SEO marketer with an experience of 7+ years.
We started Stilt ~3 years ago from our apartment in San Francisco. Both Priyank and I were on visas with full-time jobs while spending nights and weeks trying to solve a problem we faced ourselves as international students, visa holders, and immigrants.
When we began lending, our goal was to simply help more people like ourselves who were highly creditworthy but still not able to borrow in the U.S. because of their non-existent credit history. We had never built credit during our time in India and we had been in the U.S. for only a few years. It was difficult to rent apartments, get an auto loan, or any other type of credit to help us get settled.
Our focus was to help international students (primarily from India) who have job offers and need funds to relocate. This was our primary use case and we knew the market really well. The problem was that we didn’t have any debt capital, so we decided to lend our own savings (it was Priyank who suggested it and put his money in first). That seems like yesterday but we’ve come a long way since then.
We didn’t have any debt capital, so we decided to lend our own savings to strangers on the internet.
We looked at the data recently and saw that immigrants from over 150 countries had applied for a loan with us. That’s people from all over the world living in the U.S. who somehow found our service (we don’t do paid ads), created an account, gave us their personal information, and applied for a loan. It seems so far-fetched compared to what we thought would happen when we started the company. This is by no means success, and we don’t think we are successful, but holy moly that’s a lot of countries. I didn’t even know the names of most of the countries.
Of the 195 countries (as of 2018), we have received applications from people of 150 countries. That means we have served people from over 75% of the world.
As we serve people from around the globe, we realized how lucky we are to be in a position to have a positive impact on people’s lives in the smallest way. Immigrants from the farthest reaches like the Åland Islands (an autonomous region of Finland) to Benin (a West African nation that’s the birthplace of “vodoo”) have taken advantage of Stilt’s services. This kind of growth has also opened our eyes to how big the problem is as well as the size and scope of the opportunity.
Our mission has evolved and broadened to solve credit problems faced by immigrants and the underserved.
The U.S. credit system is broken, especially for the middle-class and immigrants. There are millions of immigrants who can’t get access to credit in the U.S. who have to resort to suboptimal and sometimes predatory alternatives. Our borrowers are currently not served by either banks or other lenders. There is a huge gap.
20% have no SSN.
50% have < 1 year of credit history.
The use cases for our loans have also significantly broadened. A few use cases where credit from Stilt helped include:
These examples are only a highlight of what people are using the funds for.
Here is a list of all the countries whose immigrants we have served to-date: