We talked with Brendon McQueen, CEO of student loan management platform Tuition.io, this month for an insider's view of the startup.
Tuition.io, which demoed at FinovateFall 2012, has recently been covered in such blogs and publications as Lifehacker, Dow Jones' All Things D, and The LA Times and just unveiled its new user interface today (see below).
Finovate: At the beginning of this quarter, Tuition.io launched its student loan management platform out of private beta. What has been the response so far from the public?
McQueen: Tuition.io provides our users with a unique service that directly addresses one of the most cumbersome and frustrating tasks they'll encounter (organizing and optimizing their student loans), which is why we get a constant flow of positive emails from our users -- many of which center around just thanking us for creating a tool that curbs said frustration.
Outside of our users, the press has really latched onto Tuition.io because we're solving a big problem for student loan borrowers which is as timely a subject matter as you're likely to encounter.
Finovate: What has been the biggest surprise you've encountered since launching?
McQueen: Successful lawyers, doctors and MBAs using the product. No kidding. We've had a surge of people asking us how to optimize their debt via larger payments. We'll get emails asking what their situation looks like if they make $5,000 payments per month. It makes total sense, but our early feeling was that our tool would mostly serve those facing financial hardship. That said, while we purposely built a platform that serves both ends of the financial spectrum, we didn't think that higher earning individuals would represent such a large and vocal portion of the early adopters.
Finovate: Tuition.io raised $1 million in seed funding in February. What are your plans for putting it to use?
McQueen:The simple answer, hiring and customer acquisition. On a side note, as a first time entrepreneur, it has been interesting to see what $10k can do, and then as you grow, what $1mm can do. It's all relative and embracing that fact has been a learning curve. For example, early on you think you should be working out of your apartment, but that obviously doesn't scale. Then the question is, what kind of office do we get? At first, you'll think you should get the cheapest office you can find, but then you think about your team cranking hours in said cheap office and it begins to make less sense. Headline: get an office you and your team will enjoy as you will spend the vast majority of your time there.
Finovate: What new functionality / capabilities are you working on for Tuition.io?
McQueen: We just released Tuition.io v2.0 which places a greater emphasis on UI/UX and debt tracking over time. The new platform will also make it easier for us to build out more functionality, faster, and with more options for scaling the product.
Finovate: How has the experience you gained from your Colombia University film degree helped you succeed in the startup world?
McQueen: I think film is one of the hardest hustles you can chase, period. It's all on you, there's little concrete structure on how to go about making films, and even less structure on how to make successful films (despite what is taught in class). It teaches you, or rather forces you, to think outside the box and take action. Such is the same with entrepreneurship and tech.
Finovate: Can you share any usage metrics?
McQueen: We just crossed the $500mm mark in terms of aggregate user debt on the platform with users averaging 10 loans per person. The sheer amount of debt is astonishing, but so is the conversion rate of users adding loans onto the platform. We now have .05% of the total $1 trillion in outstanding student debt in the U.S. and we just got started.