These Black Founders Started A Credit Access Platform That Aims to ‘Save People From Themselves’
COO Carl Memnon, CEO Christian Joseph and CTO Patrick DeSuza.

In the US, cash isn’t king. Credit is.

Credit is considered when applying for renting opportunities, mortgages, business loans and vehicle purchases among many other things, but a large part of the country are credit challenged. Specifically, African Americans.

54% of Black Americans either have no credit established, a poor or fair credit score, which is anything under 640.

Conversely, only 37% of White Americans reported the same, and less than 20% of Asian Americans report similar credit standing.  

This is a problem that the founders of credit platform Grain were all too familiar with.

Longtime friends Christian-Robert Joseph and Carl-Alain Memnon knew how tough it could be to establish credit. Originally hailing from Haiti, they watched their families struggle to receive lines of credit and make substantial purchases. when they first came to the US.

After years of both of them working in finance and tech respectively, Joseph said he was inspired to do something about the disparity.

“About five or six years ago I was working in the Bay area where tech is very prevalent, and so is gentrification,” Joseph said. “Usually the victims of gentrification are people that look like me. And soon I recognized I was part of the problem,” said Joseph, who worked in project management for Dropbox in San Francisco at the time.

He said he wanted to figure out a way to completely democratize access to credit, but also allow people to build credit responsibly without falling to crippling debt, thus the idea for Grain was born.

After joining forces with his Memnon, their friend and eventual third co-founder Patrick De Suza got on board a short time after due to having a shared mission. He too could relate to experiencing challenges with credit literacy.

“Within the first one or two conversations {with Christian and Carl}, I was pretty much sold on the idea of joining the company, and how its founding correlated with their personal experiences with credit,” De Suza said. “Mine was a little different. I didn’t get my first credit card until after college, and I had a job, a decent paying job at the time. And I thought that since the bank was willing to give me a $10,000 credit line, I could take it, and spend it all. It took 10 years to pay if off. So, this notion of credit cards really sort of taking advantage of people and getting them into a situation where you’re spending what you think is free money, I wanted to help change that.”

Grain, a credit access platform, sets itself apart because it determines credit allocation based on consumers’ cash flow as opposed to their scores. The founders say this is critically important because credit companies can often be predatory towards those that don’t have a full understanding of how credit works. In addition to the cash-flow model, Grain also has safeguards in place to help curb spending habits that could come back bite the consumer later on.

“We’ve implemented warnings and other educational components within the platforms that flags when users are spending too much,” said Memnon. “We essentially are aiming to help save people from themselves.”