It’s great to be first, but don’t expect it to be easy

By Tom Woolf, EdAid Founder & CEO

Being first is awesome. Top of the podium, gold medallist, national anthem roaring in the background. That’s how I felt last Tuesday when we finally heard from the Financial Conduct Authority as to whether or not we were able to launch.

12 Months, £250,000, and many, many sleepless nights later, EdAid was finally authorised and regulated by the FCA. We are now the first Peer-2-Peer lending platform to be fully authorised from start to finish — as opposed to those that are currently operating under interim permission.

The first to forge a path, is often the one left with thorns in their shins, and brambles hanging from their hair

It has been a painful process, not least because as a small start-up we do not have the bandwidth, human capital or financial muscle of the big financial services players. Throw in a regulator who is working hard to keep up and recognise fintech as a good thing, yet struggling to adapt to new and innovative ways of doing business.

This is not to criticise or throw mud, it is simply that the FCA has to date, not kept apace with innovation in financial services. However, you can bet your bottom dollar they will do and this is exemplified in the great work that Mary Starks and Anna Wallace are doing at Project Innovate. EdAid is also now a far more robust business for being regulated and we are very proud of the policy impact we have had upon the FCA and setting new standards for all peer-to-peer and alternative lending platforms.

A clear example of the extra due care, forbearance and customer protection that EdAid provides to its lenders and borrowers is our Sunset Policy. EdAid has made financial provision (which is fully funded by the business) to run the EdAid loan book down in its entirety should as a platform fail. As we fall outside of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, we have designed our own system to ensure continuity of service and management of all repayments from students to lenders until the last loan is closed out. This will now be the new benchmark that all alternative lending platforms are to be held to, and we are really proud of our role in pioneering this.

Time to pick a bigger mountain to climb

So now that we have climbed the regulatory mountain, we are set to be unleashed on the world. Today marks the release of EdAid’s Open Beta product. After building EdAid in 2014, and spending all of 2015 getting regulated, it seems a little surreal that we are now finally in a position to support the very students we set out to back in 2012.

Our approach with EdAid is juxtaposed with what you might see, read or hear from other startups or businesses who bandy around terms like hyper growth, hacking an audience or aggressively acquiring market share. Our focus for 2016 is to help a small number of students in a really meaningful way. Those itching to get their appeal out there will be able use the EdAid platform to crowdfund the means to finance their education, and build a prosperous future.

We are unashamedly only interested in funding the best, brightest and most ambitious students. We do not care about background, political affiliation, where you went to school or how much your parents earn.

We are interested in where you want to go, the lives you want to impact, the future you want to build and how we can facilitate the community to help you get there.

We know that a student’s community want to share the burden, challenge and discovery of the academic journey with them and in time celebrate the joy of getting across the line, graduating and being empowered to make an impact on the world. We have built this platform to support anyone with the courage, ambition and drive to take control over their financial future.

So as the Founder of EdAid this is my rallying call:

If you are a student who wishes to reduce the cost of your student loan, tell the world where you want to go, and bring the community along with you. As you embark on this great journey, we are here to climb mountains with you. It will not be straightforward, and at times you will doubt yourself. But in those moments of doubt you will realise that there are people who believe in you, and that in itself is an infinite source of power to drive you forward.

We look forward to welcoming you to EdAid whether you are already at university, considering going to university or wish to support a student looking for funding with EdAid. One thing you are guaranteed is that we do things a little differently around here.

And if you’re prepared to be the first to ____________________ (insert goal), then be prepared to be great.

Tom Woolf
Founder & CEO, EdAid

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