Credit scores are what businesses use to gauge how financially responsible and trustworthy a consumer is. It’s a number that has always been utterly critical to the home rental and loan application processes, especially in the wake of the financial crisis. If consumers don’t have a sufficiently high credit score (“FICO”), landlords and banks will likely reject them.
So, what about people who have been classified as having thin credit-files because of no past borrowing history? There are an estimated 53 million Americans without a credit score. Many of them are recent graduates, migrants and young adults who prefer to avoid using credit, and veterans who have been out of the country.
Aneesh Varma knows this frustration firsthand. He moved from New York to the U.K. 8 years ago when he worked in finance. "I had a decent job and a decent salary, but I didn't realize your credit history doesn't move over with you," Varma says. "I was starting from scratch." Varma couldn't get a cellphone contract when he arrived and says he still couldn't "confidently apply for products" even 3 or 4 years after the move. He wrote to members of Parliament and U.S. senators to alert them of the challenges faced by immigrants without credit in their adopted country. Eventually he decided to create his own solution, a startup company called Aire Labs (www.aire.io) that he dubbed, "credit scores for humanity."
Aire has an alternate credit scoring model that uses data provided by users to develop a credit score. If the data can’t be validated, it doesn’t generate a credit score. The company allows people to build up their own credit profile and control the entire process. Moreover, all data is collected with user-consent, unlike traditional credit-scoring companies that use a black-box method without any transparency.
Launched in London in 2014, Aire has a team of serial entrepreneurs who are successfully fixing this problem of financial inclusion, now faced by millions. Varma is an engineer with a background in predictive algorithms and quantitative finance. He previously co-foundedFabriQate, an international mobile technology company, and has experience in consumer finance at JP Morgan.
Jon Bundy, Aire co-founder, has 14 years of experience in FinTech. He knows how to build enterprise-grade data and risk products, and has also been involved in fraud detection and anti-money laundering systems.
The third co-founder, Dr. Srini Sundaram, holds 2 patents within machine learning and stochastic processes. He previously worked as a Quantitative Risk Analyst at Wonga and a Research Engineer at Rolls Royce.
In January 2015, Aire raised $1.1 million from an existing investor SparkLabs Global Ventures, with additional contributions from Andrew Mullinger, Peter Jackson, and Tom Glocer in one round of funding.
The London-based startup is reinventing credit scoring with software that calculates scores using machine-learning and statistical modelling methods. Aire’s engineers have developed predictive algorithms that assign a score to consumers based on self-declared data and other reliable sources, such as LinkedIn.
Aire has several other competitors, but none offer the kind of consumer convenience that Aire does. Plus, Aire was cited as an example of breakthrough innovation in the FinTech space, by Martin Wheatley, the Chief Executive of the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). It was also featured and applauded by The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and elected by FinTech City for The Hot Ten Europe FinTech startups to watch in 2015.