Introducing the Pave Loan: A letter from our founders

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Since we launched Pave a year and a half ago, we’ve received amazing interest and support from thousands of people starting their careers in search of funding.

This demand has only further reinforced our vision to provide talented individuals with access to better, more affordable funding combined with resources from people who want to see our generation succeed.

The Problem

What we’ve discovered is that access to funding is a much bigger problem than we first understood. Since the 2008 financial crisis, banks have had to cut back heavily on consumer lending while credit has become more expensive and increasingly difficult to access. Plus, the way in which traditional underwriting is performed overestimates the risk of many creditworthy Millennials who have limited or no credit history.

This means that great Talent are being outright rejected or forced to take funding at burdensome rates, and it’s why we’ve decided to redefine the traditional loan and offer an alternative solution that’s simple, personal and — above all — affordable.

Introducing the Pave Loan

We are in the midst of piloting a new loan product designed to fund people early in their careers. Pave will now offer loans up to $25,000 with a 2-3 year term. When calculating rates, we uniquely favor a more personal approach and take into account hundreds of factors that look beyond an individual’s credit score to their future potential.

By applying our understanding of individual earnings, along with an enhanced, personalized credit underwriting approach, we are well-equipped to offer affordable rates to Talent who previously had little or no access.  At the same time, we offer risk adjusted returns to Backers, who not only want to invest in our generation but want to provide the resources, advice and connections that will enable long-term success. To learn more about the Pave loan and how to get involved in our pilot, click here.

The Next Chapter

We’re excited to embark on the next phase of our company’s growth and become the place where our generation can access the funding they need at rates they deserve from people they value.

And as we move into this new stage, we want to thank you for being an integral part of our community and look forward to continue building something great with you!

Cheers,

Oren Bass & Sal Lahoud,
Co-founders

Take A Risk: Insights from LITG Founder Maneesh Goyal

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Pave Talent Tabitha Wood recently posted a question on our Community Forum asking members, What’s the biggest career risk you’ve taken? Looking back, do you feel it was worth taking? Why or why not? Maneesh Goyal, founder of both MKG and Live in the Grey, expanded on his initial response, which is just too good not to share:

I used to dread Mondays. At the beginning of 2001, I was fresh out of school and, on paper, my job had everything going for it. I was working in the field I’d studied & I was making decent enough money that I could cover my bills. And I was on a solid professional track that made my parents proud! Everything should have been OK…but it wasn’t. My work didn’t excite me.

I realized that if I didn’t change something, I’d continue down a path perhaps with a promotion here-and-there and, ultimately, wake up one day, be 50 years old and miserable. I knew that would mean I’d be less healthy, drink and party more, and have a harder time making meaningful relationships.

So, without another job lined up, I quit…because I wanted to take responsibility for my own fulfillment, my own happiness. This was quite possibly the riskiest career move I could have made.

Around this same time, somewhat serendipitously, my sister was planning a big Indian wedding. I wasn’t working so I went back to my home state of Texas to help with the planning since…do you know about Indian weddings? Big time. Many days and hundreds and hundreds of people. I took on the job of corralling her wedding and became focused on making it a memorable in every way.

I’ll cut to the chase: this wedding was over-the-top fantastic.

A perfect example of the extravaganza was the cake…it was in the shape of the Taj Mahal! Totally over the top. And this was way before Cake Boss!

I flew back to New York the next day. The entire flight home, I remember thinking, “Now, that was fun. Not necessarily the specific wedding aspect but just bringing people together to create something memorable. How do I make a living doing that?”   

So it got me thinking. I’m a pretty open guy, so I called my parents that same week and told them what I was thinking. They were horrified! So much so that they tracked my sister down on her honeymoon and called her and said, “You have to call your brother. He has lost it.”

My sister tried to talk me out of it. “What are you doing?!?” she said. I made a bargain with her: I’d continue to hunt for jobs. But at the same time, I was going to try to explore this…since, I knew what no one else knew…perhaps this is way for me to actually love my job. I was convinced it was worth the risk.

So I basically dove into exploring the event world in NYC. I had no idea/no real contacts in this world…but I figured it out and talked to whoever would listen about what I wanted to do. I called companies and asked about being a production assistant and, eventually, started to get some leads.

Soon I started working some events. Now, as you might know, a production assistant is at the bottom of the totem pole. I spent many nights moving boxes around for very little money, but I always left feeling the same thing: “Wow, that was fun.” I never focused on the money…since I knew I was on a path towards fulfillment and was just at the very top of that journey.

Anyway, in the Fall of 2001 I got a call to work on an event surrounding the MTV Video Music Awards. It was Sean Puffy (not Diddy yet back in those days) Combs’s party. And, here, for first time, I found myself taking on a real role and, by the end of the night I was convinced this work was for me.

A couple months later, I got another call. This time it was Sean Comb’s office, and they wanted to talk to me about his New Year’s Eve party. In South Beach. Broadcast live on MTV.

The last five days of 2001 were the most challenging and intense days of my life.

But they prepared me for anything else that I encountered later on. Seeing the expression on Puff’s face when he arrived was like the moment when my sister saw the Taj Mahal cake…I didn’t know it at the time, but I had found my ‘grey’.

The next morning, I was standing at the check-in counter at the Miami airport. A guy walked up to me and asked, “Was that you that did Puffy’s night? Dude, that was amazing. Do you have a card?”  

I remember saying to him, “No, I don’t have a card.” But I was thinking, “I need to get a card.”

And when my plane touched down in New York, I landed back on planet earth, I got to work…since, well, I still had to figure out how to pay the rent the next month.

This all led me to start a firm that is now called MKG (my initials!). It’s pretty big now. But, it all started with me. I’d answer the phone in one voice, putting myself on hold, then “transferring” the caller back to…me.

I started MKG because I wanted to love my work, and I knew that other people had to feel the same way too. I now am living what I love. So how do you live what you love?

I’m all about taking the risk to name your aspirations. Think about it for a second, do you have a personal motto? A motto can be a great way to crystalize it. I learned an important lesson about how powerful this can be from someone who worked for MKG.

A couple years ago we were looking to hire a world-class expert in social media. And my team found this guy who was so perfect for the job that they started internally calling him Dream Boy. The last step in the hiring process was for me to do a phone interview with him.

So we talked, and sure enough, I really liked him. And at the end of the interview, I asked him, “Do you have any questions for me?”

And he paused for just a second, and he said, “At the top of my resume I have this little adage, “Love your life, live your love.” Did you see that?”

I said, “Yeah, I saw that, I liked it. It has a nice ring to it.”

And he said, “I’m just wondering, what’s your motto?”

Suddenly I’m sweating a little bit, because I’m thinking, Oh, shit, what is my motto? Do I have one? And what I’m really thinking is I don’t want to mess this up, because this is the Dream Boy and everyone on my team loves him already, and I really like him and want him to take the job, and if I don’t have a good motto he might not take the job. Now the tables are totally turned and he’s interviewing me, and I’m feeling like I’m the one who has to impress him.

After talking in circles for a minute, trying to buy myself some time, I said, “I’m a believer in this idea that there shouldn’t be a disconnect between your work and your life. And I’m living this idea that you can’t tell the difference between the two. It’s not that you work all the time – it’s that your work makes sense for your life, and your life makes sense for your work. So if I were to encapsulate that, I’m not living in a black-and-white world: I live in the grey.”

And he said, “Whoa, I love that.”

I didn’t think too much about it, except that I was relieved that I’d passed the test. And sure enough, he joined MKG. Then a few weeks later, he came into my office and said, “Maneesh, can I talk to you for a second?”

"Of course."  

And he said, “Look, I can’t stop thinking about ‘Live in the grey.’ I think you need to do something with that.”

I said, “Really?” I didn’t give it a lot of thought right away, but he lit a bit of a fire under me.

That’s what motivated me to take action. I got together with a few friends and created a website dedicated to this idea of living in the grey. And that led to establishing Live in the Grey as an organization that aims to inspire people and companies, to build a community, and to help people figure out how to take action. We bring people together, share stories, support each other, and help growing numbers of people discover what it means to be fully engaged: to live what they love and love what they do.

So how do you live in the grey? It often comes down to asking yourself a simple question: What do I love to do? Once you identify it, fold it into your life. Maybe that leads you to starting a business, maybe it doesn’t.

I don’t want to sugarcoat this. This will be one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding decisions you can make.

There’s no one path, and it’s not easy. Everyone’s circumstances are different. There is always risk involved in living grey, and all of us have different comfort levels with risk.  

It’s a matter of finding your own balance between passion and patience. And it’s OK to start small. But aim for bigger.

When you dive into something new, remember that you start at the bottom. Be humble.

Never lose sight of the fact that you’re learning. Ask why. A lot. Be curious.

Talk to people and let them know what you love. Change happens when it’s invited. Be open.

And when you find a way to blend the personal and the professional that works for you, the distinction between work and life will begin to dissolve.

You will get beyond black and white. You will discover what it means for you to live in the grey.

And you will look forward to Mondays.  Risk makes life remarkable.

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About Maneesh:
Ten years ago, Maneesh looked up and realized he was stuck in an industry he didn’t enjoy, doing work that didn’t fulfill him. Then he looked ahead and realized it was either make a serious change soon, or stay in that rut for a long, long time. The choice was clear.

So he took some smart risks and dove into an industry he knew very little about aside from that it compelled him. Now he is president and founder of MKG—a pioneering, award-winning, experience-focused marketing company in NYC.

Along his path, Maneesh started to see some important patterns: he felt happiest and did his best work when work felt like play, his colleagues and clients felt like friends and the black and white lines between passion and profession were blurred.

He called this approach living in the grey, and in 2013 founded Live in the Grey to help his own employees, and people around the world, experience the same fulfillment.

50 Ways to Get a Job

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Want a job doing meaningful work that actually pays well? Our friends over at Making Good have published an awesome new project called 50 Ways to Get a Job.

Spearheaded by Dev Aujla, 50 Ways is a beautiful, interactive site that gives a certain shout out to the days of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” taking you through actionable strategies tailored specifically to where you are in your career.

50 Ways to Get a Job illustrates exactly how you can go about following your passion and includes tangible missions, like:

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and best of all, they’re manageable tasks anyone can accomplish.

Aujla piloted the list with over 3,000 people to ensure that the content on the site offers a click-friendly path to figuring out a career track. The stages are: Starting, Finding My Purpose, Overwhelmed, Learning New Skills, Networking, Stuck, Applying for Jobs and Interviewing.

Check out the site and let us know what you think!

Words of Wisdom from Prosper’s Ron Suber: The Key to P2P is “EAU”

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Last night we had the pleasure of hosting Orchard Platform’s marketplace lending monthly meetup at the Pave office, where President of Prosper, Ron Suber, spoke about the peer-to-peer landscape and how the industry is developing. 

Prosper, a leader in market lending, is a platform that connects people who need money with those who have money to invest. The company has done exceedingly well, having originated more than $1 billion in total loans on the website.

In a time when Millennials are shying away from banks and investors are searching for yield, the peer-to-peer industry is well positioned to become the financial solution for a $1 trillion total addressable market. Rather than new entrants to the industry serving as competition, marketplace lending’s main hurdle is something Suber calls “EAU” – education, awareness, and understanding for borrowers. 

We’ve reached a point, Suber says, where banks are more likely to issue high interest rate credit cards. Right now, consumers are not just swiping to handle daily transactions but relying on plastic to borrow money for large expenses like home improvement or starting a business, where a low interest personal loan would be more appropriate and more affordable.

Since 2008’s Great Recession, banks have made it increasingly more difficult for borrowers to meet personal loan eligibility requirements, leaving consumers with nowhere to turn but their credit cards.  This underscores the great need for personal finance education, promoting awareness of alternative funding options, and helping consumers understand how to know what they can reasonably afford and how they can find competitive rates.

The Q&A following Suber’s talk touched three important themes in peer-to-peer lending worth highlighting here: education, industry risks, and growth of the market.

Educating Borrowers

It’s our job as leaders in the peer to peer landscape to help the younger generations understand why they don’t need a bank to borrow, pay off credit card debt, or refinance debt. Instead, there are now lenders — a good portion of whom are real people — who care about investing in other people, so banks are no longer required to act the middle man.

Risks to the Industry

Ron duly pointed out that there are many risks associated with a nascent market, ranging from:

  • the possibility of higher unemployment rates 
  • bad actors in the industry
  • a higher interest rate environment
  • a resistance to technological advancements
  • or, the possibility that lenders will find another shiny object to invest in

However, two specific topics to focus on include the importance of a solid underwriting approach and compliance with regulations. 

1/ Underwriting
It’s incredibly important and necessary to validate and verify borrowers in addition to having a sound credit and risk policy in place. This, of course, requires a good servicer to provide further comfort to investors. If the industry doesn’t place a high value on validating and verifying borrowers, investors go away.

2/ Regulations
Ensuring compliance and dialogue with regulators is key. Both Prosper and Pave  maintain a regular dialogue with the CFPB, who has reacted positively to alternative financing options that offer consumers lower rates, help people get credit, and generally stimulate the economy.

Growth

Recent reports on marketplace lending discuss the great potential for growth in the space, an essential factor for new entrants and leaders alike. 

Suber touched upon a few strategies deployed at Prosper that have helped fuel the company’s phenomenal growth over the last year — from originating $9m in January 2013 to over $100m per month as of April 2014.

1/ Direct Mail
While Suber didn’t share the Prosper Secret Sauce, he did hint at the 12 levers Prosper has at its disposal, including direct mail (they sent 4.4 million pieces of physical mail last month!).  

2/ Digital Marketing
Digital marketing (SEO, paid, display, social, affiliate advertising) has also been an effective strategy in reaching borrowers, as well as partnerships and a clear client marketing strategy to find and educate borrowers.

3/ Retail Investors
Another key part of the p2p ecosystem is the retail investor. When Prosper first started, it just focused on the retail market. Turning to institutional investments helped spur growth, but Prosper is returning once again to the retail investor as an important part of diversifying the lending community.

In the end, the most important takeaway for accomplishing “EAU” ultimately requires a degree of harmony across peer-to-peer platforms, because the competition is not with one another but with providing education, building awareness, and establishing a broad understanding of the benefits to marketplace lending. 

Event Photos

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Pave co-founder Oren Bass with Ron Suber and Lend Academy's Peter Renton

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Networking reception following the discussion

Don’t Race to Start a Company — Wait for the One That Matters

Nathaniel Koloc, Pave Talent and CEO of ReWork, recently wrote a post for the Unreasonable Institute offering some compelling advice to anyone looking to start their own business. We wanted to share it with you here.

When people tell me that they want to start a company, they’re just not sure which one yet, I tell them to wait and build something they care about. Here’s why.

The urges to have financial freedom, create your own thing in the world, and to run a business, are all valid. But it’s possible to become trapped leading a startup the same way it’s possible to get trapped in a cubicle for 70 hours a week.

People also want to start companies because that is a major way to alter the future, to manifest things in real life – to “change the world” – which is a common desire to have. But there is a difference between “changing” the world and making a better world. And changing the world by introducing a new thing (“It’s Instagram for plumbers!”) is fundamentally less compelling than finding something that is of substantive, real value to people – not to mention, far less lucrative.

But planning to start a business before you have a problem worth solving is a dangerous priority.

The reason is that starting a company is really difficult. I’m not the first to say it, but I realize now (two years into a growing startup) that I always ignored or glossed over blog posts or conversations where people tried to highlight that to me. It’s really freaking hard. Lots of days are difficult. Sometimes, it’s not fun at all. And every now and then you are sure that you’re done for – and that’s a stressful feeling.

To read this post in full, click here.

Nathaniel Koloc is an entrepreneur, strategist, and Unreasonable Fellow focused on building ReWork: talent for the purpose economy. 

Pave Partners with RefactorU to Provide Student Financing Options



Pave has partnered with RefactorU to provide alternative financing to prospective students.

Today Boulder, CO based RefactorU has partnered with NYC startup Pave, a peer-to-peer investment platform where up-and-coming, talented individuals can raise funding from experienced professionals to pursue their chosen careers. In exchange, the “Talent” make flexible payments that adjust to reflect their level of income over 5 or 10 years, while Backers can provide the value of their experience to help the talented individual’s chance of success.

Through an innovative Income-linked Payment Agreement (IPA) and proprietary income model, Pave simulates the earnings of each applicant for the duration of the funding agreement and provides guidance to set a funding rate for Talent. According to Pave’s co-founder Oren Bass, “Our model back solves for the income the Talent would need to share in order to provide his or her backers with a 7% annualized return. The result is a calculated funding amount, which identifies how much the Talent can raise for each 1% of income shared. Once the Talent has this information, he or she can determine how much funding to raise by linking payments that represent a small, affordable percentage (never more than 10% and often less) of personal income earned for the duration of the agreement.”

RefactorU’s core offering is currently a 10-week full-stack, Javascript-based, web application development course, which successfully turns early-to-mid career professionals into top-notch, entry-level web developers. Sean Daken, RefactorU’s Founder and CEO commented, “Typically several applicants in each of our immersive courses are actively seeking funding alternatives. This is especially true of people who are already saddled with student debt and for which the transition to another career appears out of reach. RefactorU is excited to be working with Pave to enable talented individuals to pursue a variety of learning experiences to broaden their personal and professional horizons without the risk and burden of traditional student debt financing.”

Pave offers RefactorU applicants the ability to fund 100% of RefactorU’s tuition with no cash down, with the availability of 5 or 10-year terms, and an expedited application process. Interested parties can learn more about these options here.

Above Pave

Pave was founded in 2012 to provide the means for talented, motivated individuals to accelerate in their chosen careers; and for experienced, successful professionals to have a direct, substantive impact in helping groups they care about achieve similar success. Based in NYC, Pave was created by a motivated team with expertise in law, structured finance and social networking at companies such as Apple, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Microsoft and Visa.

About RefactorU

Founded in 2013 and based in Boulder, Colorado, RefactorU accelerates the learning and development of the world’s aspiring creatives, makers, and technologists. RefactorU empowers individuals to reinvent themselves to meet the needs of today’s technology-driven economy while building lifelong professional networks for the future. RefactorU enables hiring managers to significantly improve bench strength while increasing employee retention and reducing risk.

#LendIt2014 Live: Innovative P2P Platforms

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This post covers a panel presented at LendIt in San Francisco, a conference aimed at the global online lending industry. This particular discussion focuses on innovations in peer-to-peer lending and the resulting econmic and social impact.

2:10pm PST                      

Introduction to the panelists: Oren Bass (Pave), Chris Walcott (Semble), Premal Shah (Kiva), Dave Girouard (Upstart); moderated by Stephanie Cohn Rupp (Toniic).

2:13pm PST                      

Stephanie Rupp teases out the double-bottom line of businesses represented on the panel and the impact they have on the p2p sector. She asks everyone, “How do you quantify risk, how do you score this risk, and what is the innovation in risk scoring?”

Highlights from Twitter:

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2:27pm PST

Stephanie asks, “In terms of scale – of massive scale – how do you reach massive scale? And do you have ambitions to go international (lots of risks that come with that)?  I’m curious to see what your ambitions are in terms of going to scale and what the real market opportunity is.”

3/4 of Kiva loans go to 1.2 million women-run small businesses in 75 countries.– Premal Shah, Kiva

The market opportunity to lending to non-profits that have real estate as a security is half a trillion dollars.” – Chris Walcott, Semble

We have seen huge demand for individuals looking for this type of funding. As it’s a completely novel product, there needs to be clarity around regulations, legal enforceability and tax treatment.” Oren Bass, Pave

This industry is radically different because of the regulatory environment. Look no further from Lending Club itself, which is on the verge of going public and still in just one country.” – Dave Girouard, Upstart 

2:37pm PST

The final question is about the future of the p2p market: “What are your predictions for the 10-20 years in the p2p lending post-ed sector?”

“One of the big trends we’re seeing is customization. Institutional investors are customizing their investments based on whatever they want. Call it affinity-based investing – you can target a specific demographic of people you care about. It’s a bit of a reinvention of where merchant banking started, and I think it’s going to keep developing.” – Oren Bass, Pave

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Community and relationships are important to people now more than ever. This is really just the tip of the iceberg.” – Chris Walcott, Semble


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2:46pm PST – Audience Q&A

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“From our perspective, we do believe there is an element that supports the argument that reputation is important… Anecdotally, we’ve heard strong evidence that when people receive Pave funding, they want to perform well for the people who are taking a risk by investing.” – Oren Bass, Pave Co-founder

To watch the rest of LendIt 2014 live, you can stream it here.

Recent research from TABB Group shows that the crowdfunding market could reach $17 billion globally by 2015, with more than 1,000 funding organizations formed to raise money. The firm said angel investments should grow to between $28 billion and $50 billion by 2015. That’s an 88% increase in lending venues around the world.

Getting Creative About Rising Tuition Costs

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new report today highlighting that most states have begun to restore some of the sizeable budget cuts that have affected higher education funding since the recession, but despite that, current higher ed funding still remains well below pre-recession levels (~23% less per student).

“The large funding cuts have led to both steep tuition increases and spending cuts that may diminish the quality of education available to students at a time when a highly educated workforce is more crucial than ever to the nation’s economic future.”

Higher Tuition = Diminished Access

-       Public colleges and universities in the U.S. have increased tuition to make up for state funding cuts and increased costs

-       As institutions become less affordable, students are required to take out larger private student loans to make up the difference

Students are left little choice but to figure out how to cover educational costs in order to remain qualified candidates in an increasingly competitive job market.

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Time to Get Creative

While the majority of students finance their education typically through a combination of federal student loans, private student loans, grants and scholarships, we’ve seen students get creative and follow alternative paths to achieving a quality education.

With increasing access to online resources, many people are able to build the necessary and employable skills for a strong career with a combination of online classes (The Khan Academy, Skillshare), skills-based training (General Assembly, Code Academy), specific coursework and experiential learning.

And they’re using new funding options to do so, whether that’s running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign or following a track that allows you to pay when you earn with options like Oregon’s “Pay it Forward” program or Pave’s IPA, where payments are linked to income.

How are you covering the cost of higher ed?

Click here to see how your private student loan payments compare to Pave’s Income-linked Payment Agreement.

What You Need to Know About Repaying Student Loans

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Student Loans: What’s the Issue?

Taking out student loans to pay for education is thought of as “good debt” because it’s an investment in you that, over time, will lead to a better future income.

For those who would like to pursue higher education, options remain fairly limited to borrowing (with the exception of a few alternatives, like Pave’s Income-linked Payment Agreement).

Meanwhile, the cost of education has continued to rise over the last decade, requiring students take out larger loans in order to attend the schools of their choice.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Between 2001–02 and 2011–12, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 40%, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28%.”

The problem we’re seeing now is that the job market has yet to scale to match the rising number of graduates who are in need of full time employment opportunities.

“When 2011/2012 college grads who are not employed in their field of study were asked why, 45% said it was taking too long to find a job and 32% said there were not enough job openings in their field.”
- National Center for Education Statistics

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Without a job, graduates are faced with the very real possibility of missing payments on their student loans (which, by the way, follow you wherever you go and are not forgiven if you file for bankruptcy), thereby seriously damaging their credit score and ability to borrow in the future for other things, like a home or a car.

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So, now what?

Since 2008 we have witnessed a national dialogue develop around the importance of responsible lending and, with that, an exciting amount of growth in the world of peer-to-peer finance, which is disrupting traditional lending models by providing access to affordable capital from real people.

We’re particularly excited about the growth in this space because it means that students do not have to be the only ones invested in their education.

Companies like Prosper and Lending Club have shown us that we can connect with investors outside of the traditional banking system to get direct funding quickly and easily, oftentimes at rates far better than what banks or credit cards have to offer.

And now more than ever, individual investors realize that investing in the next generation of talented people is about more than providing funds, it’s about providing the value of their own experience, supporting new ideas, and connecting with the next generation.

For information on how Pave funding compares with student loans, click here.

What will you do in 2014 that you’ve never done before?


We asked Ayo Onikute, Urban Planning graduate from Columbia University and Pave Talent, “What will you do in 2014 that you’ve never done before?” Here’s what he had to say:

In 2014 I’ll move to Conakry to start my first waste management business.

I am writing this post from Mouna Café, the main Internet café in Conakry. You’re probably asking yourself, where is Conakry? Conakry is the capital of the small West African country of Guinea. No, not Papua New Guinea, or Equatorial Guinea, or Guinea-Bissau, just Guinea (to differentiate this area, people say Guinea-Conakry).

So, why am I in Guinea-Conakry?

Having spent a lot of time studying the waste practices of developing countries, I believe in a holistic system approach to waste management. What does that look like? It’s a system that isn’t overburdened by its own operational cost; a system that recognizes the benefits that exist in waste; and a system that creates the partnerships necessary to ensure all relevant voices are engaged and incorporated. The goal is to develop a collection, treatment, and management system that limits what goes to landfills and helps communities grow. To get this idea off the ground — something I’ve never done before — I needed to return to Guinea and launch a business.

I could make the case that I come from a family of entrepreneurs, people willing to take risks. My mother will reminds me that with only a few dollars and 5 items on the shelf, my grandmother started what became a thriving provisions store in our town of Gouvaye, and my grandfather owned and operated one of the few busses on the island. My grandparents started their businesses because they had limited other means of providing for their family. Unlike my grandparents, I am well educated (some might even say over-educated). Finding a job to repay the overwhelming amount of student debt I’ve accumulated would be the most prudent next step. So its hard to explain my decision to work on waste management in West Africa. Part of it is an urge to serve as a sort of karmic repaying in appreciation of the hand I was dealt in the game of life. Another part is I a strong calling help others, got that from my grandmother. Finally, a part of it is that its just a cool adventure. While I am not a huge fan of the term social entrepreneur, it seems thats what I am for the next few years.

Here in Conakry, I am talking to anyone and everyone in an effort to gain more insights into the country and its waste management practices. A professor of mine once mentioned that something many developing countries share in common is failed projects. So I’m knocking on the proverbial doors (Actually, I’m knocking on gates, since everyone is behind compound walls here.) to speak with folks at the US and Japanese embassies, folks at USAID, the World Food Program, and Catholic Relief Services, in addition to local Peace Corp volunteers, to start conversations about their experiences. I want to know what’s been effective, and it never hurts to learn from others’ mistakes. Plus, I might even gain access to abandoned equipment that would help get the actual practice started.

In 2014, I’m already experiencing a bunch of firsts: paid for my own plane ticket to another country; got to see the tallest building in the world; wrote two blog posts; am advising on waste management practices; and in a week or two I head to Kankan, the second or third largest city in Guinea, where I will start exploring the issue of waste farther and eventually launch my venture. I can’t wait to see what new firsts I will experience there.


Cuthbert Ayo Onikute is currently raising funds on Pave support market research and pilot his waste management program. You can get involved and track his progress here.

Pave Raises Funding on AngelList

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We are pleased to announce that Pave is currently raising a round of funding on AngelList, a platform where U.S.-based startups can raise equity or debt investments from accredited investors.

We have chosen to raise capital on AngelList because it allows us to build a broad base of support, which in turn can fuel the growth of the platform.

What’s unique about this particular campaign is that investment amounts will back both the Company (25%) and the Talent on Pave (75%). This dual investment allows Backers to share in both the success of the company and of the Talent on the platform.

Interested in learning more? Contact kathryn@pave.com.

"I am excited by the possibilities of a broader marketplace for capital. I believe that there is a better way to raise money for startups, and crowdfunding shows great promise.

I expect a lot of entrepreneurs will have an easier time getting money for their businesses, and I expect venture capitalists to have more competition from angels.”

Senator Marco Rubio Supports Pave on CNBC

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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Tom Petri (R-WI) introduced new legislation this morning that would expand access to private alternative financing options in an effort to help students pay for higher education. 

Speaking today on CNBC, Rubio lauded private sector options like Pave, suggesting that Income-linked Payment Agreements are a way to stymie the student debt crisis.  He supports models like ours because both investors and students alike benefit without placing the burden of crushing debt on graduates.

If the legislation moves forward, it would bring this kind of funding to the forefront as a mainstream option, enabling millions of Americans to overcome underemployment, have more financial flexibility and a greater ability to take calculated risks.  

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