Zach Meyer

It’s estimated that only about 10% of renters see their on-time rental payment history reflected in their credit scores. That means the remaining 90% of renters are missing out on that that benefit and the potential to build credit or obtain financial products. The fintech company Esusu is working to change that with its rent reporting platform that captures rental payment information and reports it to the three major credit bureaus to help renters establish or boost their credit scores and improve access to financial resources.

The firm was founded in 2018 by Samir Goel, 28, and Wemimo Abbey, 30, who were spurred by watching the struggles of their immigrant families. “Our shared experiences helped define our core ethos, which is that where you come from, the color of your skin, and your financial identity should never determine where you end up in life,” says Goel, whose father’s pursuit of the American Dream got off to a rough start when he was mugged on his first day in the United States after arriving from India.

Abbey’s journey started in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria. In 2009, he immigrated from 80-degree weather in Nigeria to minus 20 degrees in Minnesota, where he had been accepted into college. At that time, Abbey and his family lacked a credit score so they could not get a loan from the major banks. His mother sold his late father’s wedding ring, took out a predatory loan at a 400% interest rate, and borrowed money from church members to pay for his first year of college.

Their experiences taught Goel and Abbey about the importance of good credit and giving someone a fair shot.

“For the first time, we’re building a big platform that doesn’t treat people like they are guilty until proven innocent,” Abbey says. “When you think about the concept that, if I want to borrow money, I am judged by a three-digit number or where I come from if I don’t have a three-digit number. That’s hard. We try to give people agency.”

Since its founding in 2018, Esusu has grown significantly, with partnerships reaching more than 3 million rental units in all 50 states. The firm is working with more than half of the National Multifamily Housing Council Top 50 owners as well as mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

The firm has the distinction of reaching “unicorn” status, making it one of the few Black-owned startups to reach $1 billion in valuation. In January, Esusu raised $130 million in its series B round of financing. Tennis legend Serena Williams, an investor, recently cited the firm in a Vogue article.

Despite its recent success, Esusu, which has grown to approximately 200 employees this year, remains focused on its original mission, according to the partners.

“Our mission is to dismantle barriers to housing for working families, and our vision is to unleash the power of data to bridge the racial wealth gap,” Goel says. “Right now, we are focused on helping renters establish and build a financial identify and achieve financial stability. We want to grow with our renters all the way through helping them create wealth. There are a number of products and services that we can offer our renters and our landlords on this journey.”