Prosper

Peer To Peer Lending Marketplace Prosper Raises $70M

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Prosper.com, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace in the U.S., has raised $70 million led by Francisco Partners, a private equity firm with Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) and Phenomen Ventures participating. This brings the companies funding to $145 million. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Crosslink Capital, Accel Partners, CompuCredit, Omidyar Network, Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures and Volition Capital.

Prosper has riden the roller coaster of the peer-to-peer lending, an area which is now leading the disruption in the financial services. Prosper pioneered the concept of people-to-people lending in the U.S with its launch in 2006. The startup hit a rough patch in 2008 when the SEC stopped all lending on the platform because the company didn’t register as a seller of securities.

Peer-to-peer lending was a newly launched model back then and with the then-new climate of heightened regulatory oversight in light of the financial meltdown, the SEC was being more judicious in its oversight of financial institutions. The startup was able to re-launch its site in 2009 after the SEC gave Prosper the OK to facilitate peer-to-peer lending.

The past five years have been spent doubling down on the products, bringing in new lenders and borrowers and establishing leadership at the company. Last year, Prosper brought in father-son team, and seasoned financial executives Stephan and Aaron Vermut. The Vermuts joined Prosper from Wells Fargo, where they led the bank’s first foray into prime brokerage services. At Merlin Securities, Mr. Vermut and his son created a prime brokerage service based on technology that allowed for a customized approach to managing investment portfolios. Merlin Securities, which was also backed by Sequoia and had around $2 billion in assets, was acquired by Wells Fargo in early 2012. Mr. Vermut also spent 14 years at investment bank Bear Stearns.

Under the Vermuts’ leadership, Prosper has begun to see impressive growth.

CEO Aaron Vermut says that Prosper has grown monthly platform originations from $9 million in January 2013 to over $100 million in April. Last month Prosper crossed $1 billion in total loans originated on the platform, and Prosper plans to hit $2 billion in cumulative loans this year. And financially, Prosper Marketplace “is in a very solid place,” he says.

In particular, Prosper has spent the past year focusing on improving the efficiencies os its lending product, and attracting new borrowers and lenders. The company says loan originations grew over 400% since last year and are up 30% from last month. At the end of April, Prosper had 35% share of the online consumer peer-to-peer lending market place.

In terms of competition, Prosper goes head to head with the leader in the space Lending Club. Lending Club, which just raised its own large round of funding, also recently expanded to business loans. But Vermut says there are no plans to expand into business loans, and the company will continue to focus squarely on the consumer credit market.

Lending Club has also been open about its goal of an IPO, but Prosper says that it has no plans for a public offering so far. “We are focused on building the business and building a company for the long-term. We think we’ve made great progress so far, and we’re very optimistic about our future growth,” said Vermut.