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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Bringing Character Lending into the 21st Century with Vouch Founder & CEO Yee Lee

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Bringing Character Lending into the 21st Century with Vouch Founder & CEO Yee Lee

Jo Ann Barefoot

Episode 7: Vouch Founder & CEO Yee Lee

Everywhere I go in the fintech world these days, people are mentioning Vouch.  It's new, it's still small, but it has a potentially huge idea, and a team that can make it happen.

Vouch is a Bay-area startup that calls itself "the first social network for credit".  Its concept is simple: a borrower asks  his or her social network friends to vouch for repayment of the loan. The friend can choose an amount to vouch for. If the borrower defaults, the friend pays the promised amount. The vouching network - or "trust network" -- can become mutually beneficial, bringing lower rates (5% to 30%) or larger loan amounts ($500 to $15,000, with one- to three-year terms.)

As I say in introducing the episode, this idea may look like something just for millennials, but I think it is tapping into something with massive potential - new ways to evaluate people's creditworthiness by understanding them in their social context - understanding how they are viewed by the people who know them best. Vouch says they want to "return lending to its roots," where your reputation carried weight, but to do it using new tools and reach.

Yee Lee is a software engineer and serial entrepreneur and investor. In our conversation  he says he grew up in the Bay Area and it was just "in the water" there to do an internet startup during the dot-com bubble - he quit his PhD program at Stanford to go after his first idea. Since then he's been involved with everything from PayPal to TaskRabbit, and in 2013, founded Vouch.

That same year, he wrote a thoughtful Wall Street Journal blog piece for Fathers In Tech. He lives in the Bay area with his wife and two young sons, and I will personally "vouch" for his dad credentials, as I recently invited him to an event that he declined because of his younger son's birthday. I know you'll enjoy hearing our discussion.

And here's is a bit more on some of the other entities mentioned in this episode:


Enjoy my conversation with Yee.