What is the origin story of your company?
I grew up a high-achieving, low-income student and was the first in my family to go to college. Like myself, many people on Sixup’s team share a similar background. We believe the path to and through college is broken and that the student loan financing system must be fixed. After a career in global management consulting and working at software and financial technology companies, I came full circle back to higher education. In early 2014, I decided I wanted to apply my life experience and energy to solving one of the most difficult problems facing the United States: increasing access to higher education and scaling economic mobility for the underserved. That’s when I started Sixup. The company’s goal is to transform transactional student lending into a new asset class called Future-Prime™ by leveraging technology, capital, and community. We see it as a new way to scale human capital into workforce and economic development.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting your company?
Markets and venture investors like to ride waves and in the advent of fintech, the low-hanging fruit was executing arbitrage at scale and scaling price-to-volume ratios. Sixup is taking a different approach, which takes time and money to get off the ground. We’ve had to convince venture investors that our innovation would translate into venture returns and upside potential. This is fundamentally different, and more difficult, than chasing price-to-volume. We’ve had to convince impact investors and foundations that we’re credible for both investment risk and reputational risk. And we had to convince debt investors that the Future-Prime™ talent class of students would be worthy of capital markets and commercial credit. Fortunately, we’ve brought on blue-chip, bold, and forward-thinking investors like Rethink Education, Collaboration Capital, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, and Kellogg Foundation.
What new innovation in fintech are you most excited about?
I’m excited about innovations specifically designed for the underserved and underbanked. That might be new credit models, capital stacks, or anything that can help destroy the stigma that “under-banked” always means “subprime.”
What’s one thing you wish you’d known back when you started your company?
I wish I’d know from the start just how risk-averse impact investors are and how disconnected their investing can be relative to their mission and aspirations.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?
Make your decisions, particularly strategic ones, not based on cost versus benefit, but on opportunity cost. There is a difference between persevering and banging your head against the wall. Also: Do what you love and love what you do. People can tell.