localized,” Siroya said on a CNBC “TechCheck” livestream on Thursday morning. Siroya started Tala in 2011 after a career in investment banking sprinkled with stints at the United Nations and other organizations focused on global health.

“During the pandemic, we saw the need for more than credit and rolled out products beyond credit, highlighting the account experience that we’re now excited to go accelerate.”

In May, the company announced a partnership with Visa to build a platform that would allow its users to buy cryptocurrencies, starting with USDC, a digital currency pegged to the U.S. dollar. Now, Tala users will be able to use the cryptocurrency to send money across borders, giving them increased access to the global financial system.

Earlier this year, El Salvador became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, after lawmakers in the Central American country’s Congress voted by a “supermajority” in favor of the Bitcoin Law, receiving 62 out of 84 of the legislature’s vote.

“There’s a lot of leakage around the financial system, especially for the underserved. They have to spend a lot of time going to physical locations, there’s money being spent on transportation, and then there’s additional fees to actually go get their money and use it,” Siroya said. “So we’re really looking to ensure that they have a safe place to more efficiently use their money, and that’s what we’re thinking about when it comes to crypto: how can we use this technology to really ensure that we’re supporting the essential movement of money.”

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