David Zalik grows GreenSky into lending powerhouse

David Zalik may be one of the most publicity-averse CEOs of any major corporation in the country. It may seem strange, then, that he has made the decision to go against Silicon Valley conventional wisdom and take the plunge of bringing his fintech company, GreenSky, through the IPO process. But Zalik has calculated that he now has far more to gain than to lose by making GreenSky into a public company, which will no doubt instantly place it among the largest publicly traded fintech firms in the country.

Zalik is a true entrepreneur. A former child prodigy, he began attending college at age 12 but dropped out shortly thereafter in order to found his own computer assembly business. Called MicroTech, the company did well. 10 years later, Zalik was able to sell the company for around $5 million. He then took his profits and reinvested them into Atlanta-area commercial real estate. Again, this proved to be a good investment as real estate prices appreciated considerably.

By the time he was 32, Zalik was worth around $10 million. He had dabbled in a number of other enterprises. Some of his experience in working with home remodeling businesses led him to believe that there was a strong opportunity for providing instant loans to contractors who were facing customers without the means to immediately complete home remodeling jobs. With this in mind, he founded GreenSky in 2006.

But Zalik quickly realized that he had undertaken a seriously demanding project. He was eventually forced to mortgage all of his own commercial real estate, effectively betting everything he had on the future success of the company. While there were some rough times at the start, his bet would eventually prove to be a good one.

Today, GreenSky is estimated to be worth more than $4.5 billion. It is partnered with 14 of the largest lenders in the United States, including Fifth Third, Sun Trust and Region’s bank. It has also signed up more than 17,000 merchants, representing everything from window installers to plastic surgeons. The planned IPO of GreenSky may be the largest fintech IPO in history.