Changing Finance Through Innovation - Sasha Orloff (MBA’06)

Sasha OrloffAfter working for some technology startups in Silicon Valley, Sasha Orloff (MBA’06) was inspired by a book he read by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, and decided to give up his job to volunteer with nonprofits, spending time in Honduras and Mexico. He later returned to his hometown of Washington, D.C. to attend the McDonough School of Business for his MBA.

After graduating, he worked for a rotational management program with Citigroup in New York, where he began to see how his previous jobs in technology, his nonprofit work in Latin America, and the finance industry could all work together for a greater goal. His experiences gave him  the idea for his company, LendUp.

As a socially responsible lending company, LendUp, based in San Francisco, California, is helping provide credit-building opportunities to consumers who are not able to be approved for credit from banks, often causing them to take out a dangerous financial products such as payday loans.  In a 2013 blog, The Wall Street Journal explained, “Instead of relying on FICO scores, LendUp uses publicly available data online—from social networks, for example—to assess which applicants may be a good risk, even if they don’t have any credit history in the U.S.”

According to a 2013 FDIC report, 34.4 million people are "unbanked" or "underbanked" in the U.S. Orloff’s company seeks to help this target group by offering an alternative to the types of lenders that can “sink them further into the debt cycle,” as he told The Wall Street Journal.  Instead, LendUp wants to help borrowers get out of the debt cycle and become more credit-worthy over time, sending its customers educational videos and other content to help them become more financially literate. It also reports data back to credit rating agencies about borrowers who have successfully repaid their loans to LendUp within established terms.

Orloff feels that Georgetown has played an important role in his life, both professionally and personally. He met wife Jennifer (MBA’07) at Georgetown.  “She was in a class below me, and while I like to think I scooped her up, she will justifiably tell you I fell right into her plan,” said Orloff. The couple recently welcomed a new son, Liev, into the world. “I can definitely say my life is amazing, and Georgetown played a huge role in that,” he said.

This year, Fast Company named LendUp one of “The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Personal Finance,” stating that the company has recast “the $49 billion payday loan business as an opportunity to turn high-risk clients into near-prime borrowers.”