GreenSky has been operating since 2006. It was in that year that David Zalik, a child prodigy and serial entrepreneur, had an idea that would potentially allow merchants to increase their sales on big-ticket items by billions of dollars each year. Zalik knew from operating a previous e-consulting business that merchants like Home Depot, Benjamin Moore and other sellers of high-end home remodeling, furniture and other items often lost sales due to the simple fact that customers were not competent at assessing the likely price tag on jobs they wanted to do.
The solution Zalik came up with was to facilitate true instant loans at the point of sale. But unlike other forms of retail financing, like in-store financing or installment plans, the loans that Zalik envisioned would be able to be approved at the job site or on a sales call. With this idea in mind, he founded GreenSky in 2006. The model quickly proved itself.
Unlike other fintech startups, GreenSky does not keep any loans on its books. In fact, it doesn’t even really originate loans. The only thing that GreenSky does is line up customers with its partner banks. This incredibly simple model might be easy to write off as being trivial, being an already saturated market or not having a large enough total available market. But Zalik’s genius lay in seeing the huge potential that still existed for high-end loans on niche retail products for customers with excellent credit.
The majority of GreenSky’s customers have excellent FICO scores, usually above 700. This means that the risks that banks incur on these loans tends to be minimal. It also means that from the customer’s perspective, GreenSky can make highly enticing loan offers. Usually, the loan offer that the merchant makes to the customer through the GreenSky interface involved no money down, no payments for a year and zero interest for an introductory period. Zalik says that the vast majority of customers pay back their loans in full before the higher rates and payments kick in.
All told, GreenSky is currently valued at more than $4.5 billion and is murmurring about a possible IPO.