Upwardli raises $2 million Seed to help new immigrants and the underserved population get access to credit
A study conducted by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that nearly 50 million Americans lack a credit score and have no history with national credit reporting agencies. This problem disproportionately impacts those newly arrived in the country and the emerging Gen Z. Without established credit, these consumers are often unable to access basic financial services, from credit cards to car loans. That’s the problem one fintech startup is aiming to solve.
Enter Upwardl, a fintech startup on a mission to help these underserved groups get access to credit. Knowing that building credit can be an uphill battle for the underserved population, Upwardli has created an inclusive credit builder product to accelerate millions of credit invisible consumers into the financial mainstream.
To further meet the increasing demand for its services, Upwardli announced it has secured a $2 million Series Seed funding round led by Dundee Venture Capital, with participation from Techstars, J4 Ventures, Cascade Seed Fund, Avesta Fund, Temerity Capital Partners, Service Provider Capital, and notable angel investors.
Upwardli will use the fresh cash infusion to hire additional staff, add features to boost credit scores faster and expand its partnerships with financial institutions to embed its credit builder solutions into their own product experiences.
In conjunction with the funding, Upwardli also announced that Catherine Williams of Dundee Venture Capital and Danielle Hill, the company’s co-founder and COO, have joined its Board of Directors, a rare example of a majority-female Board in the financial services industry, highlighting the company’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive company culture.
Founded in 2021 by Aaron Gregory and Danielle Hill, the Milwaukee and Seattle-based startup aims to make credit fair and accessible to the 50 million Americans, particularly new immigrants and Gen Z, who are shut out of the U.S. credit system. The company is backed by high-profile investors, including Dundee Venture Capital, Techstars, J4 Ventures, Cascade Seed Fund, Temerity Capital Partners, and Avesta Fund.
Before founding Upwardli, the two co-founders saw this problem firsthand as early employees at Remitly, a cross-border remittance provider Remitly we covered back in 2021 that also provides an international money transfer company primarily to an immigrant customer base.
“The lack of established credit created barriers to accessing needed financial services,” said Aaron Gregory, Upwardli’s co-founder and CEO. “For credit-based products, it’s a total mess. Our credit system creates a chicken-and-egg problem that exacerbates these barriers and penalizes those just starting their financial life.”
According to the founders, consumers frequently experience a cycle of painful credit rejections that leaves them without a clear path to reach their financial goals. Upwardli aims to change this. “We’re an onramp into the credit mainstream for millions of consumers that are traditionally overlooked and undervalued,” said Gregory.
The company’s next-generation credit-building solution enables customers without a social security number or a U.S. credit file to quickly establish and build their U.S. credit score, progressively unlocking access to a range of financial products. Offered in partnership with Cross River Bank and incorporating a suite of banking services, Upwardli’s Credit Builder Plus product launched in November 2022 and is now available at www.upwardli.com.
The company partners with financial institutions to offer its credit-building solutions as an alternative to a harsh credit rejection when an applicant fails to qualify due to a lack of credit history. Upwardli helps consumers build their credit into an acceptable range and then passes the customer back to the lending institution, ready for approval.
“Upwardli is an excellent example of an innovative fintech company leveraging data and technology to deliver much-needed financial services for underserved populations,” said Catherine Williams, Principal at Dundee Venture Capital. “Their inclusive credit builder product is already unlocking access to credit for creditworthy individuals across the country. Paired with their unique data and product capabilities, Upwardli is poised to deliver innovative credit products to customer segments where existing solutions are unavailable or prohibitively expensive.”