Co-Founder, CEO, Prosper
As an entrepreneur, Chris Larsen (B.S., Accounting and International Business, ’84) revels in the freedom of coming up with new products and watching them grow. He co-founded and served as CEO of E-LOAN until he sold it for $300 million in 2005. Now he is taking his longtime consumer-friendly pursuit of greater financial transparency to the next level. Larsen is the co-founder and CEO of Prosper, an online marketplace where complete strangers can loan money to one another.
Larsen says it took a serious evolution in technology for Prosper to become possible. It does not merely use the Internet as an information source, but allows consumers to be the bank too. For Prosper to function, Larsen needed the ready availability of credit scores -- something he fought for while at E-LOAN -- plus the evolution of electronic payments through PayPal and the rise of online social networking.
Once again, Larsen—who says he studied accounting at SF State because "that’s the language of business" and "it’s good to hone the numbers"—may be one step ahead of the curve. As banks have retreated from lending during the past year, he says Prosper has seen a dramatic increase in credit-worthy borrowers. "The credit crunch is good for person-to-person lending," Larsen says.
He credits much of his success to good mentors who inspired him to move ahead without overburdening him with caution. The best advice he received came from an SF State professor who told him to start his own business, and "Cut the lifeboats."