Swipe Credit Wins Panoramic’s First Startup Showdown Pitch Competition
We’re excited to announce that Atlanta-based fintech startup Swipe Credit is the winner of our first-ever Startup Showdown pitch competition designed to showcase and fund early-stage tech companies.
As the inaugural winner of the monthly series, Swipe Credit, which is an end-to-end digital-lending platform that delivers credit options for unbanked and underbanked U.S. populations, has received a $120,000 investment prize and will join the Panoramic portfolio.
To learn more about Swipe Credit and its experience in the pitch competition, we interviewed Kevin Mobolade, company co-founder and CEO:
Congratulations on winning our first Startup Showdown competition, Kevin. Can you tell us how the idea for Swipe Credit was born?
KM: My passion for creating Swipe Credit came from my own background as a first-generation American. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s, both owned brick-and-mortar businesses for over 20 years in the Atlanta area, and I saw their struggles firsthand of being invisible to financial lenders despite decades of paying their bills in full and on time. Each easily paid $2,000 per month in rent for their storefronts and yet never received corresponding boosts in their credit scores that reflected their fiscal responsibility.
My parents’ experience shed light on how the financial industry fails to serve unbanked and underbanked populations—those with “thin file” or no credit reports, who are often immigrants but who have demonstrated their reliability and ability to pay their bills. I know how hard-working the people within those communities are, how grateful they are to be here, and how much they want to make a positive impact on our economy.
I wanted to find a way to uplift these people by better democratizing access to capital, and that’s what Swipe Credit is doing.
Tell us a little more about yourself. You have a background in the lending industry, correct?
KM: I’m a data engineer and a Mercer University graduate with degrees in computer science and business. Swipe Credit’s other co-founder, Charles Lively, Ph.D., and most of our team are Mercer alumni.
I have experience in the lending industry, having worked as an engineer for companies in the “buy here, pay here” space, particularly automotive loans. Many who buy vehicles in this manner are from unbanked and underbanked populations who are without formal credit ratings. My past work experience underscored the problem that Swipe Credit aims to resolve through its data-analysis and artificial-intelligence (AI) capabilities.
When did you start Swipe Credit and why is now the right time?
KM: While we’d already begun working on the concept for Swipe Credit by early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further illuminated the need. People were struggling, especially in these overlooked populations, to keep their businesses and restaurants open because they couldn’t get loans. The pandemic really revealed how capital flows in this country and the bottlenecks to access to it for so many.
During this time, I also began “customer discovery,” talking remotely to leaders in the lending industry about their most common problems. The conversations often came to “we need more customers, or we don’t have enough volume.” It confirmed a massive opportunity for financial lenders to grow sales by tapping into these previously underserved but highly deserving populations using Swipe Credit.
Once we got the algorithms and backend infrastructure worked out, we formally launched Swipe Credit in early 2021 and we’re now being validated through several paying customers.
How will the funding from Startup Showdown help Swipe Credit grow?
KM: The funds will primarily be used to help us drive more customer acquisitions and revenue. Our goal is to get to 100 paying clients by next summer, and we view the capital as fuel in our tank that will help us get there.
What would you say to other entrepreneurs who might be considering applying for Startup Showdown?
KM: While winning was a thrill and the resulting funding is highly useful, I’d encourage others to do it for the mentorship alone. When I threw Swipe Credit’s hat into the ring, I had no expectations for winning and was excited to reach the semi finalist stage. That’s where the magic happens in terms of gaining exposure to industry leaders, getting their insights, and broadening your business network.
To me, building a business is like learning to play the piano—it’s a craft you spend a lot of time on by yourself. When you can have access to leaders with years of experience and big accomplishments, you should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.
Thanks, Kevin, and congratulations again!
To learn more about the inaugural Startup Showdown pitch competition, including the list of semifinalists, guest judges, and mentors, visit startupshowdown.vc.
Startup Showdown is hosted monthly, with six open application periods. Applications to pitch in the August and September events will be accepted beginning June 28.