Chris Larsen

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Chris Larsen
Born 1960[1]
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Education San Francisco State University (B.S.)
Alma mater Stanford Graduate School of Business (M.B.A.)
Occupation Angel investor, business executive
Years active 1990s-present
Employer Ripple Labs (CEO)

Chris Larsen is an American business executive and angel investor best known for co-founding several Silicon Valley technology startups, including one based on peer to peer lending. In 1996 he co-founded the online mortgage lender E-Loan,[2] and during his tenure as CEO E-Loan became the first company to freely provide consumers' FICO credit scores.[3] By 2000 E-Loan's market value was estimated at $1 billion,[4] and Larsen left the company when it was sold to Banco Popular[5] in 2005.[6] In 2006 he co-founded Prosper Marketplace, the first peer-to-peer lending marketplace in the United States,[7] and he served as CEO until 2012.[8] Later in 2012 he co-founded the company Ripple Labs, Inc., which developed Ripple,[9] software that enables the instant and direct transfer of money between two parties.[10] As of 2015 Larsen continues to serve as CEO.[11]

Self-described as "radically pro-consumer," Larsen has been a vocal advocate of financial privacy in California,[12] and in 2001 he co-founded the coalition Californians for Privacy Now.[12] He has appeared as a speaker at industry events[13][14] such as Sibos, SWIFT's flagship conference, and written articles for publications such as American Banker.[15] He is also a board-member or advisor for organizations such as Credit Karma, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Qifang, and Betable.[16]

Early life and education[edit]

Chris Larsen was born in San Francisco, California in 1960.[12] His mother worked as a freelance illustrator, while his father worked as an aircraft mechanic for United Airlines at San Francisco International Airport.[12] After high school Larsen began attending San Francisco State University, where he earned a B.S.[16] in international business and accounting in 1984.[12] He began working for Chevron after college, doing financial audits in Brazil, Ecuador, and Indonesia.[12] He graduated with an M.B.A.[16] from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1991.[10]

Business career[edit]

Development of E-Loan (1992-1998)[edit]

Main article: E-Loan

In the early 1990s Larsen began working at a mortgage lender in Palo Alto, California. Becoming friends with his colleague Janina Pawlowski, they quit their jobs together in 1992[2] to found their own mortgage business,[4] By 1996 they had switched their focus from loans to the development of a mortgage lending website.[2] Both Larsen[3] and Pawlowski had been personally frustrated with aspects of the mortgage lending industry, and saw the internet as a way to circumnavigate agent commissions and other fees.[2] Initially raising $450,000 in funding from friends and family, Larsen and Pawlowski moved from their small Palo Alto office to a larger "low-rent site" in nearby Dublin to work on the project.[2]

The E-Loan website became accessible to the public in 1997, running ad campaigns targeted at millennials[2] and meeting with success[2][4] as one of the first online mortgage lenders in the United States. The website allows borrowers to search and shop for loans directly, without the fees charged by brokers and sales agents.[10] The website would later begin offering direct home equity and car loans as well.[4] However, by 1998 E-Loan was running into difficulty funding their operations.[4] Pawlowski had served as chief executive officer for the initial two years, and in 1998 she offered to switch jobs with Larsen, taking Larsen's previous role of President.[17]

E-Loan funding and public offering (1998-2000)[edit]

E-Loan's former headquarters in Pleasanton, California (now occupied by Workday, Inc.).

Pawlowski and Larsen were in talks with Intuit over a $130 million buyout in the fall of 1998. Forbes wrote that "Pawlowski and Larsen, who together held a 40% stake and had placed 20% more in an employee stock plan, would each walk away with $10 million in cash and $16 million in Intuit stock." Days before the deal closed in August, however, Yahoo CEO Timothy Koogle pitched a deal to buy a 23% stake of E-Loan's outstanding shares for $25 million. Both Larsen's and Pawlowski's payouts would be less, but they would retain control of the company and the E-Loan brand would survive.[2] Choosing to work with Yahoo,[4] E-Loan also raised venture capital from Softbank[17] and Sequoia Capital.[18] In 1998 E-Loan had total annual revenues of $6.8 million,[17] and the following year Larsen offered the role of CEO back to Pawlowski, though she elected to remain President.[4][17]

In late March 1999 E-Loan filed for an initial public offering,[2] and it went public in June 1999.[4] The company processed $470 million of mortgage loans in the first quarter of 1999,[17] and by the second financial quarter, revenues for the year had reached $4.6 million.[17] E-Loan lost $13 million in the third quarter of 1999,[4] though revenues overall had grown from the year before by 200%.[4] As of October 1999 the company employed around 350 people.[4] That year overall E-Loan processed 5000 loans, which at 25% of the online mortgage loan market was the highest percent of any online company.[2][17] By February 2000 E-Loan's market value was estimated at around $1 billion,[4] with Larsen serving as both CEO and Chairman.[16] During his tenure E-Loan became the first company to freely provide consumers' FICO credit scores.[3]

Privacy activism and E-Loan sale (2001-2005)[edit]

Larsen has described himself as "radically pro-consumer," and in the early 2000s he became a vocal advocate of financial privacy in California.[12] In 2001, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier proposed[12] a requirement for consumers to opt in before financial services companies could share or sell personal information such as bank balances, phone numbers, and social security numbers. While the bill had public support,[19] it was initially defeated by pro-business legislators. In response, Larsen co-founded the coalition Californians for Privacy Now, helping fund the project with $1 million of his own money.[12] Larsen spearheaded the collection of 600,000 signatures in support of Speier's bill, which was almost double the required amount to issue a ballot to state voters.[12] The signatures, combined with a lobbying campaign by Consumer Watchdog throughout 2002,[12] led to major financial firms and legislators withdrawing their opposition, and the bill passed in August 2003.[12][19] Speier acknowledged Larsen's influence on the ruling, stating "without Chris Larsen, California's financial privacy law, which sets the standard for the rest of the nation, would never have become a reality."[12]

As of May 2004, E-Loan had sold over $18.9 billion in consumer loans since its inception, and the company had remained profitable for eight quarters in a row.[12] Larsen stepped down as CEO in early 2005 to start Prosper Marketplace and remained Chairman until E-Loan was sold to Banco Popular[5] in 2005.[6]

Prosper Marketplace (2005-2011)[edit]

Main article: Prosper Marketplace

In 2005 Larsen and John Witchel co-founded Prosper Marketplace, a San Francisco-based company that was the first peer-to-peer lending marketplace in the United States.[7] Larsen served as CEO.[8] The website opened to the public on February 5, 2006.[7] From 2006 to 2009 Prosper operated a variable rate model, acting as an eBay-style online auction marketplace with lenders and borrowers ultimately determining loan rates using a Dutch auction-like system.[20] Through the website,[6] borrowers can request personal loans, while Prosper handles the servicing of the loan and distributes borrower payments and interest back to the loan investors.[7] Prosper also makes borrowers' "credit grades" public,[6] and verifies identities and select personal data.[7] Larsen himself had funded 450 loans through the website as of 2008, with borrowers as diverse as homeowners, college students, credit-card users, and entrepreneurs.[6] By 2008 Prosper had facilitated the funding of over $120 million in loans, with an average loan amount of $7,000.[6] In 2008 Fast Company named Prosper to its Fast 50 List of the "most innovative companies of the year."[6]

External video
Jim Breyer, a partner at Accel Investments, interviews Chris Larsen about Prosper at an industry panel (October 25, 2006)

The company soon ran into regulatory opposition from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),[5] as current loan regulations were focused on traditional banks, not technology startups.[14] In 2008 Prosper filed its first prospectus with the SEC, changing its business model to use pre-set rates based on a formula evaluating each prospective borrower's credit risk.[21][22] In 2011 Larsen was outwardly supportive of the Occupy Wall Street movement, raising money to help feed protestors at the nearby OWS encampment in San Francisco.[14] By the end of the year Prosper had facilitated $271 million in peer-to-peer loans, and the company had received a total of $74.5 million in funding from investors such as Jim Breyer, Tim Draper, Omidyar Network, Nigel Morris, and Court Coursey.[14] On March 15, 2012 Larsen announced that he would be resigning from his role as CEO, though he remained Chairman of the company.[8]

Founding OpenCoin (2012-2013)[edit]

In September 2012, Chris Larsen co-founded the company OpenCoin, which began developing a new payment protocol called Ripple, based on a concept developed by Ryan Fugger.[9] The Ripple protocol enables the instant and direct transfer of money between two parties.[10] As such the protocol can circumnavigate the fees and wait times of the traditional correspondent banking system,[3][10] and any type of currency can be exchanged including gold, airline miles, and rupees.[23]

To maintain security OpenCoin programmed Ripple to rely on a common ledger that is "managed by a network of independent validating servers that constantly compare their transaction records." Servers can belong to anyone including banks or market makers.[10] The company also created its own form of digital currency dubbed XRP in a manner similar to Bitcoin, using the currency to allow financial insititutions to transfer money with negligible fees and wait-time.[5] On 14 May 2013, OpenCoin announced that it had closed a second round of angel funding,[24] and among their earliest investors were Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, and IDG Capital Partners.[10]

Ripple Labs (2013-2015)[edit]

Main article: Ripple Labs
External video
Chris Larsen interviewed about Ripple by Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's Money Moves (2014)
"...we think that the bigger opportunity is not just to create another digital currency – there are plenty of those - but rather to use that technology as a way of building a settlement system with no central operator."
— Chris Larsen in December 2014[23]

On September 26, 2013, OpenCoin officially changed its name to Ripple Labs, Inc.,[25] with Larsen remaining CEO.[11] Ripple Labs then announced that the source code for the peer-to-peer node behind the Ripple payment network was officially open source.[26] Ripple Labs continued as the primary contributors of code to the consensus verification system behind Ripple, which can "integrate with banks’ existing networks."[11] A couple of small US banks have since worked with Larsen and the company to "[offer] an alternative remittance option" to consumers,[27] with Ripple allowing for easy cross-border payments for retail customers, corporations, and other banks. In December 2014, Larsen was quoted stating that "most banks today have to pay corresponding bank fees and accept the exchange rates they are given when dealing with global transactions. This can be a big cost to a bank and a burden. Ripple simplifies the process by creating point-to-point and transparent transfers in which banks do not have to pay corresponding bank fees."[23] On February 9, 2014, Ripple Labs was named as a finalist for a 2014 PYMNTS Innovator Award in two separate categories: Best New Technology as well as Most Disruptive Company.[28] As of 2014 Ripple was the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization,[29] after Bitcoin.[30] Also that month, Ripple Labs was named one of the 50 Smartest Companies by MIT Technology Review.[31] Ripple Labs was then ranked No. 4 on a list by Fast Company of the World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of 2015 In Money.[32]

Media presence and memberships[edit]

Larsen has appeared as a speaker or panelist at number of industry events,[13][14][33] for example speaking at the IIF Annual Memberships Meeting in 2014. Larsen has also written articles on banking systems and other technical topics for publications such as American Banker.[15]

In the early 2000s Larsen established the Chris Larsen Scholarship Fund at San Francisco State University, and the school named him Alum of the Year in 2004.[12] As of 2014 he is a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and he serves as a board-member or adviser for organizations such as Credit Karma and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Her served as an advisor to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's policy committee against payday lending.[16] He is also on the board of Oportun.[3][13]

Personal life[edit]

Larsen and his wife Lyna Lam have lived in the Bay Area of California since the early 2000s. As of 2004 his wife owned Café Panini in Berkeley, and they have been supportive of the Cambodian Buddhist community of San Jose.[12] As of 2015, Larsen and his family were still based in San Francisco[1]

Further reading[edit]

Articles by Larsen
Interviews and articles

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Chris Larsen". Linkedin. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Woolley, Scott (April 19, 1999). "Should she keep the baby?". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Bala, Dr. Venkatesh (October 8, 2014). "Lessons in Innovation Leadership: Chris Larsen". Nielsen (The Cambridge Group). Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Built to Flip - Where Do You Come Down?". Fast Company. February 29, 2000. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  5. ^ a b c d Lashinsky, Adam (August 22, 2014). "Isn't one Internet enough?". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Feldman, Amy (February 19, 2008). "Fast 50 2008: Prosper". Fast Company. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Prosper Marketplace, Inc. "Listing Review". 
  8. ^ a b c Renton, Peter (March 15, 2012). "Chris Larsen Steps Down as CEO of Prosper". Lend Academy. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  9. ^ a b Reutzel, Bailey. "Disruptor Chris Larsen Returns with a Bitcoin-Like Payments System". PaymentSource. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Andrews, Edmund L. (September 24, 2013). "Chris Larsen: Money Without Borders". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  11. ^ a b c Cooper, Jane (March 11, 2014). "Ripple Labs CEO looks to revolutionise online payments". The Banker. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Bee, Adrianne (May 7, 2004). "E-LOAN founder named Alum of the Year". San Francisco State University. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  13. ^ a b c Goetz, Joe (2015). "Chris Larsen, "Money Without Borders"". ICT Spring 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "Prosper takes on Wall Street, hopes to rewire banking". Venture Beat. November 2, 2011. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  15. ^ a b Larsen, Chris (July 29, 2014). "Bank Payment Systems Still Operate Like CompuServe and AOL". American Banker. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Chris Larsen Biography". Oportun. June 3, 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Bergsman, Steve (October 1999). "E-LOAN's GOT MONEY". Mortgage Banking (Vol. 60, No. 1). Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  18. ^ "Sequoia Capital funds E-LOAN". Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  19. ^ a b "Governor signs privacy measure". Sacramento Bee. 8 August 2003. 
  20. ^ Kim, Jane J. (2008-03-12). "Where Either a Borrower Or a Lender Can Be". (Dow Jones). Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  21. ^ Prosper Marketplace Inc., Post Effective Amendment to Form S-1 SEC Edgar Archive (Retrieved 01-02-2011)
  22. ^ Securities and Exchange Commission, Notice of Effectiveness. (Retrieved (01-02-2011)
  23. ^ a b c Perry, John-David (December 5, 2014). "The Future for Global Value Transfers". Fox Business. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  24. ^ Shirley, Siluk. "Google Ventures invests in Bitcoin competitor OpenCoin". CoinDesk. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Company Overview of Ripple Labs Inc.". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Vitalik, Buterin (26 September 2013). "Ripple is Officially Open Source". Bitcoin Magazine. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  27. ^ Scully, Matt (September 24, 2014). "Alternative Money Mover Ripple Labs Enters U.S. Banking System". American Banker. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  28. ^ "Ripple Labs Named a Finalist for a PYMNTS 2014 Innovator Award for Ripple Payments Protocol". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  29. ^ "Crypto-Currency Market Capitalizations". Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  30. ^ Simonite, Tom (2013-04-15). "Bitcoin isn't the only cryptocurrency in town". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved April 24, 2013. 
  31. ^ Simonite, Tom (February 18, 2014). "50 Smartest Companies: Ripple Labs". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  32. ^ "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of 2015 In Money". Fast Company. 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  33. ^ Dan Holden (September 25, 2013). "15 Must-See Presentations at C2SV 2013". SV411. Retrieved 2013-10-08. 

External links[edit]