SX Startups: FutureFuel.io Attacks Debt

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 19, 2018

Fifty startups have been chosen for the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event and will show off their skills on March 10 and 11. Winners in each of 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB. Meet all the finalists on Monday, March 12, at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day, at the Hilton Austin, Salon C. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.

A finalist in Payment and Fintech Technology, FutureFuel.io exists to crush student debt with innovative technology, partnerships and data-driven solutions, through an enterprise SaaS platform strategy that makes debt repayment and refinancing easy for employers, platforms and users. Their mission is to inspire users to go beyond: beyond debt, into wellness, and ultimately into wealth (like their debt-free peers). See their pitch at 11 am Sunday, March 11, in the Hilton Austin, Salon AB.

FutureFuel.io is based in Boston. Questions for this interview were answered by Laurel Taylor, the Founder and CEO of this startup. She is front / center in the photo above.

What does FutureFuel.io hope to achieve in 2018?
To be of service to our users and employers, enabling employers to solve one of four problems by offering student debt repayment and refinancing through our platform. This enables them to win the war for talent, by acquiring top talent. It also enables employers to retain top talent, providing significant ROI through employee retention alone, to increase workforce diversity (women and minorities express extreme preference to work for employers offering student debt repayment) and to capture additional productivity from employees, due to minimized stress and distraction. Otherwise, we want to liberate our users from $150,000,000 in debt, shifting $720,000,000 in loan payments toward wealth creation, such as 401(k) participation. In 2018, FutureFuel.io aims o launch partnerships with super brands, such as FANGS (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Salesforce), creating a clear feedback loop of reward, recognition and relief for those who dare to aspire in STEM professions. These partnerships will create another clear feedback loop of reach, hope and access to women and minorities (who own two-thirds of the $1.4T in student loan debt). Additionally, FutureFuel.io wants to pioneer student debt repayment and refi as a net new category of employer-sponsored benefit, and as the foundation of financial health and wellness programs.
We want to continue to crush code, focus on user experience, and build love and loyalty for the employers we serve. And we want to clearly demonstrate market demand and product market fit, to position for our Series A.

What is your competitive advantage?
We are a mission-driven company, and have a very clear true north in everything that we do: We exist to crush student debt. Our solutions will evolve over time, but the problem we are attacking will remain constant.
We have a modern, mobile, millennial-centric user interface. The multi-lender refinancing marketplace embedded at the core of our refi offering enables us to serve a broad spectrum of user — we are serving users with credit scores as modest as 600 — and serve up a WIN for the HR department. Our refi solution saves users an average of $19,000 and lowers interest rates by 1.7%.
We have payment precision, powered by Silicon Valley Bank and MasterCard RPPS, and the use of financial technology, innovating AROUND the antiquated student loan servicer and lender space. FutureFuel.io’s use of financial technology enables us to solve complex problems in the value chain of employer to servicer and user to service payments: real-time loan account validation, access to the meta data of the student loan, “closing the loop” when payments post to the user account and serving up a real-time notification to both the employer and user.

What kinds of people is your team looking to network with at SXSW 2018?
We want to connect with HR/Benefits/Payroll Providers, 401(k) Providers, Insurance Providers, and/or Healthcare Payers who are interested in becoming distribution partners. We also want to connect with employers interested in leveraging student debt repayment and refi as a way to win the war for talent, building love and loyalty among our dominant workforce. Of course, we are also looking to meet people from the venture Capital industry and super angels. We are also wanting to connect with exceptional engineers, data scientists, product managers, sales people and angel investors.

What are the goals for FutureFuel.io at SXSW 2018?
FutureFuel.io has some pretty ambitious goals for March in Austin. We want to close 10 new customers and to close at least two channel partners. We want to raise interest from the venture community. We want to generate awareness around the importance of offering student debt repayment and refi as a new normal in employee benefits. Finally, we want to meet super connectors who wish to join us on this journey to CRUSH student debt.

FutureFuel.io is based in Boston. What are some of the best things about your local tech/startup ecosystem?
In Boston, there is an intimate ecosystem of awesome founders who are scrappy and real. The MIT community is a big part of that ecosystem. So many other colleges and universities means that there is exceptional talent within the region. Boston has also emerged as a center of financial technology.

What aspects of the startup experience do you enjoy most?
Driving our mission forward every day. Our inspired team members who are carrying the torch. The creative aspect of creating — manifesting vision from the invisible to the visible and experiential. And seeing customers, just as passionate as we are about solving the student debt crises, delighted that they have an opportunity to be part of the solution in such a clever and authentic way.

What has the startup experience taught you about life?
Resiliency is the greatest attribute of any person, company or relationship. Few things are as we wish them to be. The ability to wake to a new day, or a new moment and shift — that is an exceptional gift we have, as humans.

Person, company, thing or goal. What inspires your team to work harder?
Impact. We are all rallied around impact, at scale. We keep our eye on our true north, and execute toward that opportunity every day.

Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, AfterNow, ARwall, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, FanFood, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Moms Can: Code, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, UPGRADED, USHR and Vochlea.

Or, click here to browse the full lineup of startups for SXSW Accelerator 2018.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.