A Dallas-based founder looks to tackle the student loan crisis with his startup, College Cash – TechCrunch
Demetrius Curry has been pursuing a dream in recent years.
His startup College Cash enables brands to encourage users to create photo and video marketing content that will highlight their product or service. The downside is that the content creators are paid by the brands in the form of credits that go directly to the repayment of their student loan debt. This model gives the brands involved a measure of social benevolence and tax advantages.
The Dallas-area founder was inspired to tackle the student loan debt crisis after speaking with his daughter about the prospect of eventually repaying her own loan debt. Over the past two years, Curry has been building the emerging platform, tracking down brand partners, navigating accelerator programs, luring users and searching the sidewalk for investors willing to bet on his vision.
College Cash has raised $ 105,000 to date and is hoping to eventually wrap the funding into an initial $ 1 million round.
Completing the round was a challenge of its own for Curry, who at times struggled to find a chance, even amid the historical amounts of capital pouring into the startup ecosystem. This distinction was less noticeable for black founders, who still only make up a small percentage of VC allocation. Following last summer’s protests against police brutality, a number of venture capital firms issued statements exposing institutional racism and pledging to support more underserved founders and to launch new programs for diverse founders.
While Curry says he appreciates the scale of the problem and the good intentions of those making the statements, he believes that venture capital networks have a lot to learn about what it means to be an “underserved” founder, and that many of the existing efforts feel like “lip service”. He says stakeholders are less interested in recognizing the achievements of founders who struggled through poverty or found opportunities in regions where opportunity is more difficult to find, even if Silicon Valley continues to drop out of prestigious ones Universities adored.
“You can’t look for anything else if you’re looking in the same places,” Curry told TechCrunch. “When you look at the subject of ‘underserved founders’, it’s not just about skin color, but also about where they are from and what they have been through.”
Curry said it can be frustrating to compete for early-stage opportunities when investors are unwilling to adjust their parameters sensibly. Of particular frustration for Curry was navigating the world of “warm introductions” to even get a foot in the door for programs aimed at diverse founders or applying for early-stage programs targeting “underserved” aligned only to learn that it doesn’t. It is not far enough to qualify.
“Think about how much we had to go through just to get into the room with you,” says Curry. “I sold plasma to pay a web hosting fee. Nothing will stop me.”
College Cash’s mission to expand opportunities for people struggling with managing their student loan debt is Curry himself, who saw his life turn around after high school.
Decades ago, fresh from the military, Curry said he had a casual conversation with a stranger while he was eating at a Hardee – the discussion about what he wanted more from life eventually forced him to go back and get his GED and later get a business degree. What followed was a career in finance that eventually led to his most recent entrepreneurship at College Cash.
The platform is an early stage company at the moment, but Curry has big ambitions that he is working towards. His next effort is building a college cash tipping integration with gig economy platforms with the goal that users of those platforms could ultimately choose to tip a worker and channel that money directly towards paying off that person’s student loan debt.
According to Curry, the College Cash team worked with a “national gig economy platform” to pilot integration and ran focus groups that show users are more likely to tip when they know they have money to pay for it used by credit debt.