Carnegie Mellon University

deserve cards

July 02, 2019

Swartz Spotlight: Fast Company Ranks Deserve Among World’s Most Innovative Businesses

Founded by Kalpesh Kapadia (MSIA 1999), Deserve was recognized for its innovative use of machine learning to assist young adults in accessing fair credit.

Each year, Fast Company features The World’s Most Innovative Companies, recognizing businesses across a wide variety of industries that impact industry and culture. Among its top 10 most innovative companies in artificial intelligence is Deserve, a financial services company founded by Tepper School of Business alumnus and Alumni Board member Kalpesh Kapadia (MSIA 1999) in 2014.

“This puts us in the company of other innovators who use machine learning in new ways,” Kapadia said. “It marks us as a business on the cutting edge of new technologies. We are joined in our sector by such illustrious companies as Nvidia and”

Deserve started as an alternative method to traditional financial institutions for underserved individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 years to begin building credit. Kapadia had found that young consumers, particularly foreign students, faced enormous obstacles to obtaining credit cards or loans. Kapadia launched Deserve — originally called SelfScore — as a way to create a more equitable financial environment.

“Ultimately, we want to guide customers to building a positive credit history and a good credit score,” Kapadia said. “We stress access, advocacy, and independence.”

To be considered for the Fast Company list, Deserve needed to demonstrate how they use artificial intelligence in “creating the future today,” according to Fast Company’s selection process. The publication cited Deserve’s innovative use of machine learning to assist college students and other young adults in accessing fair credit.

“It’s always good to see alumni recognized for innovation,” said Dave Mawhinney, Executive Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship. “Kalpesh has really succeeded in marrying the technical capabilities of machine learning with addressing the needs of an untapped market." 

Deserve uses a proprietary machine learning engine called Domino to analyze customer data and predict credit success. “It takes into account all of the data across a 1.6 billion training dataset,” which includes information about demographics, education, and financial behavior, among other metrics, Kapadia said. “We tested a hundred machine learning models to arrive at the best tradeoff between risk and growth. It has what we call high precision and recall.”

Recently, Deserve has expanded its platform to help brands launch their own credit cards, building on the company’s strengths in compliance, risk management, and underwriting. Leveraging its existing student customer base, Deserve is working with leading student loan provider Sallie Mae to power their credit card program as well as with universities like the New Jersey Institute of Technology to begin offering affinity cards to students and alumni.

“If you look at the banking industry, it’s currently in a digital transformation,” Kapadia said. “We are in the next frontier of AI and machine learning. Five years from now, this is the only way you will be underwriting people. We are ahead of the curve.”