Goldfinch raises $25M from a16z to power its DeFi lending protocol for borrowers in developing countries

·3 min read

For all of the excitement pulsing through the so-called web3 space in the past year, most of the heartiest sums of investor dollars have seemed to find their way toward products touching users in the United States. But an increasing number of startups are looking to tap opportunities in developing nations, where existing centralized financial systems have struggled to meet the needs of their users.

Goldfinch is a crypto startup building a decentralized lending protocol that allows organizations to receive crypto loans without owning massive amounts of crypto already. Today, most lending platforms rely on an end user's existing crypto collateralization to deem whether they're a safe bet for a loan. Being required to stake valuable crypto assets that exceed the value of the loan makes for safer lending, but also alienates plenty of potential loan recipients who don't have sizable crypto holdings.

The Bay Area startup wants to take a more blended solution to crypto lending with its protocol, building up capital pools and allowing fintech organizations outside the U.S. to make their case to lenders operating on the protocol and get access to funds while showing non-crypto collateral.

The startup tells TechCrunch it has closed $25 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz's crypto arm. Other backers include Coinbase Ventures, SV Angel, Blocktower, Bill Ackman and Heli-cap. Founders Mike Sall and Blake West previously worked together at Coinbase before starting Goldfinch in July of 2020. The firm raised an $11 million funding round last June.

"We just see enormous potential to expand access to capital and build this bridge to borrowers in the real world," Sall tells TechCrunch.

Pooled investing like this outside of securities guidelines isn't kosher stateside, so Goldfinch is ignoring the U.S. market for now and tapping networks of investors elsewhere -- who are largely focusing investment on developing nations, where scoring a loan has historically been a challenging prospect. Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and the Philippines are the countries with the highest volume of loans through the protocol.

One firm that backers on the protocol have financed is Tugende, an East Africa-based startup that loans motorcycle taxis to borrowers who set up payment plans to buy the bikes over time. Backers have also financed India-based Greenway, which builds and loans clean cook stoves to low-income households.

The team has put into their platform plenty of effort into the right incentive balance, allowing backers to take varying levels of risk and direct participation in the platform. An overall pool of capital split into "junior" and "senior" divisions allows lenders to balance their risk. While junior investors can make direct bets on which organizations they choose to back, the senior pool automatically diversifies across the portfolio bets of junior pool investors. The senior pool is a less active, more conservative bet because they're paid out first, but lenders in that pool forego a sizable percentage of interest for riskier junior pool backers who take more risk with more potential upside.

The company says they have $39 million in active loans, which have reached more than 230,00 end borrowers, that have been deployed to a handful of fintech firms.

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