Talk about being in the right place at the right time. With today being the day that America begins putting its New Year’s resolutions into practice and also the morning after both houses of Congress passed a bill to avoid something called a “fiscal cliff,” intelligent student loan management startup Tuition.io is opening its doors to the public for the first time. For good measure, the company is also announcing several flagship partners that will put it squarely in the path of its target audience.
The one year old company incubated in Santa Monica’s LaunchpadLA accelerator has put the wraps on a four month, 1,500 person private beta in which its systems managed more than $100 million in education debt across over 10,000 individual student loans, and originating from 130 universities – including the nation’s Top 25. Throughout its beta period, the company gathered user input and subsequently refined the product, with the result being an entirely new UI and dashboard rolling out alongside today’s public launch.
The magic of Tuition.io is that it allows borrowers to manage all of their various student loans, public or private, in one place and then provides simple solutions for understanding and optimizing their repayment. The platform allows users to create customized action plans geared towards reducing on monthly payments or paying loans down faster. In the future, the company will likely offer solutions like debt consolidation and refinancing from trusted third-parties that will both broaden its value proposition and represent a significant revenue opportunity.
Student loans are one of the biggest fiscal clouds hanging over the US today, with more than 37 million people in the country holding more than $1 trillion of education debt – exceeding both credit card and automotive debt. The fact that each of these borrowers typically has multiple loans from different lenders and service providers – not to mention the fact that loans are regularly sold between lenders – only further complicates matters.
For example, Tuition.io co-founder and CEO, and Columbia University alum Brendon McQueen graduated with 12 separate loans totaling $120,000 and quickly realized that manually managing these obligations was a nightmare. Like many great entrepreneurs, he created Tuition.io to scratch his own itch.
In conjunction with its public launch, the company has partnered with Student Veterans of America and OurTime.org to bring awareness of its solution to underserved groups of young Americans. Co-founder and COO Steve Pomerantz, formerly of Maker Studios, indicated that the company is actively working on several other high profile strategic partnerships of this nature which will help raise its profile among young college graduates.
Tuition.io has not yet announced financing publicly, but the company’s AngelList page lists Abhas Gupta of Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV) as an investor in the company. [Update: Gupta confirmed after posting that MDV Partner Bryan Stolle led an investment by the firm in Tuition.io, but could not offer any other details.] With that in mind, expect an announcement in this regard in the near future. The five person team will likely grow to 10 in the first half of 2013, according to its founders, as the company ramps toward what they predict will be “substantial revenue” in the third and fourth quarters of the year.
Given that many are calling the student loan mess the “next mortgage crisis,” there’s no shortage of borrowers and other constituents looking for solutions. The Tuition.io is good, but the company will have to over come a number of daunting obstacles, not the least of them obscurity and general concerns over privacy and online fraud. The fact that the small company must do so with limited resources and that its founders are new to the financial services sector makes success anything but a sure bet. For what it’s worth, personal finance juggernaut Mint.com overcame similar challenges in its early days on just $1 million in Seed financing. McQueen and Pomerantz will hope to pull off the same trick.
Many have already taken to calling Tuition.io the “Mint for student loans.” After more people get a chance to use the service, most will probably just call it a lifesaver.
[Image source: Thousandaire]