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Prosper reels in $70 million for peer-to-peer consumer loans

Aaron Vermut

Above: Aaron Vermut

Image Credit: Courtesy Aaron Vermut

Prosper, a San Francisco-based peer-to-peer money lending outfit, scored $70 million in venture funding today.

Prosper raised $45 million in funding last year. Prosper launched in 2005 and currently has 110 employees and 2.1 million clients. Prosper claims that it has funded more than $1 billion in loans. That includes over $100 million in loans in April alone, up from the $9 million it did in February of last year, according to chief executive Aaron Vermut.

In other words, business is booming.

“We go out and find lenders and borrowers and offer lines of credit, whether individuals or regular mom and pop consumers who want to use the money for anything,” Vermut said.

“We are,” Vermut said, “like an AirBnB for money.”

News for Prosper Marketplace wasn’t always this grand. The lending outfit had problems when it originally launched and has gone through several different business directions. Looking at the numbers, it seems to have settled on a winning combination, with Vermut at the helm, new management, and a new executive board in place. Indeed, Vermut’s own father, Steve, is now the company’s executive chairman.

Prosper works like this: Prospective loan seekers join the site after inputting relevant data about their financial backgrounds and their credit ratings. Once cleared, borrowers cruise the names of would-be borrowers and decide on who to give loans to. The typical loans transacted through the site range from $2,500 to $35,000.

Kabbage, a lending company with a similar model but for small-business loans, also announced funding today, to the tune of $50 million. P2P lending is getting a lot of venture capitalists’ attention, it seems — not to mention that of the New York Times.

Francisco Partners led Prosper’s latest round, followed by Institutional Venture Partners and Phenomen Ventures. Vermut noted that out of the $70 million raised in this latest round, $50 million will be used to grow the business and the rest to buy back company stock.

Vermut says that Prosper offers a viable alternative to credit cards and traditional bank loans by reducing the politics of loaning and making it easier for average Americans with good credit ratings access to capital.

“People come to the website with their relevant information. We use their credit score to pull up hundreds of pieces of information. We have a scoreboard that takes income and ability to pay back,” the loan, Vermut said.

Prosper has its work cut out for it, though. Large credit companies like Discover Loans already occupy the space, but Vermut says Discover relies on a model more akin to traditional banks than a cutting-edge online facilitator. Vermut said Lendingclub is the real direct competitor with a similar business model.

Vermut, it could be argued, is one of Prosper’s saviors. The company was floundering when he took it over last year. Vermut and his investment team promptly pumped in $20 million to keep it afloat and away from the graveyard. Since that time, Prosper is, well prospering.

“We’re getting people to lend to each other,” Vermut said.

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