Demetrius Curry has spent the past two years chasing a dream.
His startup, College Treasury, allows brands to ask users to create photo and video marketing content that showcases their product or service, the problem being that content creators are paid by brands in the form of credits that go directly to paying off their loan debt student. This model rewards the brands concerned with a level of social goodwill and tax advantages.
The Dallas-area founder was inspired to tackle the student loan debt crisis after talking to his daughter about the prospect of eventually paying off her own loan debt. Curry has spent the past two years building the nascent platform, researching brand partners, navigating accelerator programs, attracting users, and pounding the pavement to find investors willing to bet on his vision. .
College Cash has raised $ 105,000 to date and hopes to eventually wrap the funding in a million dollar round.
Completing the cycle has been its own challenge for Curry, who has struggled at times to find opportunities, even amid the historic levels of capital flowing into the startup ecosystem, a distinction that has been less noticeable to black founders who don’t. still constitute a small percentage of the CV allocation. In the aftermath of last summer’s protests against police brutality, a number of venture capitalists issued statements denouncing institutional racism and pledging to support more underserved founders, creating new programs for various founders. .
Demetrius Curry, CEO of College Cash
While Curry says he appreciates the scale of the problem and the good intentions of those making the statements, he believes venture capital networks still have a lot to learn about what it means to be an “underserved” founder. and that many existing efforts feel like “empty talk”. He says that while Silicon Valley continues to idolize dropouts from prestigious universities, stakeholders have less interest in recognizing the accomplishments of founders who made their way through poverty or found opportunities in areas geographic areas where opportunities are more difficult to find.
“You can’t look for something different if you’re looking in the same places,” Curry told TechCrunch. “When you look at the subject of ‘underserved founders’ it’s not just about skin color, it’s also about where they came from and what they went through.”
Curry says it can be frustrating to compete for seed opportunities when investors are unwilling to significantly adjust their parameters. Curry has been particularly frustrated navigating the world of “warm introductions” to even get her foot in the door of programs aimed at various founders, or applying for start-up programs aimed at the “underserved” only to be told that they weren’t far enough to qualify.
“Think about everything we had to go through to get into the room with you,” said Curry. “I sold plasma to pay for web hosting costs, nothing is going to stop me.”
College Cash’s mission to expand opportunities for people struggling to manage student loan debt is personal to Curry, who saw his life change after returning to school.
Decades ago, fresh out of the military, Curry said he had a random conversation with a stranger while eating at a Hardee’s – the discussion about what more he wanted from life ended up push him to come back and get his GED and later a business degree. What followed was a career in finance which eventually led to his recent entrepreneurial activities with College Cash.
The platform is firmly an early stage business at the moment, but Curry has big ambitions he’s building himself toward. His next effort is to create an integration of College Cash tips with gig-saving platforms, with the goal that users of those platforms can ultimately choose to tip a worker and channel that money directly to the refund. of that person’s student debt.
Curry says the College Cash team worked with a “National Concert Economics Platform” to launch an onboarding pilot and held focus groups showing users are more likely to tip when they know the money is used to pay off loan debt.