by: Megan McPherson
This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the eight student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received $3,500 stipends that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over six weeks in the summer.
Everyone knows good credit is highly important in life. Not everyone knows how to get it. While most college-bound young people are aware that they should establish good credit as soon as possible, there are surprisingly few resources to help them. Parental advice and uninformed Google searches can only go so far in providing college students with a nuanced understanding of how credit works and what steps they can take to improve their credit score. So how can they acquire that essential knowledge?
To answer this question, three University of Maryland students, David Potter, Abb Kapoor and Gio Managadze, joined together to design Curu, a mobile app for college students that will demystify credit management.
The idea for the Curu app started with just David and Abb. The two roommates were both part of the College Park Scholars program, which emphasizes innovation in its course curriculum. They were already contemplating business ideas when they both got their first credit cards. David recalled the feelings that came with this milestone of adult life: “We felt lost. We were supposed to be prepared, and we weren’t.” Eager to build credit early on, David considered putting his monthly rent bill on his credit card. Thankfully he decided to do some homework first. He soon discovered that had he impulsively gone through with that decision—as many young people would—he would have unwittingly damaged his credit score. In his research, David learned that buying a pack of gum would impact his credit more positively than a purchase that would push him closer to his credit limit.
After sharing this revelation with Abb, they decided to confirm their findings with credit bureaus. But when they asked the experts, they had trouble deciphering their jargon-laced answers. Abb described one of the biggest roadblocks they faced early on in researching the credit industry: “The less we know, the more they make. They make money off of our lack of knowledge, and we felt like that in itself was a problem.” Once they arrived at this conclusion, David said, “[The idea] started to form itself.” Knowing they were on to something, they decided to join the Fall 2015 cohort of Idea Shell, the first stage of our Fearless Founders startup accelerator program. While in Idea Shell, they continued to research the credit industry and conducted numerous customer interviews to better understand the needs of their target market: students. “Our peers were just as lost as we were,” said Abb, adding that, “It was very rare through our customer interviews that we found someone who was genuinely confident in what they did.”
After further investigating the needs of their customer, they wanted to begin working on a tangible prototype. Halfway through Idea Shell, they began searching for a programmer, and along came Gio. “It was love at first sight,” joked Abb. With the team fully assembled, the following semester they each enrolled in the second Fearless Founders stage, Hatch, where they worked tirelessly on their prototype and business model.
Now in the final Terp Startup stage and on the verge of launching an alpha version of their app, they are committed to further enhancing their product so that it will have a prolonged, “sticky” appeal for their customers. The jewel in the crown of the Curu app is its ability to automate and optimize the process of paying off your credit card. Based on your spending habits, the app will pay off your card for you at precisely the right time and in the exact amount needed to maximize your credit score. As busy college students themselves, the co-founders of Curu understand that their peers don’t want to commit a lot of time to learning about credit. Curu takes on that obligation for them. David explained, “If all you have to do is spend on your credit card and the best practices are then applied for you, your credit becomes as easy to manage as your debit card, making credit management effortless.”
Armed with an app that presents a simple new way to hack credit management, the Curu team is anxious to disrupt the credit industry. Achieving an intricate understanding of credit is currently a privilege, one that is reserved for those already in the know and that is unattainable for a large population of people—particularly for the impoverished, the under-educated and those lacking in good credit role models. The Curu app strives to democratize credit comprehension by breaking the pattern of poor credit practices at its source. “Our main goal is to make this as effortless as possible, so people aren’t abused through lack of education and they’re empowered when it comes to credit,” said David. Using Curu will help young people set themselves up for credit success, saving them thousands on car payments and apartment purchases throughout their lives. For these entrepreneurs, Curu isn’t just about making money, it’s about helping others save it.
To learn more about Curu, visit their website: www.curucredit.com