Neil Patel

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In the pulsating world of entrepreneurship and innovation, every success story is woven with threads of resilience, creativity, and a relentless pursuit of one’s dreams. Joe Bayen, the visionary behind Grow Credit, sits down to share his remarkable journey from the bustling streets of Cameroon to the epicenter of technological advancement in Silicon Valley.

In an exclusive interview, Joe takes us through the peaks and valleys, the pivotal moments that shaped his path, and the invaluable lessons gleaned along the way. He also talks about the rejection from Steve Jobs and Mark Cuban and the crazy pivots he took his company through.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Early Beginnings: A Journey from Cameroon to Paris

Born in Cameroon, Africa, Joe’s trajectory began with a pivotal move to Paris at a tender age for a European education. Raised by his aunt, he embarked on a solo journey, navigating the labyrinth of life’s uncertainties.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Parisian life, Joe found solace in strategic games like chess, which he learned at 7 and won his first tournament shortly thereafter.

This led him to become fond of all things strategic game-related, igniting a passion for strategic thinking and an understanding of focus that would later underpin his entrepreneurial ventures.

Joe discusses the importance of “multi-goaling” in business instead of multi-tasking and how focus can help founders progress faster—a lesson that would be helpful in this business career.

Embracing Challenges: From Olympic Dreams to Entrepreneurial Pursuits

As fate would have it, Joe’s journey took an unexpected turn when he discovered his knack for sprinting, propelling him to the French National championships, where he finished fifth.

This athletic prowess earned him a ticket to the United States, a land brimming with promises of opportunities and boundless horizons.

Joe describes his competitive personality and relentless spirit, which prompts him not to take no for an answer. His tenacious spirit found resonance in the competitive athletics arena, where he learned the invaluable lesson of embracing challenges as stepping stones to greatness.

Joe recalls a conversation he once heard from Kobe Bryant in which Kobe shared a valuable lesson: “Losing is great because it’s an opportunity to get better.” A few years later, Joe realized that if you really embrace challenges as an opportunity to become the best version of yourself, that will lead to better outcomes.

Whenever life brings difficulties, Joe tends to become extremely resourceful and power through challenges. At times, he averages seven to ten-mile hikes daily while lifting four times a week to constantly remain comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Pushing himself physically to the extreme enables Joe to embrace challenges seamlessly. And, despite setbacks, including a career-altering injury in 2004 on the cusp of Olympic glory, his indomitable resolve remained unwavering.

Education at the University of Miami and Working at Allegorithmic

As Joe reveals, he received a full athletic scholarship from the University of Miami and graduated in international finance and marketing. After graduating, he ran for Cameroon but sadly injured himself before the 2004 Olympics.

Back to his club team aboard a train, fraught with uncertainties, he had a serendipitous encounter that would chart the course for his foray into the world of technology.

After having to change his train cart four times for different reasons, once resulting in him sitting in someone else’s seat and another in a cart filled with kids, he finally settled in with a passenger working on his computer.

Watching the dedication with which the man was working, Joe struck up a conversation with him. That’s when he learned about the startup they founded in Joe’s club’s hometown. They had built this amazing technology decades ahead of its time, enabling artists to paint mathematics.

Joe remembers being utterly fascinated and offering his expertise in marketing and finance. On disembarking from the train, Joe met with Sebastian, the CEO of Allegorithmic.

This meeting led to his spending the next eight weeks learning everything about procedural textures, special effects, After Effects, and Photoshop.

This experience was a game changer since Joe returned with his baggage and car and drove from Miami cross-country to Los Angeles, where he started as a business developer for Allegorithmic, which became his first job ever.

Eventually, Allegorithmic was sold to Adobe in 2019 and became one of the largest acquisitions in France. Sebastian also won the Oscar for technological achievement in 2023 and has his technology embedded in the current special effects movies such as The Avengers.

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Navigating the Peaks and Valleys of Entrepreneurship

Although Joe left the company in 2006, he remained in touch with Sebastian, who is today an investor in Grow Credit. Joe eventually became a startup founder, starting with ICS Mobile, which initially focused on launching a video mobile ad network.

At that time, they developed the first technology that enabled users to push video ads on mobile devices. It was utterly groundbreaking and a nascent industry. Joe pivoted into an iPhone game development studio since it was very hard to raise funding in 2007/2008.

Joe’s gaming background came from a stint as COO of In-Fusio Games. Since he had a gaming background, along with his CTO, in 2008, Joe decided to launch a video game for iPhones.

He also recalls how, in 2008, they were on the verge of launching an app called Bobblehead, which they intended to sell for a dollar a pop.

However, Apple did not permit caricatures back then, and after pleading his case directly to Steve Jobs, he received a terse email stating that he should spend his time writing better apps.

Yet, true to his resilient spirit, Joe viewed setbacks as catalysts for innovation, pivoting towards new ventures like, a pioneering platform that democratized access to premium apps and revolutionized app marketing.

The Platform

Later, the platform became the largest iOS marketing platform in the world. Within three years, it had 12 million users and $18M in revenues. ICS worked with EA, Zinga, Groupon, and other brands.

The company was leveraging push notifications to promote apps in the app store. Developers approached them, and they sent push notifications to their audiences to download the app. Games would quickly rank in the top 10, often topping the charts within 6 to 7 hours.

A change of policy at Apple three and a half years later killed the business. Joe recalls how they went down from generating $500K to $1M a month to nothing, which was very unfortunate. However, this setback led to the inception of Lenny Credit.

A Vision for the Future: Democratizing Access to Credit

Having the platform shut down was emotionally devastating for Joe. For him, it was a mission-driven business since the platform helped over 3000 independent developers promote their apps at little to no cost.

Although Joe had a revenue share model, it enabled developers to generate substantial revenue. It also enabled millions of kids around the world with no money to get paid apps for free. Joe’s resilience won out, and he started Grow Credit, which has gone through multiple iterations and pivots.

In between, Joe recalls working at Lenny Credit and as the Entrepreneur in Residence at Science Inc., a VC fund in Santa Monica. The folks at Science did not have a lot of expertise with mobile applications, an area with which Joe helped.

However, during his tenure at the company, he learned how the company was structured and excelled at hiring great talent, a valuable lesson about the value of being surrounded by the best.

The Inception of Lenny Credit

Joe has an interesting story to tell about the inception of Lenny Credit. He recalls how, at one point, he realized that as a foreigner, he had no idea how credit scores work and what credit cards are. Nor did he understand the repercussions of being late on card payments.

When he was ready to buy his first car, Joe had to pay expensive rates because of his unsatisfactory credit score. Having to build a good rating took him four to five years and left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Joe also realized that many of his American friends faced the same predicament and had no idea that the credit cards they were using had rules about timely payments.

Determined to resolve this situation, Joe founded Lenny Credit. The goal was to extend micro loans to students and millennials and to offer them credit score education and free FICO scores. Soon, Joe partnered with FICO to provide customers with free scores and credit corrections.

Lenny Credit extended micro lines ranging from $100 to $500, quickly realizing that even small-dollar loans were powerful enough to significantly boost credit scores, specifically for consumers with no credit rating and thin files.

Joe remembers having no experience worked to his advantage since he went into it with a blank slate, not knowing what was good or wrong. Unfortunately, the concept was ahead of its time, and banks had no idea what they were doing.

Lenny Credit leveraged customers’ banking and account transaction histories for underwriting. But when the company was ready to scale and raise debt financing, it did not have any takers.

Banks wanted them to have a longer portfolio history before extending a line of credit or debt facility. Soon, Lenny Credit ran out of cash.

Although Joe was in negotiations to raise funding from Mark Cuban, he pulled out two days before the deal. Their original funding amount was supposed to be $8M in a combination of equity and debt.

An important lesson Joe learned was to trust his instincts as a founder and not be afraid to take risks.

Creating and Scaling Grow Credit

Carrying this valuable lesson forward, Joe found Grow Credit and successfully raised $120M in its last round through a combination of debt and equity, with USAA leading its equity round. Joe explains that the debt facility is mainly earmarked for their lending operations.

The company uses funds to scale, and the equity is leveraged toward growth, business operations, hiring, marketing, and scaling lending operations.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Joe Bayen was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

At the helm of Grow Credit, Joe Bayen is at the vanguard of a revolution in fintech. With a vision to empower millions by democratizing access to credit, Grow Credit stands as a beacon of financial inclusivity in a sea of disparity.

Through innovative solutions like “Pay with Grow” and strategic partnerships with industry behemoths like Wells Fargo, Joe is spearheading a paradigm shift in credit building and financial literacy. Grow Credit is also signing marketing deals with insurance and mortgage companies.

The company has also pivoted from being a B2C to a B2B platform and developed an API where its bank and fintech partners can offer loans to their user base and help them establish and build credit seamlessly.

Grow Credit has a free plan enabling consumers to build and establish credit by leveraging their Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu accounts and cell phone plans, which are massively important in the United States- a groundbreaking concept.

Through the Grow Mastercard, users can pay for any subscriptions and leverage the payments to build their credit scores.

Lessons Learned: Wisdom from the Trenches

In the crucible of entrepreneurship, every setback holds within it a nugget of wisdom. For Joe Bayen, the journey has been a masterclass in resilience, resourcefulness, and the power of intuition.

Reflecting on his path, Joe imparts invaluable lessons to aspiring entrepreneurs: the importance of embracing challenges, trusting one’s instincts, and viewing stress as a catalyst for growth.

Joe also talks about the importance of networking and having an amazing group of advisors and smart and experienced individuals.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation, turning setbacks into stepping stones toward success.
  • Trust your instincts, as intuition often holds the key to navigating uncertain terrain in entrepreneurship.
  • View stress as an ally, harnessing its energy to fuel creativity and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • Build a strong network of mentors and advisors early on, as their guidance can accelerate the journey to success.
  • Democratize access to financial resources and foster inclusivity, paving the way for a more equitable future in fintech.
  • Pivot with purpose, recognizing when to adapt and evolve in response to market dynamics and consumer needs.
  • Never underestimate the transformative power of perseverance and relentless determination in achieving one’s dreams.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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Neil Patel

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