Wemimo Abbey (MPA 2015) is driving economic justice by creating a more equitable credit building system

Wemimo Abbey (MPA 2015) and stern
Samir Goel (STERN 2016) and Wagner alumnus Wemimo Abbey (MPA 2015), right.

The following article was created by the NYU Alumni Association (NYUAA) which celebrated Wagner alumnus Wemimo Abbey (MPA 2015) and Samir Goel (STERN 2016) with the 2022 NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year award.

Wemimo Abbey (MPA 2015) and Samir Goel have a lot in common. For starters, they’re both immigrants; Abbey arrived in the US from the slums of Lagos, Nigeria as a teen; Goel’s parents relocated from New Delhi, India. Both grew up navigating the hardships of poverty, but also determined to take advantage of the American promise of mobility. When they met in 2014 at a Clinton Global Initiative conference and discovered that they had both attended NYU, their experiential overlap planted the seeds of future collaboration.

Abbey and Goel soon learned that they had another important thing in common; even though they seemed to have “made it” in the corporate world (Wemimo was at Goldman Sachs, and Samir at LinkedIn), neither was satisfied. “We wanted to do something more with our lives,” Wemimo says. “Something for all the people shut out of financial systems.” They knew from firsthand experience that these financial systems were gamed against low-income earners and renters—disproportionately people of color—who have no way to build up credit and thus no access to affordable loans (that could, in turn, help them build up credit).

Wanting to break this vicious cycle, the two men founded Esusu—a financial equity platform that leverages technology to report residents’ on-time rent payments to the three major credit bureaus, empowering millions of people traditionally locked out of financial institutions. It’s a paradigm-changing idea, one that Abbey and Goel quit their jobs to pursue full-bore against a wave of indifference. “The people we’re trying to help,” Goel says, “are largely invisible to venture capitalists.” For 18 months the two men lived a double life, courting investors in upscale board rooms while sleeping in airports and restaurants. “We were $100,000 in credit card debt,” Abbey says. “But we refused to be defeated.”

Their perseverance has paid off. Esusu currently partners with real estate owners and operators representing over 2.5 million units across all 50 states; countless renters within this network have unlocked lower interest rates and other financial tools that the well-off take for granted. Esusu’s zero-interest rent-relief program—created during the pandemic—has kept families in homes and given them essential credit-building tools. The company has been featured in most major financial media outlets, and Abbey and Goel made the 2020 prestigious Forbes “30 Under 30” list. “Where you come from,” Abbey says, “the color of your skin, your financial identity… none of this should determine what you can accomplish in life.”