Income Share Agreements overview 2021

Taxonomy of more than 130 ISA companies in different sub-fields

In the last two years, Income Share Agreements (ISAs) have seen a tremendous amount of activity. The concept is simple: For a fixed payment, an investor gets a percentage share of the future income of a person. For investors, this opens a new asset class that behaves as a mixture between two large asset classes: consumer loans and classical stocks / equity. While ISAs have the upside potential of stocks, they have the temporary cash flow nature of loans, with additional similarities laid out below:

For ISA-takers, it offers a chance to hedge the inherent risk of a loan (in case their future earnings unexpectedly drop).

The first theoretical foundation for Income Share Agreements with the particular use case of educational financing has been laid by Milton Friedman all the way back in 1955. While academically interesting, it has taken a long time for the concept to get converted into reality. There have been many local varieties over the years to establish something like ISAs over the years. The University of Yale tried to implement an income-based student loan program in the 1970s which was considered a failure; in the 2000s, Protrade unsuccessfully tried to establish a market in athlete’s future incomes, and in 2010, Thrust Fund started to sell small stakes of 3–6% of future income of entrepreneurs. While most of these experiments did not amount to anything, some smaller scale experiments proved to be successful. Since 2005 students at a few private German universities are offered a “Generation Contract” that allows them to pay tuition as a share of their income after graduation, with strong track records and a generally high acceptance.

However, it took until now for the topic to really take off as a hot trend. Google Trends shows only sporadic traction until the mid-2010s, and afterwards a major development.

This growth has been spurned by the Investing in Student Success Act of 2014, that sets a clear regulatory framework for ISAs in the US.

Additionally, pressures from ever-increasing tuition fees and a novel interest in alternative, decentralized investments spearheaded by developments in crypto have paved the way for this renewed spotlight on ISAs.

Below is a list of the current state of the ISA landscape. It contains about 130 major and minor actors in the ISA field. It is structured into various types: The biggest groups are the major ISA providers like Vemo or Leif that are issuing and structuring ISAs, as well as coding bootcamps and universities offering ISAs to their students. Beyond these classical structures, there is a variety of “personal IPO” projects with individuals selling shares of themselves, either on the blockchain or through other mechanisms. Also, a variety of career-focused ISA projects emerged, be it mentorship-ISAs, visa-ISAs or other areas.

Feel free to look at the full list by clicking “View larger version” below.

The ISA landscape is extremely dynamic and this list can only be a snapshot. In case of any factual errors or grave oversights, please feel free to email me at bjoern.christian.wolf (at)



Business Angel Network focusing on early-stage investment in Central and Eastern Europe

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Bjoern Christian Wolf

Investor at | Eclectic interests: FinTech (ISAs, index coins, Darknet markets), QS, genetics, psychometrics, gadgets & seasteading