Achieve Lending is a new financial technology company that offers the first ever search engine for education loans. Our website helps people easily search, find, and compare the best loan options, in as little as 30 seconds.
At whom is your startup aimed?
Achieve Lending is aimed at any person who’s interested in furthering their education. We believe education comes in many forms, so we’ve partnered with lenders who will help people finance both traditional and non-traditional forms of education, such as online courses, trade schools, specialty training, and many more. If you’re looking to grow your knowledge, Achieve Lending will help you find a way to pay for it.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
Our platform is faster, more intuitive, and easier to use, and we also offer a more extensive suite of loan products. We understand the consumer, and know that the definition of “education” is evolving beyond traditional undergrad and graduate programs, so we are the only platform out there that will truly connect people with their best options. Emily DeRuy, a reporter from Fusion, said it best when she called us the “OkCupid” between borrowers and lenders.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
Achieve Lending was born out of my own poor decisions when financing my education at Cornell. I never shopped around and my parents didn’t have any insight into the process. After I graduated and began paying off my student debt, I realized just how uninformed my decision had been. There were many other, better options, yet I failed to take the time to objectively compare even one or two other offers. After witnessing many other students and friends make similarly uninformed decisions, I decided to build Achieve Lending.
It’s obvious that the education-financing marketplace is growing rapidly, but it’s also inefficient and fragmented. Borrowers are confused and lenders are, as always, eager to acquire new customers. I knew we could leverage technology to help both sides and create a better way to get the job done.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
I’m not going to lie, I dove in boldly and somewhat blindly. None of my friends had ever built a real business, and we came from very conservative, institutional backgrounds. I quickly realized building a startup is vastly different from working at another established company.
When you come from pedigreed institutions, everyone always returns your call and takes you seriously. Your company speaks for itself. You barely have to do any persuading. What you realize, though, is that others are returning your call based on the reputation of your firm, not you as a person. This was the first time that the only reputation and credibility I had to bank on was my own. My concern was: Without the assumed credibility and reputation of a long-standing organization or institution, do I have what it takes to make it?
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
My entire career revolved around evaluating, investing in, building, and managing high growth companies. I spent six years working in the finance and investment industry before starting Achieve Lending. I had stints at the world’s premier financial firms, with positions in investment banking, private equity, angel investing, and consulting.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
From friends and mentors.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Achieve Lending’s greatest achievement is our quickly-growing affiliate program. We have a number of great partners already, and we continue to build and develop strong relationships with other organizations and influencers in both the finance and education verticals. It’s all about collaboration and partnerships.
How have you kept your business relevant and engaged with your audience over the last three years?
We’ve been around for less than a year, but in that time we’ve been hyper focused on spreading knowledge and awareness around our mission. We share relevant content with many partner bloggers and across all media channels. Knowledge really is power, and we’re all about helping people grow their knowledge to become the best they can be.
How long has your business been in making, and who is the team behind the business?
This idea began brewing in mid- 2014, but we officially launched in December and things are really picking up at the moment. The team is lean, mean and agile, as most members are part-time contributors.
Wayne Allyn Root, a former presidential candidate, is our newest addition as company spokesperson. He’s had a prodigious career as a serial entrepreneur, international business speaker, bestselling author, defender of small business and champion of the middle class. Wayne is also one of only 60 legends to have their own star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars!
Differential is the venture studio that took this idea from back-of-a-napkin to commercial status. They are true partners and have delivered far and beyond expectations. Colin Flynn and Spencer Carli are the key members of the tech team from Differential.
Our affiliate program, which we’re very proud of, is managed by MGECOM. Their team is the best in the industry. Alison Woss, who previously managed the affiliate program for CreditCards.com, and Matt Enders, the founder of MGECOM, are very hands-on, extraordinarily proficient managers. They are unparalleled.
Social Vantage manages our social media, with Connor Gallic and Matthew Pattoli running point on their side.
And last but certainly not least, Lauren Bowling, of L Bee and the Money Tree, manages our PR and content strategy. She’s a truly dynamic and creative PR strategist who’s delivered tremendous results for Achieve Lending so far. We’re excited to see what comes next!
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge, as with any other startup in a competitive industry, is acquiring customers in a cost effective manner. We’ve been very fortunate to have a team that’s creative, hard-working, and capable of delivering immense results efficiently. As a startup, you need to make it happen no matter what. Teamwork and collaboration turn dreams into reality.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
Achieve Lending would like to become the go-to source for education financing in the United States. After that, we’re going global!
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
When I first started, I was immersed in the startup community and many private networks of entrepreneurs, so I had assumed I had a reliable support network to find help and solve the inevitable and vast array of problems I’d encounter along the journey. What I quickly learned, however, was that entrepreneurship requires unequivocal accountability and responsibility on the part of the entrepreneur himself. When the going gets tough, no one can (or will) step up to the plate but you.
Thus, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to accept total responsibility for the outcome and never give up on your dream. If you’re going to take the leap and bet on yourself, you’re the only one who can deliver in the end.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Do it. YOLO.