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Each week, we highlight a tech company that's working on one of the five existential challenges. This week, we focused on the wealth inequality and Mission Lane. (As always, they didn't pay us for coverage.)

America is a nation living paycheck-to-paycheck. We rely on a credit card for all of the in-between things. It's what we use to float ourselves through that last-minute brunch, this year's iPhone, a car repair, a laptop repair, a doctor's visit. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to everyone.

85M

Americans have NO
access to credit

30%

of credit users are
subprime

$12B

annually in credit
penalty fees

"Subprime" is the credit industry's degrading term for "below average" credit. The cost of being subprime is real: if your credit score is 500, you're paying up to 6x the interest rate of someone with a 750. Any lower and you're forgotten altogether; you live a precarious paycheck-to-paycheck life. If the price of gas goes up, your paycheck runs short. You can't afford your electric bill. You hope they'll let it slide a day or two, but come home to a dark house with food quickly going bad. Without the benefit of the credit safety net the rest of us take for granted, it's hard to get ahead.

Mengxi Lu, a software engineering manager in San Francisco, certainly took it for granted when building out a billing system for the first time. To process credit cards, he used a then-new API called Stripe, which kicked off a fascination with fintech that outlasted that first startup. When shut down came, he dove into researching how people build wealth.

I started with naive questions like "why don't more people just invest in the stock market" and "why don't they just become software engineers"? I worked in tech — I had a comfortable job. So it came as a big shock to learn that so many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.

— Mengxi Lu, Senior Engineering Manager, Mission Lane

So he started to "peel the onion" down to the core: that most people don't have access to the cash they need. So Mengxi joined a startup focused on solving this exact problem. He started on their newest product, the LendUp Card, which was meant to be transparent, affordable, and help build credit over time. They started with no hidden fees, no surprise charges, and built in-app tools to show how your spending will affect your credit. It worked — so well, in fact, that it was spun out into its own company in January 2019: Mission Lane! And they're hiring.
 


Here are a few of Mission Lane's open roles as of Sep 23, 2019:

Software Engineer — Back-end

Engineering | San Francisco
 

Senior Product Manager

Product | San Francisco
 

VP of Engineering

Engineering | San Francisco
 
(and some more!)
Mengxi now leads engineering for Mission Lane's underwriting team — where he helps to ensure that applicants are evaluated as whole people, "more than just their credit score." It's one of the many ways in which Mission Lane has structurally aligned itself with the financial health of its customers. They want to be with their customers through their credit journey, because access to credit is only a first step.

40%

can't cover a
$400 expense

90%

of adults have no family financial support

10%

of households control
70% of the wealth

Mission Lane sees credit as a gateway to overcoming these challenges and building wealth long-term — often being used to build home equity or start a small business. It has the capacity to be a strong foundation for millions of our most overlooked neighbors.

If you want to help fight wealth inequality, apply for a job or refer a friend!

If you're not already subscribed, click here. If you're already a subscriber, please consider forwarding to spread the word!

Project Mobilize is written and curated by Patrick Perini and Alec Davis, with special thanks to Renée Holden, Aric Huang and Brad Thibeau.

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San Francisco, CA 94117






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