The Infant Startup that Swooped an Erstwhile Industry Leader

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It’s not very often that an infant upstart comes by and swoops up an erstwhile industry leader.

While new to the scene, Versara Lending is a New York City-based debt consolidation lender that has already acquired Peerform, one of the early P2P lending marketplaces run by Wall Street credit broker Mikael Rapaport. The company confirmed that it is not an acqui-hire and that Peerform’s entire operation will be merged and be operated by Versara. Rapaport also changed his LinkedIn profile to reflect another new position – SVP of lending markets at Strategic Financial Solutions, a NYC-based financial consultancy firm, which appears to be related to Versara. 

Versara only lends in seven states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Utah.  In contrast, Peerform was founded six years ago, as Lendfolio by Rapaport and other Wall Street execs, Meytal Benichou and Elie Galam. The company raised $5.3 million in funding since inception and its proprietary Loan Analyzer tool matched borrowers with lenders on its platform who funded personal loans up to $25,000.

“We are committed to continue the growth we’ve experienced since we started the company in 2010,” said Rapaport, Founder and CEO of Peerform, in a statement. “In order to realize our potential, it was important for us to build a strong strategic partnership. By joining Versara, we will be able to combine our resources to scale quickly to compete effectively in the consumer lending industry.”

Once a posterboy for P2P lending, Peerform now is emblematic of the churn in the industry. At its launch, Peerform was ready to compete with Lending Club and Prosper head on, backed by institutional investors, thanks to the founders’ investment banking pedigree. The company’s platform started by offering personal loans to borrowers with a FICO score of above 660 for a three-year term. But after failing to gain critical mass, it reinvented its underwriting algorithm with its loan analyzer tool to lend to riskier borrowers (FICO scores <600).

At this early stage it is difficult to tell whether Peerform will become a strong alternative to Lending Club and Prosper. But their timing is far better now,” Peter Renton wrote in a blogpost on LendAcademy in 2014.

Two years hence, Lending Club has taken several lumps, Prosper’s prospects are in question and in a David and Goliath-esque scenario, once touted to be an industry leader, Peerform hands off its reins to a startup.

Last modified: December 18, 2016

Category: Analysis, Marketplace Lending

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