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SOLO’s new credit bureau concept helps lenders ditch third-party data

3 min read
SOLO's new credit bureau concept helps lenders ditch third-party data

Credit bureaus relying on outdated third-party data are only getting a small piece of the puzzle, Georgina Merhom says.

“The credit bureaus are super relevant, but when it’s used to identify that a person didn’t pay one bill on time, it’s a punishment. If you are only following the money, you can miss out on a lot of signals,” Merhom told TechCrunch.

Merhom wants to squash the status quo with SOLO, a first-party data collection and reporting engine, that integrates user-permissioned data sources, including financial transactions, online records and digital footprints to tell a more complete story about someone’s financial behavior. User-permissioned data sources, that consumers provide with their permission, come from a variety of places. This including bank accounts (via Plaid, Teller, TrueLayer), commerce and payment gateways (Amazon, Shopify Square, Stripe, PayPal), invoicing/billing systems (Quickbooks, and customer relationship management platforms, Merhom said.

In addition, user-permissioned data sources replace the self-reporting process, brokers trust between the institution and consumer and identifies opportunities that the bank would have otherwise overlooked, Merhom said.

Originally a data scientist in the cybersecurity industry, Merhom was developing and training algorithms on the dark web to detect illicit activity. That work taught her that a wider variety of data, as well as the context the data appears, can paint a much fuller picture. Merhom used that intelligence to start Zivmi, a cross-border payments app in Egypt that she ended up selling to the National Bank of Egypt.

She got the idea for SOLO while at Zivmi and working with freelancers without bank accounts. Using other platforms like GitHub and Upwork, Zivmi was able to verify a person’s experience level, client ratings and overall work history.

As the business of working with the unbanked grew, Zivmi started underwriting its customers and developed the technology to do that. Merhom said that’s when she recognized the need to create a new kind of credit bureau.

Building a better credit bureau or finding new ways to verify data from people without a lot of credit is not a new concept. Altro is doing it through recurring payments, Kredivo created a neobank to help build credit, helps businesses create financial products and report consumer credit behavior and Masa Finance is building a decentralized credit bureau.


Merhom and full stack developer Luis Troni were building SOLO for two years and recently debuted it to a group of hundreds of financial institutions. Now they’re out to secure 100 bank pilots in the U.S. this year and will eventually go after some venture capital. Merhom said there are already some agreements in the works, but couldn’t divulge further.

Their goal is to measure metrics, including decreasing application processing time from up to two months to minutes, reduce costs by up to 70% and increase value per customer.

“It costs banks $29 billion a year to process applications, and that’s not even including the money they pay credit bureaus,” Merhom said. “If we can show we have reduced costs, banks no longer need to have a loan officer cross-referencing the bank statement to accounting and trying to recalculate. And if our customers can identify opportunities in their portfolio and sell more to them, then we’ve succeeded at what we’re doing.”

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