Kenneth Lin knows the power of hard work. It's a character trait that he used to launch Credit Karma, building it from a fledgling startup into a dominant fintech that was sold for $8.1 billion in 2020. But while many are aware of Lin's capabilities as a tech entrepreneur and CEO, few are familiar with his humble origins.
At age 4, Lin emigrated from China to the U.S., landing in Las Vegas. To pay the bills, his parents worked long hours at casinos and restaurants. Growing up, Lin was an intellectually curious student who was offered a sizable financial aid package by Boston University. Feeling indebted to his parents – who were still working difficult jobs to help pay for his tuition – Lin chose math and economics as his double majors.
Meanwhile, witnessing his parents struggle to make ends meet influenced his approach to money and finance. “I remember how challenging those situations were, and I remember the fights my parents would get into around money,” he recalls. “It was a source of anxiety.”
In 1998, he graduated from college with honors. After that, he spent several years strengthening his entrepreneurial muscles. These activities include selling extra computer parts, opening an internet café in Harvard Square, and even starting his own marketing agency.
Lin's eureka moment came in 2006. He had become disappointed by the cost of attaining his credit score and decided to create an alternative. With simplicity and transparency as his guiding lights, he launched Credit Karma the very next year. Best known for pioneering free credit score reporting, the platform now offers a wide variety of services related to a person's financial goals, from identity monitoring to credit cards to loans — all at no cost.
Since its launch, Lin has led the company from a small team of three to more than 1,300 employees who are disrupting consumer finance. Today, Credit Karma serves more than 120 million people across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. As a result of his achievements over the years, Lin has received numerous industry recognitions, including being named EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015 in the Services category in Northern California and earning a spot on the San Francisco Business Times’ 40 Under 40 list.