A look at leading AI lending platform Upstart (plus advice on how to get hired there)

What happens when ex-Googlers come together to found a company? Well, when Dave Girouard is at the head, the team comes together to form a successful financial services company that is changing the way lending works. 

Upstart is a leading artificial intelligence lending platform that has a mission to modernize lending and make credit more accessible by basing it on true risk. Find out more about the company with Ladders’ full rundown, including how you can join the team.

Upstart rundown

Size: About 250 employees

Industry: Financial services

Locations: Upstart’s headquarters is located in San Carlos, California, but the company also has an office in Columbus, Ohio.

Founded: 2012

Founders: Dave Girouard, Anna Counselman, and Paul Gu

CEO: Dave Girouard

Mission: According to its website, the company’s “mission is to enable effortless credit based on true risk. Why? Because credit really matters. Money is a fundamental ingredient of life, and unless you’re in the few percent of Americans with significant wealth, the price of borrowing affects you everyday. Through all of history, affordable credit has been central to unlocking mobility and opportunity.”

How much do Upstart employees make?

The average salary for an Upstart employee is $119,487 per year. Ladders estimates are based on our calculations.

Upstart Jobs

Upstart is currently hiring for 39 open positions, including a Senior Financial Analyst and a Senior Software Engineer to join the team in the Bay Area. The Columbus, Ohio office is looking for a Machine Learning Engineer and a Senior Data Scientist to join the team. Find a full list of open roles on Ladders’ Upstart Jobs page.

Office Life

“Life at Upstart is really driven by Upstarters,” said Anna Counselman, cofounder and Head of People and Operations at the company. “Our employees are proactive and making Upstart what they want it to be.”

The company doesn’t have a shortage of clubs that employees are welcome to join: photography club, book club, basketball club, a community group for volunteering, an investment club, and more. Additionally, the company Superwomen group fosters women’s leadership.

The “Lunch and Learns” program allows employees to host lunches and present about a wide array of topic, from programming a drone to salsa dancing.

“We foster a collaborative environment and encourage people not to sit at a desk all day,” Counselman said. “So you will often find people doing ‘walk and talk’ style meetings in the neighborhoods and parks around our offices.”

What the Upstart Head of People and Operations says it takes to get hired

According to Counselman,  the company is looking for candidates who are aligned with the company values.

“We believe that access to credit is a fundamental social good, and we look for people who are inspired by that,” Counselman said. “Upstarters are smart but humble, collaborative, decisive, and action-oriented.”

The company looks for candidates who can take ownership of an area, show leadership, develop the strategy, and have an impact.

If you’re looking to join Upstart, you’re just in time. The company grew by 50% so far in 2019 and is still continuing to add members to its team.

“We’re scaling rapidly and looking to hire people in both the Bay Area and Columbus, Ohio, particularly in software engineering, data science, and operations,” Counselman said.

What the Upstart CEO Dave Girouard says it takes to get hired

“One of the things we share publicly, it’s on our Careers page, is our values,” Girouard said, echoing Counselman’s emphasis on values. “So if you’re interviewing here, first of all, see if those values resonate with you. If they don’t, then this may not be the best place for you.”

If the values do align with your thoughts and mission, you’ll probably be a good fit for the company, so Girouard encourages you to take the values into consideration during your application process.

“That’s probably the best thing somebody could do in terms of coming in here and having great conversations and figuring out if this is a place that makes sense for you,” Girouard said.

Upstart’s values

The company’s values are not only an important part of its hiring process but an important part of the work it does on a daily basis.

“These are values that we put together literally in the first year of the company and even though we reviewed them and thought about updating them, we found them to be as accurate today as they were in 2012,” Girouard told Ladders.

These are the five values that the company follows:

  • Every second counts
  • Do the right thing even when it’s hard
  • Make clever use of numbers
  • Be smart and know you might be wrong
  • Don’t assume it can’t be done

Complete list of Upstart funding rounds

Upstart has raised more than $160 million since its inception. The latest round, a Series D, was announced on April 8, raised $50 million, and was led by The Progressive Corporation. Additionally, Upstart became the newest offering in the Progressive portfolio of Advantage Products.

Employee perks and benefits

According to reviews on Glassdoor, employees receive catered lunch every day, unlimited vacation days, “good health insurance,” a personal tech budget, and a personal wellness budget. Additionally, for maternity and paternity leave employees receive seven weeks with full pay if they are not the primary caregiver and 12 weeks if they are the primary caregiver.

Upstart employee reviews 2019

Reviews on Glassdoor range from one-star reviews titled “try to avoid this company” to five-star reviews stating that Upstart is a “great opportunity to grow alongside great people.”

The overall positive reviews agree that the company doesn’t just think of employees as temporary players, but extremely valued members of the team. Not only does the upper-level management team make time for employees, but they make transparency a key element in their work.

“The founders, VPs and all Management create readily available, individualized time,” one reviewer wrote. “I’ve spoken at length with all three founders, the head of our office in Columbus, and direct supervisors and felt like I was genuinely, actively listened to.”

The company is growing at an exponential pace, “which creates a little bit less structure than most are used to,” one reviewer wrote.

What does Upstart do?

Using AI, Upstart is on a mission to redefine credit. According to the company’s website, the practice of using FICO-based methods to decide who is approved for credit is not only outdated but also limits lenders abilities to quantify risk. Instead, Upstart uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to achieve lower loss rates.

“Credit is generally overpriced and unfairly distributed because it relies on techniques developed before the advent of modern computing. But technology and data science, in the form of AI, have the opportunity to change all of that,” co-founder Paul Gu said in an April press release.