Esusu: This Company Is Becoming A One-Stop Shop For Renter Financial Health

By Amit Chowdhry ● Sep 12, 2023

Esusu is a company that reports rental data to the credit bureaus to help renters build credit and to help owners maximize property performance. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Esusu co-founder Samir Goel to learn more.

Samir Goel’s Background

Samir Goel

Goel grew up in an immigrant family from New Delhi, India, and then ultimately settled in Schenectady, New York. Goel said:

“When we moved to the United States in pursuit of a better life, we thought we had made it. Unfortunately, that was far from the truth, and we were met with a rude awakening when my father was mugged on his first day in the country. Things did not get easier after that, and throughout my childhood, I saw firsthand the barriers to credit and the financial systems that my family faced. Years later, those experiences, along with those of my Co-Founder Wemimo Abbey, inspired us to form Esusu under the premise that no matter where you come from, the color of your skin, or your financial identity, it should never determine where you end up in life.”

Formation Of Esusu

How did the idea for Esusu come together? Goel shared:

“Wemimo and I met over a decade ago at a conference for promising social entrepreneurs. At the time, we were building our own social enterprises but immediately bonded over our shared ethos and personal experiences. We kept in touch, and eventually, we both took on jobs in corporate America. In late 2015 we reconnected and commiserated over the fact that whilst we were learning a lot in our jobs and making real money for the first time, it was not fulfilling our desires to have an impact in the communities we come from. At that time, we decided to build a company that would allow us to use our head for business and our heart for the world to have a greater impact in society. Shortly after, we began working on Esusu whilst juggling our existing jobs, and when we had sufficient traction, we left our jobs to focus on Esusu full-time in 2018. We originally launched the company as a savings product based on our families’ shared usage of rotational savings clubs to make ends meet. Over time we iterated based on consumer and market feedback to enable renters to build credit by paying rent on time.”

Favorite Memory

What has been your favorite memory working for Esusu? Goel reflected:

“We’ve had a number of lifelong memories building Esusu. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the journey were the early days of building our first version of the product, hiring our first employees, and closing our first customers. Those are the highest of highs as you begin to transform your idea from a dream to reality. One memory that sticks out, in particular, was raising our seed round. Wemimo and I had been working on Esusu for over 18 months and had over 327 investors say no to investing in us over this time. We couch-surfed, took on over $100,000 in personal debt, and were even kicked out of a Denny’s together. When we finally closed our seed round led by Acumen America, it was one of the most rewarding moments in company history. It was both exhilarating and surreal to process that we had secured the capital to take our company to the next level.”

Challenges Faced

What are some of the challenges you face in building the company, and has the current macroeconomic climate affected the company? Goel acknowledged:

“As founders of color, we faced significant challenges when we initially set out to raise capital, including being turned down by over 327 investors. We did not fit the mental models of typical venture capital firms, and many did not understand the demographic or the markets that we served. In my opinion, that is a reflection of the power of diversity and proximity. Even with the best intentions, it is hard to understand the lived experience of the millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck or who are marginalized by the financial system without first-hand experience. As such, many of the investors who bet on Esusu early on were minority and women-led firms who had greater proximity to the issues we were solving and saw the potential in us as founders.”

“The company has continued to grow despite the macroeconomic climate. This is particularly noteworthy given the acute impact of factors like interest rates, inflation, and regional banking collapses on the Commercial Real Estate sector. As such, we are laser-focused on helping our customers navigate the challenges they are facing and remaining steadfast in our fiscal discipline as a firm. We will continue to monitor the economic environment closely and adapt our business strategies accordingly.”

Core Products

What are Esusu’s core products and features? Goel explained:

“Esusu is the one-stop shop for renter financial health. Esusu’s flagship rent reporting platform captures rental payment data and reports it to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to boost credit scores. The Esusu platform also allows renters access to rent relief funds and financial education and provides property owners with ESG metrics. Ultimately our platform creates a win-win-win outcome for landlords, renters, and society at large.”

Evolution Of Esusu’s Technology

How has Esusu’s technology evolved since launching? Goel pointed out:

“Esusu’s technology has evolved dramatically since its inception. The company began as a direct-to-consumer rotational savings application to help people save more. We swiftly realized that we needed to incorporate a one-to-many business model and find ways to shift the cost burden away from the people we were trying to help. We also received signals that we were solving the wrong problem and needed to focus on the prerequisite issue of financial identity (credit) prior to savings and wealth creation. This led to a major shift in our technology, and we built an entirely new platform to capture, transform, and report rental data to the credit bureaus. Subsequently, we incorporated additional services, including financial literacy, the renter’s marketplace, rent relief access, and a suite of enterprise tools for our customers. We have continued to invest in our platform’s scalability and are actively developing additional products for our customers.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of Esusu’s most significant milestones? Goel cited:

“Esusu’s most significant milestones include:

— Reaching over 1 million Renters.

— Establishing over 50,000 credit scores for the first time.

— Landmark collaborations with the government-sponsored entities: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

— Raising $145 million in venture capital, valuing the company at $1 billion.

— Growing the company to 200 team members globally.”

Customer Success Stories

Upon asking Goel about customer success stories, he commented:

“One of our most impactful stories is when Esusu was able to help one of our residents, Scott Faulk, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. When Scott lost his job and was unable to pay his rent, Esusu enabled him to access zero-interest rent relief funds that allowed Scott to pay his overdue rent and cover additional months of rent while he got back on his feet. With that help, Scott was able to get a full-time job, get back on track, and even pay back his rent relief. Stories like Scott’s are the why behind the work that we do and inspire us to push forward even on the toughest of days.”

Funding Milestone

In terms of recent funding, milestone, Goel revealed:

“We raised a $130 million Series B in January 2022, which propelled Esusu to become one of the first Black-owned tech unicorns in the United States.”

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates Esusu from its competition? Goel affirmed:

“Esusu is the leading rent reporting platform in the country. No other platforms have our robust and seamless integration process, including integrations with leading property management software, resident communications, and end-to-end execution of our products. Furthermore, Esusu has focused on a platform approach to provide the one-stop-shop for renter financial health, which remains unmatched in the market. Our rent reporting is complemented by ESG reporting, financial literacy, local social services, and rent relief access. Finally, many rent reporting platforms have taken a direct-to-consumer approach, signing up renters one at a time, whereby we have intentionally taken the approach of contracting with landlords and ensuring the cost burden is on the owner rather than the renter.”

Future Company Goals

What are some of Esusu’s future company goals? Goel concluded:

“Some of our near-future goals include expanding our reach to cover 10 million units across the country, as well as providing more consumer-facing services to support residents on their journey from establishing a financial identity to ultimately building wealth.”

“More broadly, everything we do is in service of our mission to dismantle barriers to housing for working families and our vision to unleash the power of data to bridge the racial wealth gap. We plan to continue listening to our stakeholders, understand their needs, and deliver solutions to meet those needs.”