America is facing an eviction crisis. COVID-19 has destroyed local economies and replaced stagnant wages with no wages at all. Congress is not extending unemployment benefits, and CNBC estimates that 40 billion Americans could be evicted. Meanwhile, the stock market is surging and the richest Americans continue to expand their wealth.
Till, our Startup of the Week, provides an alternative. Like last week’s startup Dave ($PRIVATE:DAVE), the DC-based Till’s service operates on a sort of loan system. Renters are able to sign up for the service and borrow money to avoid late rent payments, and set up payments through Till that can be made each time they get paid rather than exclusively at the first of the month. Till manages the payments for renters who use their service.
But Till also extends the olive branch to landlords. While renters can use the service themselves, landlords can join Till and offer the service to their entire community of renters, offering them flexibility in making their rent payments on time.
Still very much an up-and-comer, Till announced last week that it had raised $8 million in a seed funding round. But being an up-and-comer in an America where financial insecurity is increasingly rampant not only gives Till an opportunity to market itself as a benevolent company looking out for the little guy - it also means there’s a massive market of renters looking for relief and landlords looking to get paid who would flock to a service that better equips both sides of the bench. It helps that Till employs a small but diverse staff, especially given that people of color are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and financial insecurity.
Till is at a crossroads where it provides a service that many Americans need, have long needed or will soon need. Renters facing eviction are more likely to be paid irregularly and in inconsistent amounts, and have to make financial decisions on the fly while landlords rely on the consistency of monthly payments. The wealth has also long been increasing in the United States, and the pandemic turned the gap into a bottomless pit.
While Till can offer a harness to those staring down the abyss, there would be no need for it in a more just world. But this is not a just world, and so Till exists. The company estimates that it can cut 50% of evictions, a lofty goal for a company which has just raised only $8 million, but perhaps one it can rise to over time with demand as massive as it is.