Insights

5 Questions with FinTech Founders - Nova Credit

November 28, 2023
by: Cohen Circle Team

Welcome to 5 Questions with FinTech Founders, where we sit down with the next generation of FinTech innovators to hear about how they got started, and where they are going. 

In this installment, we spoke with Misha Esipov, Co-Founder and CEO of Nova Credit, the leading data analytics company enabling businesses to grow by harnessing alternative credit data.

Before Nova, Misha was a private equity investor at Apollo Global Management, a $190 billion global asset manager. Misha started his career at Goldman Sachs where he was involved in over $10 billion in corporate financing, mergers and acquisitions.

Misha was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Finance from NYU and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


1. What inspired you to start Nova Credit?

When my family immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union, it was incredibly difficult to establish ourselves without U.S. credit history. We quickly realized how inaccessibility to credit products – like a car loan – could stand in the way of opportunity. While studying for my MBA at Stanford University, my co-founders and I realized that the inability to transfer credit history from country to country was actually a global issue. In response, we founded Nova Credit to close the credit inclusivity gap that prevents many segments (including immigrants) from getting credit products, like apartments or credit cards, every day. 

2. What problem were you trying to solve in the market?

When the credit reporting system was established over a century ago, financial inclusion was not top of mind. As a result, today, over 60 million Americans struggle to access the U.S. credit system. These users represent people of every background, including immigrants, young people and those who have not prioritized building credit in the way our outdated system calls for. Without the ability to signal creditworthiness, these individuals are left without access to basic financial services.  

Nova Credit is dedicated to accelerating financial inclusion for new-to-credit and underserved communities by using alternative credit data sources like bank transactions and credit risk analytic models that show the full picture of a consumer’s creditworthiness. By using this alternative credit data via our Credit Passport® product, we’ve had tremendous success in helping thin and no-file customers gain entry to other global credit systems. Now, with Nova Credit’s Cash Atlas®, all consumers and lenders are able to enjoy the benefits of alternative data. Looking ahead, Nova Credit is excited to lead the shift away from outdated and incomplete credit reporting.  

3. Describe a time when you needed to course correct.

After our Series B closed in February 2020, the Nova Credit team was eager to accelerate our Credit Passport product – which provides immigrants with an international credit file for greater access to global credit systems, including that of the United States. But a month later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down global borders, leaving the world frozen in place. The pandemic was a death sentence for our core business and nearly froze us in our tracks. Instead of stalling, our team built upon the initial success of Credit Passport by expanding the product to serve all new-to-credit, new-to-country, and other thin-file consumers via Cash Atlas – a cash flow underwriting tool that helps every individual access financial opportunity.

As the CFPB introduces regulation and directives driving the increased integration of open banking data, these growth decisions have left us in a better position to partner with institutions during this historic industry transformation. 

4. What measures do you take to create a culture of growth within your company? 

It can be difficult to keep a growth mindset during hard times, especially as a small startup. When faced with headwinds, many companies choose to double down on their existing product strategy. During the pandemic, however, we chose to grow and adapt our product lineup based on where the puck was heading, rather than where it was. This didn’t mean we stopped investing in our core product, but we needed to adapt to survive - and growth was the path to get us there. 

This growth mindset can be seen as risky - building a second product before we’ve fully stabilized the first. But with two key ingredients - a determined team and a rock-solid mission to rally around - we did it. We analyzed every decision, revisited strategies and assumptions, and dove headfirst into our customer’s pain points. We uncovered an unmet need - credit underwriting for thin- and no-file domestic consumers - and a clear connection to our core competencies - experience working with difficult, highly-regulated data sets and world-class analytics. Our resulting product was built on the foundation of the mission we’d outlined years prior - to power a fair and inclusive financial system for the world. 

Our decision to grow during hard times paid off in spades - we now have two core products that are thriving and growing. But beyond the product lineup, what’s really made a difference is our team. We’ve built a battle-tested, hungry team willing to break through walls to deliver for our clients, with a determined set of investors and advisors guiding the way.  

5. What lessons have you learned that you would share to other entrepreneurs looking to scale? 

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned the importance of good company. Much of Nova Credit’s success can be attributed to the network of supporters we have built. So, to any entrepreneur looking to scale, strengthen your connections and lead with a spirit of collaboration.  

To learn more about Nova Credit visit novacredit.com

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