#FounderFeature w/ ChangEd — Solving Financial Crises For Millennials

Posted on June 14, 2019
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Founder: Nick Sky & Dan Stelmach

Tagline: Nickel and Dime Your Student Loans

What does ChangEd Do do? ChangEd is here to solve the largest financial crisis of the millennial generation, Student Loans. ChangEd is a mobile app that allows users to link their financial institution and student loans in one place. They give borrowers the ability to track, manage, save, and automate additional payments onto their student loans, which gets them out of debt sooner and saves them in potential interest costs.

Solving Financial Crises For Millennials

By Dan Stelmach and Nick Sky

The Venture Center boasts participation from companies with different make-ups. ChangeEd is one of those companies. Founded by two brothers, Nick Sky and Dan Stelmach’s story captures the value and impact of strong partnerships, trust, and ingenuity in providing solutions for enormous financial obstacles.

From Dan Stelmach, co-founder of ChangEd:

My brother Nick and I were born two years apart, and were raised in Chicago. Our mom was a hardworking single mom who had her own cleaning business. We grew up understanding what it was like to work, to really work. At ten years old, we learned to shovel lots of snowy Chicago driveways to earn money. Later we started a landscape business, and Nick even started an e-commerce business. We’ve always built businesses together, and have relied on each other as all around trusted partners.

I was indecisive about going to school, but Nick said I absolutely had to go, so I went. I worked full time while going to school full time and graduated with a whopping $68,000 in student loan debt. I realized my minimum payment was $850 and would take me over a decade to repay. I made a plan to keep up with my payments, and also set a goal to save enough to own my own place, so I took any opportunity to make extra money. Three years after graduating, I’d saved a down payment on a house. I was excited because I was approved for a loan, and even took Nick with me to go check out some homes. But after the dream of owning my own home settled, I realized a mortgage, an $850 student loan bill, and every other life expense wasn’t feasible. I decided to walk away from buying a home.

I quickly realized just about everyone has student loans, but no one has a plan for tackling repayment. That is a huge mistake. Statistically, it takes a staggering 21 years to pay off student loans. I wanted to get mine paid off and go on with my life, so I wrote up some ideas on a sticky note about building an app that would solve this issue without having to drastically change my financial plan. I wanted to create an app that automated savings such as roundups and applying the savings to my student loan. I took my sticky note, showed it to Nick, and ChangEd was born.

When ChangEd launched, we received a great response. People reached out with awesome feedback and other features they wanted to see us launch. I had a sense that we were shifting the way people looked at their debt and we felt that was the first step to getting people out of debt sooner. I never thought I would say this, but our users get excited when they make a student loan payment, and there is nothing exciting about student loans. One of the most amazing things to see is when people tag us on Instagram and other feeds to share their excitement and progress when they make a student loan payment. They are truly excited and motivated, and it’s simply an amazing feeling.

For most people, student loans are their first major financial decisions, so this paves the way for a lesson in why a good relationship with your bank is so important. For any major life decision, a bank is usually close to that decision. At the VC FIS Fintech Accelerator, we want to learn how to align products with financial institutions because at the end of the day, financial institutions are in a unique position to help the financial health and wellbeing of their customers. We want to help banks help their customers reach their next milestone sooner. The real dreams college graduates think of. Bank customers trust their banks to take care of them, and if they have a product like ChangEd, the bank can add tremendous value to a customer with this major pain point.

From Nick Sky, co-founder of ChangEd:

The sticky note Dan talked about? We have that sticky note framed now, and hanging on the wall. We were fortunate to have a little tech background and experience getting things to market, but without the tech development piece, we’d be nowhere. To take a sticky note brainstorm and make it a usable service, we knew we would need a tech co-founder, and we found one on cofounders.com. A couple of meetings later, over pancakes at iHop, we forged a partnership with our CTO and got busy developing the app. By 2017 we were beta testing, and then one day we got an email from a friend congratulating us on our Apple store feature. Surprised, I went to the Apple App Store and ChangEd was at the top of the page.

We were lucky enough to have a product that was stable at the time of the headline, and in 2017, we sent 100K in student loan payments only in spare change round ups. Later that year we ended up shooting a segment for Shark Tank in 2017, which eventually led to a deal with Mark Cuban. We were able to tell our story on a national stage, and we quickly increased our payments to $2M in 2018. We’ll triple that this year. In terms of time, this translates to decades and possibly centuries of student loan debt saved.

The interesting thing about ChangEd is that we don’t to change a person’s behavior; rather, ChangEd aligns with their behavior. We put a positive spin on paying off your student loans, we tell you how much time and money you are saving with each payment derived only from spare change round ups, and the work of saving is automated so it ends up living in the people’s backgrounds.

Another incredible feature is that other people can contribute their spare change. For instance, a college student could recruit their grandparents and parents to throw their spare change in, and the payments multiply exponentially. When people get their loans paid off faster, they can move on buying homes, starting businesses, and investing their money wisely. Potential bank partners being able to provide a way for people to reach their financial goals younger is incredibly impactful, and is a huge part of why we’re happy to be part of the Venture Center FIS Fintech Accelerator.