Roughly a year after Renaud Laplanche resigned as CEO of Lending Club (NYSE: LC), the consumer lending company he founded in 2006, he’s announced the launch of a rival startup called Upgrade.
The new company, which offers a consumer lending platform and tools to help users monitor and improve their credit, has raised $60 million in equity and debt funding at a reported valuation of $168 million. Laplanche started Upgrade with Soul Htite, a co-founder of Lending Club.
Laplanche’s new company bears many similarities to Lending Club, an online marketplace that facilitates unsecured loans of all sizes for personal and business expenses. The San Francisco-based Lending Club was a hot ticket with investors for several years, amassing hundreds of millions in venture funding from backers including Norwest Venture Partners and Canaan Partners, and raising $1 billion in its 2014 IPO. But share prices quickly began declining after the public offering, with the company’s stock seeing an almost 50% dip just six months after its IPO.
Shares plummeted further in May 2016 when Laplanche (left) stepped down from his CEO position after investigations revealed the company altered dates on millions worth of Lending Club loans and that he had failed to disclose several conflicts of interests. Lending Club shares are trading slightly higher today than they were in May 2016, immediately after news broke of the alleged fraud.
The global online lending industry in general has cooled over the last few years. Investment in the space peaked at more than $5 billion in 2015 before dropping in half to $2.2 billion in 2016, according to PitchBook data.
It seems Upgrade is trying to, well, upgrade the online lending sector with its new offerings. Lending Club was founded as a peer-to-peer marketplace, but now it relies mostly on funds from more traditional institutions to power the loans made through its platform. Upgrade's credit platform uses a different approach: All loans originated through the company are issued by WebBank before Upgrade acquires them, retains a portion of the loans on its balance sheets and offers whole loans for sale to institutional investors.
Upgrade launched its consumer lending feature on Thursday, with plans to launch its credit monitoring products in the next few weeks.
Check out our fintech analyst report on the online lending industry right here