There was some big news out of Prosper earlier today. In a press release this afternoon, Prosper announced that chairman, co-founder and CEO Chris Larsen was stepping down from his role as CEO of the company. In his place it was announced that Dawn Lepore, the former CEO of Drugstore.com and vice chairman of Charles Schwab would serve as interim CEO.
Here is an official statement from Chris Larsen about this move:
“As Prosper continues to achieve incredible growth, now is the time to embrace the next phase of the company’s evolution,” said Larsen. “As Chairman, I look forward to working closely with the executive team to build a truly innovative consumer credit company.”
I actually chatted with Chris Larsen earlier today as he was kind enough to give me a heads up about this big news. He wanted to be very clear that he believed this is in the best interests of Prosper. He said that he was more of a startup guy and now that Prosper had reached almost 70 people it needed someone with a different skill set, someone that could really take it to the next level.
He said he was very happy with where Prosper is at. They have a lot of cash on the balance sheet. a strong growth trajectory and everything is in place for them to continue this rapid growth. They were in a good position to hire an experienced CEO that could drive Prosper forward to ten times and a hundred times the volume they are doing now. He feels that Lepore is the right person to do that. She won’t be doing it alone because Larsen is remaining chairman of Prosper.
The Only CEO Prosper Has Known
The p2p lending landscape will certainly be different without Chris Larsen actively involved as head of Prosper. He effectively started p2p lending in this country and he is the only CEO the company has ever had. While he made some missteps in the first couple of years, he has seen the company through some turbulent times. He has guided Prosper through the financial crisis, higher than expected default rates as well as SEC registration where many people were writing Prosper’s obituary notice. It will be very interesting to see how Prosper evolves without him.
Whether or not this is a good move by Prosper remains to be seen. Lepore certainly looks good on paper and no doubt she will bring some fresh ideas to her position. I will try and reach out to her for an interview after she has settled in to her new role.
What do you think? Is this a good move by Prosper or should Larsen have stayed on longer, maybe until they reached profitability. As always, I am interested to hear your comments.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus, the world’s largest digital media company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series.