By Anna Irrera
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has led a $15 million investment in PeerStreet, a financial technology startup that gives individual investors access to real estate backed loans online.
Alex Rampell, a general partner at the Menlo Park-based venture firm, will join PeerStreet's board, the marketplace lender said on Thursday.
The investment comes just over a year from the launch of PeerStreet's platform. It has since originated more than $165 million in loans.
Venture firms Rembrandt Venture Partners, Montage Ventures and non-profit The Kaiser Family Foundation also participated in the round of funding, which will be used by the company to further develop its technology.
The Manhattan Beach, California-based startup also boasts several high profile existing investors including Adam Nash, the former chief executive of robo-adviser Wealthfront, and Michael Burry, the hedge fund manager who famously foresaw the credit crisis of 2008.
Founded by former Google executive Brett Crosby and real estate attorney Brew Johnson, PeerStreet allows accredited investors to invest as little as $1,000 in high-yield real estate loans through its website.
Unlike many other marketplace lenders, the startup sources loans by tapping into existing networks of local lenders, a process that it believes helps better assess credit risk and reduce customer acquisition costs.
Andreessen Horowitz's Rampell said the company stood out among competitors because of its fast growth and distribution model. "Most companies that are lending to consumers spend all the money in customer acquisition and it is very hard to get a profit," he said.
The investment comes in the wake of a period of turbulence for U.S. marketplace lenders, driven in part by softer institutional demand and doubts over the model's sustainability in a rising interest rate environment.
Concerns around the young industry were further heightened in May by the abrupt resignation of LendingClub Corp's <LC.N> chief executive following an internal review into loan malpractices. The turmoil at one of the industry's biggest players led observers to suggest that tougher regulatory oversight might be looming.
Johnson, PeerStreet's chief executive, said the company did not see any large impediment to its business in the short term.
Asked about the potential impact of a new U.S. government on the nascent industry, Johnson said it "remains to be seen if it will effect business positively or negatively."
(Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Alan Crosby)