The startup roundup series spotlights students and recent alumni who are starting a new business or enterprise.
Kristy Kim, Co-founder of TomoCredit, participates in Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars Program in New York. Photo courtesy: Kristy Kim.
Co-founders: Kristy Kim, MBA 20 and Dmitry Kashlev, (of MIT/Media Lab)
All Kristy Kim, MBA 20, wanted to do after she finished her undergraduate program at Berkeley was buy a car to travel for her new job as a mergers and acquisitions analyst.
But every time she applied for an auto loan, she was denied for the same reason: she had no credit history in the U.S., a common problem for international students and 20-somethings.
She decided to solve it with her new company TomoCredit. Unlike traditional credit card companies that issue credit based on history and FICO scores, which are used to assess credit risk, TomoCredit uses cash flow data to determine an applicant’s creditworthiness. Using a data aggregator called Plaid, Kim and her team can evaluate six-month’s worth of banking data to determine if a person qualifies for the credit card and sets a credit limit.
“I want TomoCredit to be the go-to credit card for millennials,” Kim said. “We are taking a really bold step by saying no to the industry and the FICO score system and instead relying on cash data to make credit decisions. We think it’s the right way for the new generation.”
In partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust and Mastercard, TomoCredit launched on October 15. Customers can apply for the card by signing up on the website.
TomoCredit, short for Tomorrow’s credit, offers consumer benefits, including up to 20 percent cash back and discounts with select retail stores, Kim said. The company makes a profit through interchange fees, which merchants pay every time a customer uses a credit card.
TomoCredit was one of nine startups included in this year’s Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars Program. The 13-week program provides access to mentors and investors from the most influential FinTech and startup companies in the U.S.
“Barclays Accelerator is the top FinTech accelerator in the world, offering resources that we simply don’t have in the Bay Area,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. “Since their inception, I’ve worked with them to propose several UC Berkeley teams, but none were the perfect fit until now. Kim is solving a huge problem in a unique way—that’s an irresistible combination that can best leverage the network and resources in a global financial hub like New York.”
Kim credits Lecturers Kurt Beyer and Gregory La Blanc for helping her to develop and refine TomoCredit’s business model.
“His Entrepreneurship and Innovation course was the best class I took in my undergraduate career because he invited entrepreneurs to campus and that was really cool,” she said. “It was the first time I thought about starting my own startup.”
Years later, Kim co-lectured Blockchain and Cryptoeconomics with La Blanc and surveyed roughly 200 students about their experiences with accessing credit. Those surveys would serve as market research for her fledgling company.
Kim has secured seed funding from high profile FinTech investors in New York and Silicon Valley and has collaborated with micro-influencers through SuiteSocial, (see below) an online marketplace for influencers founded by Haas alumni, to get the word out about her credit card.
“We hope more people will think of us and use TomoCredit as their primary card.” Kim said. “Once you find a credit card that knows how to underwrite you, you’ll never want to go back.”
Co-founders: Jennifer DeAngelis, MBA 19 and Lea Yanhui Li, EMBA 19
Jennifer DeAngelis presenting at TechCrunch Disrupt. Photo credit: David C. Hill.
When Jennifer DeAngelis worked in digital media, she kept hearing from clients concerned about trust issues: brand owners felt that influencers didn’t do enough for the amount of pay they received. Influencers said brands expected too much for the pay they were willing to give.
“On top of that, there was the issue of fraud: influencers buying followers to attract brands,” she said.
DeAngelis thought she could offer something better. She connected with Lea Yanhui Li, EMBA 19, a former Oracle software and technology engineer, and together they created SuiteSocial—an online marketplace that influencers and brands can use to collaborate. Using artificial intelligence, SuiteSocial helps brands find relevant influencers for their online campaigns and empowers influencers to promote their talents and assess a fair payment for their posts.
DeAngelis knows how to think and act as both a social media influencer and brand strategist. When she was 21, she vlogged about her Peace Corps experience in Albania on YouTube. After her video received more than 100,000 views, she realized that she had a knack for creating engaging content. She previously worked creating digital campaigns for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, The Four Seasons, and Bass Pro Shops. Today, she is considered a “micro-influencer,” someone who has 10,000-30,000 followers on her social media platforms.
At Haas, she took Entrepreneurship 295 and Network Effects with Lecturers Kurt Beyer and Prashant Fuloria, which gave her the confidence and business acumen to develop SuiteSocial.
Along the way, she sought advice from mentors, including Michael Wilson, eBay’s employee #5, and Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. It was Shrader who encouraged DeAngelis to participate in the LAUNCH Accelerator Program, where she won $10,000 in seed funding. Thereafter, DeAngelis won $5,000 from the Trione Student Venture. Soon, she plans to begin fundraising for more capital.
Co-founders Lea Yanhui Li and Jennifer DeAngelis at Techstars LaunchPad Propel Day.
Since launching SuiteSocial, DeAngelis and Yanhui Li have acquired five clients, including credit card company TomoCredit, on-demand car rental startup Kyte, and New York-based barbecue restaurant, Smok-Haus. (TomoCredit and Kyte were founded by current and former Haas students.)
TomoCredit’s CEO Kristy Kim said SuiteSocial has been a great platform to promote her credit card. “Thanks to SuiteSocial, TomoCredit was able to find the right Instagram influencers to work with.”
Ultimately, DeAngelis’ wants SuiteSocial to be a one-stop shop for content creators and brands. “We want to be so much more than just matching brands and influencers,” she said. “We want to be the platform destination where brands and influencers can go and fulfill all their business needs, replacing traditional agencies.”