5 questions with upturns rod ebrahimi

5 Questions with Upturn’s Rod Ebrahimi

Date: June 22, 2020

Rod Ebrahimi is the CEO of Upturn, an online tool that helps Americans understand and take actions to improve their credit. Rod was recruited straight out of high school to Silicon Valley during the first dot-com boom where he helped build out and manage internet infrastructure for early e-commerce websites. Most recently, Rod was Co-founder and CEO of the YCombinator-backedonline personal debt management company ReadyForZero. From 2011 to 2015, ReadyForZero’s award-winning personal finance tools helped Americans pay down over $350 million in personal debt. In 2015, ReadyForZero was acquired by the online lending platform Avant. At Avant, Rod was Head of Corporate Development and helped establish Avant’s west coast tech office. Rod holds a B.S., with distinction, in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction.

1. With health and finances top of mind during this time of uncertainty and the COVID19 pandemic, how will consumer credit in the US be impacted?

As of March 27, it’s hard to know exactly how consumer credit will be impacted, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to be significant. The Federal government will be sending money directly to people, but my guess is that the majority of athat money for those hardest hit by the crisis will be going to the essentials like food, rent and medicine, and not to their creditors. So, I think it’s safe to assume that we may see a wave of credit defaults across all loan categories, and likely an increase in personal bankruptcies. At the same time, access to fair credit will be critical. We don’t know how individual creditors and the credit reporting bureaus will handle all this but there are some promising signs that the necessary credit will be available to individuals and businesses who need it. So far, we know that Federal tax filing extensions have been instituted and that will help free up personal cash flow and we’ve also heard that some bank and non-bank lenders are being flexible in terms of forbearance, payment terms, fees and reporting of data to the credit bureaus. My hope and guess is that there will be significant coordination, likely based on guidelines set by Federal regulators. In the meantime, it’s important that consumers regularly check their credit reports (not just their credit scores) throughout this time to make sure the reports are accurate and reflect any new commitments from lenders or others like debt collection agencies.

2. What’s changed since we did our last interview together in 2013?

Well, in late 2018 I helped launch and serve as CEO of a new company called Upturn. It’s also a financial technology company (like my last business) but this time I created it in partnership with a global bank – BBVA. We focus on easy-to-use online tools for maintaining excellent credit. We don’t just display your credit score (though you can get a free VantageScore 3 on Upturn). Since your credit report is what ultimately determines your score – it’s the input – we want to educate consumers on what’s in there and what it all means. Then we help you identify and resolve potential errors quickly on your own. The service is free.

3. How does Upturn help consumers achieve their financial goals?

Well, most importantly we make it possible for people to fix credit report errors for free. That’s hugely significant for consumers and disruptive from a business perspective. There are a lot of people out there spending hundreds of dollars a month to pay companies to fix errors on their credit reports. That’s money that could be spent on groceries or paying down debt. We’re making it possible for people to fix errors for free, on their own. And it works. Beyond that we’re delivering people personalized financial offers from vetted partners. But I think the most important thing we’re doing in the grand scheme of things is helping people to create a habit of good credit hygiene, through our digital dispute platform.

4. How has your team adjusted to remote work during this time and how has it impacted your ability to motivate the team?

Well, thankfully we’re adjusting well. Our team members are distributed across the country and our service is 100% digital, so working from home is very much feasible and even preferred for us. That allows us to focus on helping everyone else, many of whom don’t have the luxury of being able to work from home. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all those people – on a personal level – and I’m very much committed to doing whatever I can – both individually and as the leader of Upturn – to help protect their financial health.

5. What do you think will happen to the economy as a whole?

The exact future of the economy is uncertain. There’s no reason to mince words about it. But I fundamentally believe that we will recover from this and be stronger than ever. It may take time and there will almost certainly be mistakes. But this country is full of creative, industrious and – despite all the very understandable fear and anxiety – overwhelmingly positive and hopeful people. Things will change, but through that we will grow both as individuals and as a nation. Right now the priority for everyone is the safety and health of themselves and their families, so it’s OK to compartmentalize a bit. Focus on what’s important in the near term, and in time the economic picture will become clearer. I can tell you that Upturn is very much committed to helping find the answers – both to the big economic questions as well all the day-to-day questions about financial health people have. I couldn’t be prouder of our team – or our country.