Tala is thrilled to welcome Jen Loo as our new Chief Financial Officer! Jen joined in November 2018 and brings a unique blend of business, finance, and legal acumen through executive experience at high-growth companies. With experience spanning tech, e-commerce, and digital media, Jen shares what brought her to fintech, her thoughts on LA’s startup ecosystem, and how Tala is positioned to expand its help for millions of financially underserved across the world.
What’s most exciting about joining Tala’s leadership team now?
From a personal perspective, joining Tala is literally a dream come true. I vividly remember being an idealistic college senior learning about micro-finance for the first time. I fell in love with the idea of being able to give an individual — or, more incredible still, an entire community — a path to financial choice and freedom. But I also remember how insurmountable the problem of financial exclusion seemed, with high transaction costs, geographical dispersion, and limited budgets.
Fast forward over a decade and new technology, accelerated mobile penetration, and data science have unlocked previously unfathomable scale. This is what Tala has figured out and is leveraging to to help thousands of underserved. Every. Single. Day.
While our credit product is an important step, the team recognizes that it’s only the first in delivering full financial access. Joining now means I have the great privilege of helping define what’s next in Tala’s journey to reach and uplift the billions of underserved worldwide.
From LegalZoom to Reformation, you’ve worked with companies at different stages of scale and in very different industries. Can you describe your shift to fintech, and Tala specifically?
I have been remarkably fortunate to work for some incredible, mission-driven companies. I started my career at LegalZoom, whose founders and team were obsessive about fixing a broken system and making fundamental legal protections accessible to everyone, not just the privileged few. After that, I joined mitú, a digital media startup that gave a home and voice to the millions of Latino youth who rarely — if ever — saw themselves in mainstream American media. And most recently, I was at Reformation, who is committed to bringing sustainability to fashion.
While these companies were very different from each other, they shared two important characteristics, which I knew I wanted in the next chapter of my career. One, each leveraged technology to disrupt their respective industries. And two, each had a double bottom line and a strong mission that not only complemented growth, but drove it. Suffice it to say, Tala checks both these boxes a thousand percent.
As Tala’s first CFO, what’s top of mind for your new role?
Tala is creating the first financial platform for the world’s emerging middle class, and to get there, we need to expand our reach, deepen our product offerings, and continue to scale our operations. As CFO, my top priority is to ensure that data-driven decision-making fuels long-term financial sustainability for not only our customers, but also our company, our employees, and our investors. Together we can make good on Tala’s promise of financial freedom, without bias or boundaries.
What makes LA’s startup ecosystem especially interesting right now? In your opinion, how does LA stack up against other more established tech hubs?
When I started my career, LegalZoom was one of few thriving startups on the scene, so it’s absolutely thrilling to see LA grow into such a vibrant startup ecosystem. For those of us living in LA, it has always been clear that the talent and opportunities are prolific, but it’s only been in recent years that the recognition and capital have followed suit.
Many will say of LA, “well, it’s no Silicon Valley.” They’re not wrong! The LA ecosystem has had the freedom to grow organically, outside the confines of Silicon Valley playbooks and expectations. LA founders are also incredibly diverse, in both their backgrounds and their experience; they have have blazed their own paths, defined their own success, and written their own stories. Some have bootstrapped their businesses, while others have had to hustle harder than their Silicon Valley counterparts to get the same attention. But there’s power in that diversity of experience, and a strength in that hustle. I’m excited for LA to continue to grow and thrive, in its own way and at its own pace, and even more excited for companies like Tala to shape and drive LA’s future.
Want to build with Jen and #TeamTala? We’re hiring! We are growth hackers, engineers, data scientists, customer experience designers, marketers, and finance geeks all passionate about extending financial freedom to the billions of underserved people across the globe. We believe in people from every type of background — around the world, and within our company. We call this #RadicalTrust. Come join our global team at tala.co/careers