Credit scores can be difficult for even the savviest consumer to understand, but not for an algorithm. With Dovly, a Phoenix-based tech startup designed to automatically help customers raise their credit scores, co-founder and CEO Nirit Rubenstein set out to make credit accessible to the average consumer and to help the people hardest hit by a punitive system.
Now, after raising $2 million in seed funding this month, the Phoenix-based startup will be able to do just that.
When Rubenstein founded Dovly in 2018, she was already well-versed in the problem of bad credit. As the CEO of Credfly, a credit repair company in Los Angeles, she saw just how difficult navigating the credit system is for consumers, and just how badly a better solution was needed.
“I just felt like there has to be a better way to solve this massive problem impacting 70% of the U.S. population in a way that was looking out for the consumer,” Rubenstein said.
After her stint at Credfly, Rubenstein relocated to the Phoenix area to work as the chief operating officer at Nextiva, a business communication company based in Scottsdale. But a year into her new job, she found the problem of credit still nagging at her.
“The thing with credit is it’s everywhere. I would see it in my everyday life that I had the solution and I knew how to solve this problem that people were struggling with,” Rubenstein said. “If I’m in line at Target and the cashier’s asking the guy in front of me if he wants to Red Card and he says ‘No, I can’t, my credit sucks,’ or if I’m taking an Uber and the driver’s talking to me about what I’ve done in the past and then starts telling me how his credit is horrible because x, y and z — it was everywhere. It was kind of following me, and I felt like I knew how to solve the problem, and I had a responsibility to do that.”
Rubenstein’s solution was Dovly, an algorithm-based service that helps subscribers raise their credit score by assessing their credit report and submitting automatic monthly disputes to the three credit bureaus.
In developing the algorithm, which determines exactly which of the 32 parameters on each line of credit to dispute for a customer, co-founder Tedis Baboumian’s knowledge of the credit industry was invaluable, she said. The pair met while Rubenstein was leading Credfly.
“I realized how brilliant he was, and I realized how nuanced consumer credit was and that I would need someone with his subject matter expertise to help me,” she said. “It’s an algorithm where we really just took Tedis’ brain and productized it. It sounds robotic, but we wrote a lot of rules and tweaked and tweaked, and we continue to tweak on a regular basis.”
Rubenstein could see the need for a product like Dovly. She could also see how anti-consumer the credit industry was, “which is against my entire ethos,” she said.
Her drive to be helpful to consumers comes in part from her years working at SalesForce. As one of the company’s first 200 employees, she had the opportunity to watch CEO Marc Benioff in action.
“His entire attitude was that you first and foremost take care of your employees because they’re the ones that care for your customers. And if you care for your customers, then your business is going to be viable and thrive,” Rubenstein said. “I would say out of all the people that I’ve ever worked for, he’s probably the only one I learned what to do from; everyone else was more learning what not to do.”
But being pro-consumer is also more than just a leadership principle for Rubenstein: it’s also fundamental to her ethos as an Israeli.
“Part of it just comes from being a human being,” Rubenstein said. “I’m a human being, first and foremost, and that comes from my Jewish heritage.”
Born and raised in Israel, Rubenstein served in the Israel Defense Forces before entering the tech industry. Growing up, she learned the value of coming together to help one another.
“My favorite analogy with Israel is when you’re in Israel and you get a flat tire, hundreds of people will stop and help you. But when you’re trying to merge back into traffic, nobody will let you in,” Rubenstein said. “The analogy there is that coming together in a time of need and helping people is really a fundamental piece of being Jewish and being Israeli. And I think that, to me, has a lot to do with why I left Nextiva, which was a great job, really high paying, great culture, to then start this, which is really much more about helping the population that is underserved and gets an unfair shot at life.”
For Rubenstein, Phoenix has been a surprise, both in terms of how her family fell in love with it and how the business community compares to more traditional tech scenes like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“It’s a small business community, but it’s very, very, very tight-knit,” Rubenstein said. “People are genuinely helpful. They really want to be a community and help you thrive and be successful, so it felt very different.”
And while Arizona is working to put itself on the map as a hub for entrepreneurs, startups and tech giants, there’s still room for growth.
“The tech scene is growing. I started my career in San Francisco and then L.A., so compared to those geographies, it’s still a long way away,” Rubenstein said. “I think the tech scene is probably what Austin was maybe 10 years ago. We’re getting there, but I think we still have a ways to go.”
As for her own company, Rubenstein sees only more growth from here.
“Dovly is going to change the way credit works in the future — it’s going to be a billion-dollar company, there’s no question about it,” she said. “Our goal is really to make financing accessible to the masses, because right now, if you don’t have good credit, you don’t have access to financing, and that impacts your life negatively in many, many ways. So our goal is to really change the industry, to change the way things are done, to be an advocate for the consumer and make things more equitable.” JN