Uber‘s former data chief, Kevin Novak, has agreed to join financial services startup Tala as its Chief Data Officer.
Novak was the inventor of dynamic pricing. He also created the UberFreight business and built the foundation of the company’s current data organization.
Tala’s smartphone app uses alternative data to deliver instant credit and help customers build their financial identities. Unlike traditional credit scoring, Tala’s proprietary underwriting models draw on thousands of mobile data points including network diversity, social connectedness, geographic patterns, and financial transactions to score customers in real time, without a need for formal credit history. The company raised $30 million in financing to begin 2017 and has launched in two new countries — Tanzania and the Philippines.
Shivani Siroya, Tala’s Chief Executive Officer, said that Novak’s attraction was the company’s mission as much as any potential compensation. “He was actually debating joining other companies. He was incredibly sought after,” she said. “Helping, alongside me, leading this global vision was an important part of selling him.”
That global vision expands far beyond the credit business that’s been the company’s foundation. “We don’t consider ourselves a credit company,” said Siroya. “We are using data and applying that data … This is all about how you understand the customer. I couldn’t think of someone better, in terms of both the vision that we have and the capabilities that we need, than Kevin.”
“We fully vetted the guy,” says one person familiar with the process. “He did not get any concessions, because he was the former head of data science at Uber.”
“Tala is working with one of the most exciting data sets imaginable, and with the goal of building financial services that include more of the world’s people,” said Novak, in a statement. “I’m blown away by the team’s passion and commitment and by the great work already underway. I look forward to working with Tala’s existing data scientists and global teams to guide the company’s next chapter.”