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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Upstart's algorithm — a company that helps banks to underwrite loans — approves 27% more applicants than a traditional model, and twice as many "near prime" consumers with FICO scores between 620 and 660. It also yields 16% lower interest rates.

Driving the news: Upstart raised $180 million in an IPO this week, ending trading on Wednesday with a market capitalization of $2.1 billion.

The big picture: Upstart started life as a way of buying equity in people, allowing them to raise cash not by borrowing it, but by pledging a percentage of their future income.

  • When that didn't work out, Upstart pivoted to lending, using the same set of data inputs that it had used to underwrite its equity investments. But it was still hard to compete with banks with a much lower cost of funds.
  • So Upstart pivoted again, this time selling its underwriting software to banks.

Context: Upstart, which was co-founded by Paul Gu, a Thiel Fellow, has touched on many buzzy ideas over its existence, from income-sharing agreements to Big Data to artificial intelligence. Even its IPO comes at a buzzy time for IPOs.

  • The bottom line: Each iteration has been a bit more practical and a bit lower down the stack, less of a revolutionary consumer-facing company and more of a utility for lenders.
  • That's still sexy enough for investors, who bid up the stock by 45% on the opening day of trading.

Go deeper

49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Read: Pete Buttigieg's opening statement ahead of confirmation hearing

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, in December. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to lead the Transportation Department, will tell senators he plans to prioritize the health and safety of public transportation systems during the pandemic — and look to infrastructure projects to rebuild the economy — according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Buttigieg will testify at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He is expected to face a relatively smooth confirmation process, though GOP lawmakers may press him on "green" elements of Biden's transportation proposals.

Off the Rails

Episode 8: The siege

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 8: The siege. An inside account of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that ultimately failed to block the certification of the Electoral College. And, finally, Trump's concession.

On Jan. 6, White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger entered the West Wing in the mid-afternoon, shortly after his colleagues' phones had lit up with an emergency curfew alert from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Tech companies worry about becoming targets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech employees are on high alert about their own personal safety as their employers roll out policies to ban or limit the reach of far-right extremists angry over former President Donald Trump's defeat.

Why it matters: As tech companies impose aggressive policies after the Capitol riot, employees will be the target of vitriol from aggrieved people who think tech and the media are conspiring to silence Trump and conservatives more broadly.