When one thinks of the typical American entrepreneur, images of self-made men who risked everything to achieve success and fortune come to mind. Figures like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Flagler and Andrew Carnegie embody the image of the bold and decisive business leader who wasn’t afraid to put everything on the line when the moment of decision came. Inherent in this idea of the brave and bold businessman was the notion that most wealth, even when ruthlessly acquired, was, at its core and in some sense, deserved.
But nowadays, too often, everyone knows that the game has changed. With too great a frequency, modern fortunes are the result of people who have gone to all the right schools and had the right connections from the beginning. More perniciously, today’s great fortunes have, more often than not, been created through borrowing and venture capital deals, relying more on the ability to assimilate to and play by the rules of the elite than to daring or business acumen.
David Zalik is of the old school
But the founder of GreenSky Credit, David Zalik, conforms more closely to the old archetype of the bold capitalist. In founding GreenSky Credit, Zalik could not secure the financing he needed to launch the company. As a result, he reversed mortgaged his entire commercial real estate holdings, nearly $12 million worth, betting everything he had on the future success of his company.
The bet paid off to an extent even Zalik could not have imagined. Today, GreenSky Credit ranks among the most successful fintech companies in the country. The company has grown from a fledgling startup into a $5 billion lending operation. And it has experienced this phenomenal growth with virtually no outside investment at all.
When asked about what he wants to accomplish in the future, Zalik, like many great American capitalists who have come before him, is bursting with ambition. He says that he would like to see GreenSky Credit doing $20 billion worth of loans each year by the year 2020. Given his past track record, there’s no reason to doubt that he will reach his goal.