I first connected with Ron Suber back in 2011. He was a Lend Academy reader and an individual investor like myself, but more importantly we shared a common passion for the nascent marketplace lending industry. We used to email back and forth and have an occasional phone call to discuss our investments and what the industry needed to do to grow.
Then suddenly in late 2012 Ron stopped responding to my emails. In mid-January of 2013 I received a call from Ron with some big news. He apologized for being out of touch but he had been working on a big deal, the recapitalization of Prosper. Back then Prosper was really struggling and I was starting to worry about them. Founder and former CEO Chris Larsen had left the company a few months before and while there was an interim CEO, there seemed to be a real leadership vacuum at Prosper.
This was all about to change as Ron, along with his friends and business partners, Steve and Aaron Vermut, looked to take over the company. Together with Sequoia Capital and some of the existing investors, they injected new capital into Prosper and rebooted the company. The Vermuts and Ron invested their own personal money and became a three-person executive team leading Prosper into a new era.
At the time of the reboot Prosper was doing $9 million a month in new loans. The new executive team grew the business to over $400 million a month before the slowdown began in early 2016. Today, Prosper is growing again, albeit in a more measured way. Loan originations have grown consistently since July of 2016 and the company recently facilitated a successful $495 million securitization. And most important of all I have heard they will be cash flow positive in Q2.
The Godfather of Fintech
Since joining Prosper in early 2013 Ron has traveled to all corners of the globe sharing his passion for marketplace lending and how financial services is being reshaped today. He has given literally hundreds of presentations at various industry conferences including five keynotes in a row at LendIt. One of the things that always made Ron’s presentations interesting is that they were never advertisements for Prosper, they were his vision for the industry including both the challenges and opportunities for the future.
Along the way Ron has gathered the largest network by far of anyone in fintech. If you wanted an introduction to someone, whether it was a brand new entrepreneur, an investment banker, a VC, a hedge fund partner, or really anyone involved in fintech, Ron would almost always know them and oblige. Not only that but he would likely have had a recent contact and would know something new about them.
I still don’t know how he is able to maintain not just hundreds but literally thousands of relationships simultaneously. And then, despite how busy he always was, he would often say to me, “Peter, how can I help?” Therein lies the secret to his success. He was often looking to help, not in a self-serving way, but because he really wanted to be helpful. He wanted to help grow the industry.
Someone coined the term “The Godfather of Fintech” for Ron a few months back. While not a perfect moniker, it does reflect the importance of Ron to the fintech community.
The End of an Era
After nearly 5 years, Ron has decided it is time to move on from Prosper. He’s been part of two turnaround stories at the company – one in 2013, and more recently as we’ve seen Prosper grow its business following the challenging environment in 2016. It is great to see them back on track, and Ron told me that he is leaving Prosper in the hands of a great CEO and management team.
When Ron recently shared his plans with me he made it clear that he will still be involved with Prosper as a company advisor and “President Emeritus” but he will not be involved in the day-to-day activities.
Over the last several years, Ron has made 21 investments in various fintech companies and he is an advisor to several of these companies. So, he will continue to help grow the industry, he will just not be as visible as before. He is also interested in starting a new chapter of his life and possibly sharing his knowledge in a teaching capacity to a new generation of entrepreneurs. As Ron told me, he is calling this next phase of life “rewirement” not retirement. You can read more about his rewirement in the personal note from Ron that I have included below.
No one has done more to promote this industry over the past five years than Ron Suber. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for being the de facto industry spokesman. We really need someone to take the baton from Ron and continue sharing the gospel of fintech far and wide. I am not sure who that person will be, but Ron has left some pretty big shoes to fill.
I wish Ron all the best in his new endeavors. I feel honored to call him a friend and I look forward to seeing how the next chapter of his life unfolds.
Personal note from Ron Suber:
In 1985 Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost a $1.20 and a dozen eggs cost $.80.
It has been 32 years since then and a lot has changed. Caryn and I got married and we have a grown son and daughter, both out in the world pursuing their lives and happiness.
In those same 32 years I have been a full-time employee/partner in six companies. It has been an amazing experience, a journey full of lessons (good and not so good) and lots of fun working with so many passionate people here in the United States and around the world. Now feels like the right time to begin a new personal journey. One not fully planned, but filled with exciting possibilities, new challenges and embraced uncertainty.
This isn’t just another, “I changed jobs” announcement, it’s a next phase of life with eyes wide open called “rewirement” not retirement.
I have recently transitioned to become a Senior Advisor/President Emeritus to Prosper where I will continue to work with and support the Prosper Team.
I will continue advising the boards and management teams of DocuSign, Credible, eOriginal, Money 360, Unison and Juvo.
Rewirement will include doing even more of the things I have enjoyed in the past – travel, teaching, learning, coaching/cultivating young entrepreneurs, being the investor/advisor that I enjoyed working with as an entrepreneur, exploring and spending time with you.
I look forward to catching up, trying new things, sharing what was, what is, and what we think can be. Chat soon.
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.