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Online Lender Upstart Taps Uber Marketing Executive Mike Osborn for CMO Job

Mike Osborn started the job this past week.


Uber’s growth marketing chief Mike Osborn is the new CMO of Upstart, the consumer lending startup founded and led by ex-Google enterprise chief Dave Girouard. Osborn confirmed the news in a phone interview with Re/code.

While at Uber, Osborn oversaw all the paid digital and offline marketing for the ride-hailing service. Before Uber, he was the SVP of marketing at the home-rental company HomeAway, both before and after its 2011 IPO. Previously he worked for eBay and Metaweb, a startup that was acquired by Google.

Upstart’s lending strategy is built around finding twenty- and thirtysomething borrowers with debt, usually from credit cards, and refinancing their debt. The long-term bet is that if you help service the debt of younger customers who have lots of earning potential or are creditworthy, those people can become loyal clients over the long run. The company says its competitive advantage is in the algorithm it uses to identify such creditworthy individuals, and it has previously claimed its borrower default rates are half of its most well-known competitor, Lending Club.

Though Lending Club’s stock is underwater from its $15 IPO price last December, a lot of lending startups have raised huge amounts of capital in the past couple years. In 2014, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin launched a competing consumer lending startup, Affirm, raising $275 million to get it off the ground. In April, online lender Prosper raised $165 million, and five months later, Avant and SoFi raised $325 million and $1 billion, respectively. This past week, another lender, Earnest, raised $275 million in debt and equity financing. Upstart last raised $35 million in Series C funding in July.

Osborn’s job is to help separate Upstart from the rest of the pack. Using blunt, Uber-esque language, he said, “There’s a lot of competitors out there, and to me they don’t look like they have a sustainable business.”

Given that Osborn oversaw the IPO of HomeAway four years ago, is it possible that Upstart is going public sometime soon?

“It’s not happening tomorrow,” he said. “In a couple years, we’re going have the size and profitability to do a responsible IPO.”

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