Q&A with College Ave, Comcast Ventures’ Student Loan Marketplace Lender Investment
Founded by former Sallie Mae executives in 2014, the company provides private loans for undergraduates, graduates and parents as well as refinancing options for existing loans, simplifying a once complicated process.
We sat down with Joe DePaulo, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of College Ave Student Loans to talk about the service, his tips for entrepreneurs, and why he’s passionate about the student loan space.
What is College Ave Student Loans?
We’re an online marketplace lender that is completely focused on helping students, graduates, and their families finance higher education. We’re using modern technology and our deep industry expertise to connect families who need to cover education costs with lenders who can provide that funding.
What differentiates it from the competition?
In terms of the competitive landscape, we’re the first and only marketplace lender to focus on helping students and their families during and after school. We’re not just refinancing existing student loans after the fact; we’re providing funding for them to complete their education.
We entered the space with a belief that higher education is no longer a one-size-fits-all industry. And, we believe it’s only going to continue to become more specialized. That means students and families need financing for that education that’s also tailored to their goals, lifestyles, and budgets. Within our first 18 months in business, we already have the widest breadth of offers and the most flexible loans in the space, and we’re perfectly positioned to continue to adapt our product set as school and customer needs evolve.
We’ve learned by watching other lending companies make this a very complicated experience. As a result, we decided to focus on the customer experience. We deliver in a way that’s simple and clear, because everyone deserves to understand what they’re getting and how much it will cost. We also provide personalization so that customers can tailor the loan to fit their individual needs.
What advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs?
There are three things that I think are important to consider:
Putting together the right team – the right people for the specific venture – is critical. You may have to look beyond the people you already know to find the right folks who will adapt and thrive in a dynamic environment.
Have a documented, quantifiable plan. You’ll always make adjustments as you go, but you have to know what you’re working toward and how you’re measuring your progress.
Make sure you have enough capital to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and survive inevitable surprises.
What do you do when you’re not at your day job?
First, I make sure my iPhone is fully charged; I wouldn’t want the team to miss me too much. Once that’s done, you can find me carting my daughter to sports, or getting in a round of golf when I can.
What surprises you the most about the student loan space?
It’s surprising how little student loans have evolved over the last few decades. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a four-year program or a one-year program. It doesn’t matter if you are going to college right after high school or returning later in life. No matter what your personal circumstances are, you basically get the same product that was offered to students in the 1970’s. But we’re changing that.
Curious to learn more about College Ave? Find more information here.