James Gutierrez

CEO & Co-Founder

Prior to Aura, James founded Oportun (formerly Progreso Financiero), recently named by Time Magazine as a Top 50 Most Genius Companies of 2018. As CEO from 2005-2012, he led Oportun from its development as a nascent start-up to a market leader in the lending industry and raised over $250 million of venture capital and debt to fund its growth. James has served on the Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Advisory Council and its Centennial Advisory Committee and helped pass legislation in California and the US Senate (Title XII of Dodd-Frank) to promote safe and affordable alternatives to payday loans. BusinessWeek selected Mr. Gutierrez as among America’s most promising social entrepreneurs. In 2013, he was awarded the Jerry Porras Latino Leadership Award by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business for his work as entrepreneur helping Latino families build credit in America.

James also serves as vice-chair of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), a 501(c)(3) association of 300+ technology companies in Silicon Valley and on the board of SEO San Francisco, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the achievement gap in San Francisco. Previously, Mr. Gutierrez was a member of the Board of Directors for the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, the largest trade association for non-profit micro-business lenders.

James is a partner of Insikt Ventures, an early stage financial technology fund with investments in OnDeck Capital, Listo!, and Blend Labs. He is also an early investor in over twenty startup companies, including Trulia (merged with Zillow), OkCupid (acquired by, StubHub, and Talent Inc.

Mr. Gutierrez holds a B.A. in Economics from Yale University and a MBA from the Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.


Scott Alexander

Senior Director, Engineering

Scott is a seasoned engineer and tech manager with over 25 years of experience building world class engineering teams, as well as, developing high quality scalable software systems for fast-growing tech companies and startups. Prior to Aura, Scott was one of the first employees of PayPal where he learned first hand from Elon Musk how to build, launch, and iterate on products from initial launch through established product. Scott is also an entrepreneur and has co-founded his own tech startup in the past.

Scott received a BA in Computer Science with a minor in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.


Lynnette Carrasco

VP of People

Lynnette is the Vice President of People. Having spent the last decade working in financial services, Lynnette has dedicated her career to seeking ways to provide opportunities for the unbanked and underserved.

Prior to joining Aura in 2015, Lynnette worked in retail banking at Wells Fargo. She held many different roles during her tenure including licensed investment banking and then as a branch manager leading community outreach programs and volunteer events to help educate low-income communities on budgeting their money and planning for the future.

Lynnette holds a B.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.


Bennett Fogel

Chief Revenue Officer

Bennett is Aura’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Before joining Aura, Bennett was Chief Revenue Officer for America's largest cinema advertising network -- NCM Media Networks -- where he was responsible for all revenues, sales strategies, client relationships and divisional management across national, regional and digital sales organizations.

Prior to that, he served as Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing Partnerships for Univision, where he grew revenue from $250 million to over $1 billion by creating successful marketing partnerships with fortune 500 brands.

Earlier, Bennett served in leadership roles at the Walt Disney Company and Cox Enterprises where he developed transformational sales and marketing strategies and turned them into focused, sellable and actionable solutions.


Oscar Gonzales

VP, Government Relations

Oscar is responsible for developing federal and state level strategies to advance Aura's policy and regulatory initiatives.

Oscar has extensive experience in government relations, where he focused on fighting for economic justice for rural and urban families across the nation. Prior to working for Aura, Oscar served as an 8-year Obama appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor on Immigration, reporting to Secretary Tom Vilsack. Oscar also served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Executive Director in California where he oversaw farm loan programs across 58 counties. His state government experience includes working for Governor Gray Davis, Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, and Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero. Prior to working in politics, Oscar served as a community organizer and advocate, helping inner city youth.

Oscar received a BA in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego and an Associate of Arts in Business Administration from East Los Angeles College.

Kevin Kang

VP Risk Modeling & Co-Founder

Kevin brings over 25 years of experience in banking and risk management modeling and analytics in financial services.

Prior to co founding Aura, Kevin spent 5 years as Senior Director and Head of Risk Scoring at Oportun, where he helped the company achieve impressive credit results through the financial crisis and beyond. Prior to Oportun, Kevin worked at First National Bank of Omaha as Chief Statistician, building and managing marketing, underwriting, and collection teams. Kevin also spent 9 years in TRW/Experian as an unit manager of Analytical Services, supporting major clients using credit bureau data for risk and marketing decisions and overseeing the industry transition from judgmental to credit scoring underwriting. Kevin spent 9 years as VP of risk modeling and analytics at Household/HSBC Cards Services, growing the business from $6 billion to over $35 billion in credit card receivables.

Kevin received his undergraduate degree in Statistics in Taiwan and attended Iowa State University for his Masters and PhD studies in Statistics.


Michael Kepe

VP, Engineering

Michael is a founding member of Aura’s engineering team.

Mike leads the design and development of Aura’s loan securitization system and is responsible for managing and growing the technical team of Aura’s Los Angeles presence. He brings over 15 years of experience in software development and management in agile software environments.

Prior to Aura, Michael was a founding member of the engineering team at Prosper Marketplace, the first peer-to-peer lender in the US. While there, he helped scale Prosper’s technical infrastructure to support over $200 million in consumer loans.

Michael received a BS in Computer Science, summa cum laude, from the University of San Francisco and a MS in Computer Science from Stanford University.


Chingwen Ku

Senior Director, Risk

Chingwen leads the risk team in building predictive models and underwriting strategies, while monitoring and analyzing risk performances.

Chingwen has 10 years of experience in risk management, model development and fraud prevention in the financial sector. Prior to joining Aura, Chingwen spent 3 years at Oportun as a Senior Manager and was responsible for risk and direct mail strategy. Prior to joining Oportun, Chingwen worked for HSBC holding credit and fraud risk roles. During her tenure, she managed acquisition credit policy and underwriting strategy for a credit card portfolio with 13 million prospects and $6 billion in receivables. She also developed fraud prevention strategies monitoring 50 million credit card authorizations every day.

Chingwen received her MS in Applied Economics and Finance from University of California, Santa Cruz.


Juan Melendez

VP & Head of Sales and Retail Channel

Juan leads our efforts in expanding Aura’s retail network, partner productivity, and new business development.

Juan brings over 20 years of business development and P&L management experience in the remittance and payments industry.

Prior to joining Aura, Juan was Senior Vice President and Head of Retail at MoneyGram International, where he led large business development and revenue teams across North America. As a senior P&L and Revenue leader, Juan was responsible for a remit that included MoneyGram’s retail agent network, corporate-owned stores, and full service kiosks. Juan began his successful career at MoneyGram, as a field based Account Manager, and held a number of key management and senior leadership roles.

Juan proudly served in the United Sates Marine Corps. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from New York Institute of Technology.


Chris Motes

VP & Head of Product & Engineering

Chris leads our efforts to build great experiences for our borrowers, partners and investors.

Prior to joining Aura, Chris was VP of Product for video at Yahoo, and SVP of Product and Design at Fullscreen. Previously, Chris was also Head of Product for Yahoo News and Head of Consumer Product for HotJobs. Outside of work, Chris is a father of two amazing children, an amateur BBQ pitmaster and plays decent guitar and mandolin.

Chris earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in business from Texas A&M and a MBA from The University of Pennsylvania.


Louis Mrachek

VP & Head of Risk, Collections and Operations

Louis is responsible for managing Aura’s risk management, credit policy, modeling, collections and operational teams.

Prior to Aura, Louis was Vice President and Director for HSBC Card Services’ nonprime credit card business, leading customer acquisitions product strategy. At HSBC, Louis was instrumental in rebuilding HSBC’s nonprime business from near shutdown during the Great Recession. He helped to generate more than 1 million new accounts and almost $1 billion in new receivables per year, until it was sold to Capital One in 2012.

Earlier, Louis held various credit and marketing leadership roles from 2002 to 2007 in US Card Credit Policy and Credit Recovery Services at Capital One. Most recently, Louis was a founding team member and SVP of Business Development at Trulify, where he led the product build of an online income and employment verification platform.

Louis received a BS in Economics from Duke University.


Dan Sanford

VP, Finance and Administration

Dan is responsible for financial reporting, accounting, and compliance functions.

Dan brings over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. Throughout his career, he has managed the financial aspects of publicly traded and private financial service institutions in a wide range of matters including SEC financial reporting, asset securitization, and regulatory examination. Prior to joining Aura, Dan was SVP and accounting officer of Prosper Marketplace. Prior to Prosper, he co-founded and served as CFO of Home Value Protection, Inc., a venture backed financial services entity targeting homeowner value protection. Prior to Home Value Protection, Dan spent 17 years as EVP and Controller at Providan Financial Corporation, a $25 billion credit card lender, where he managed all reporting and accounting aspects for the lender during its evolution as publicly traded company to WaMu Cards, including multiple credit card securitization transactions, SEC reporting, and the forecasting/planning function. Prior to Providian, Dan was an auditor at Ernst & Young, focusing on financial institutions.

Dan received a BS in Accounting and Finance from the University of California, Berkeley.


Ege Tanor

SVP, Treasury & Capital Markets

Ege is responsible for Aura’s capital markets efforts, consisting of funding its consumer loan originations through various revolving credit facilities and its proprietary private social bond platform.

Prior to joining Aura Financial, Ege was a Vice President at Fortress Investment Group in New York, where he was responsible for trading interest rate and currency risk for the private equity portfolio along with Fortress's existing residential mortgage backed securities portfolio. In addition, Ege assisted Alea Group, a Fortress-owned insurance company in the P&C space, with its investment decisions. Prior to Fortress, Ege spent 10 years at Bear Stearns, where he was most recently a Managing Director in the Fixed Income Derivatives group.

Ege received a BS in Economics, cum laude, with concentrations in Finance and Accounting from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.


Randy Wong

CTO & Co-Founder

Randy is responsible for setting the technological vision and strategy, and driving the architecture powering Aura’s lending and investing platforms.

Randy brings over 20 years of experience designing and implementing large scale, distributed applications and systems. Prior to joining Aura, he initiated and led the development of the loan origination and servicing system at Oportun, helping to scale the company from an early stage start to an established lender in 2012. Prior to Oportun, Randy was a member of the Federal Reserve, where he was responsible for the architecture and design of FedDebt, a debt management system deployed at the US Treasury, collecting over $6 billion in debt annually. Prior, he co-founded, where he built the technology that launched into one of the leading Internet commerce sites of its day. Randy began his career as a software engineer at Oracle.

A native of San Francisco, California, Randy received a BS in Electrical Engineering with Honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a MS in Computer Engineering from Santa Clara University.