Tag Archive | "startup-at-home"

Trying To Be Mint.com For Student Loans, Binksty Raises, Redesigns, Hits $10M In Debt-Under-View

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Last October, we wrote about Binksty, a young startup that aims to give college students saddled with debt a one-stop shop to manage loans, pay off debt, as well as educate them on the best ways to save money. The student loan situation in the U.S. was atrocious then, and it continues to be atrocious now. A recent report from the New York Times shows that the total balance of student loans is currently $870 billion. Not only that, but 40 percent of people under 30 have outstanding student loans, the average of which is $23,300. If that’s not enough to make you cringe, I don’t know what is.

Luckily, startups like Binksty are doing their part to come to the rescue of debt-burdened students everywhere. Currently part of the First Growth Venture Networks’ fourth class of startups, Binksty is a personal finance tool for educational debt (CEO Brendan McQueen likes to call Binksty the Mint.com for student loans), which launched into private beta at the end of last year.

Today, the startup is announcing that it has over $10 million in student loans under view, and has recently forged partnerships with Yodlee, which provides Binksty users with loan aggregation tools (the same engine that powers Mint.com and LearnVest) and Fynanz, a startup which now offers its competitive private consolidation and refinancing options to Binksty users. The startup is also launching a major redesign of its web platform, which makes navigating loans and finding easy repayment options much easier.

The startup’s sign-ups are up over 1,300 percent since September, primarily because its users get loan aggregation, loan detail, and pay-off tools, along with a custom advice engine (including real human support) that help outline all of the repayment options available for each loan, says the Binksty CEO. It’s this engine that tells customers on a loan-by-loan basis what repayment options exist for their specific loans that he believes sets Binksty apart from others in the space.

As to how the startup is making money, 3 percent of its user base has started its private consolidation of loans, which should point towards future revenue. Beyond that, the CEO says that its simple lead-gen model based on tools that can help the borrower is just the beginning, and plans to announce some tools later this year that will help it monetize and start moving towards profitability. It also helps that the startup recently raised a small seed round, and is on it’s way to graduating from FVGN’s accelerator, when it should hit the ground running and start raising that big Series A. Stay tuned.

For more, check out the startup at home here.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Dave McClure And Blumberg Capital Drop $1 Million Into mygola For Easy, Personalized Travel Planning

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India and U.S.-based mygola is announcing today that it has received $1 million in seed funding from Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Blumberg Capital, and several other angel investors.

With social travel startups popping up every other day, and a bevy of travel resources already firmly planted in a crowded space, what is it about mygola that’s getting McClure and others excited? For starters, the service’s value proposition starts with the fact that it’s built for users who already have specific trip-planning questions in mind. Essentially, it’s a pay-as-you go travel concierge, so you bring your proposed trip to mygola, with specific targeted questions in mind, and the service handles all the logistics (research and bookings) for you.

Mygola is going for the 90 percent tech, 10 percent human curation approach, as the startup is in the process of bringing on thousands of travel enthusiasts to make them travel researchers. The startup combines human curation and customer service with a technology platform that aggregates the “entire travel web”, auto-categorizing that wealth of information into deals, events, hotels, sublets, and tips from locals through Foursquare and other social platforms.

The paid “mygola Guides” currently numbers in the hundreds, according to Founder and ex-Googler Anshyman Bapna, who are distributed globally and are increasing at a rate of 80 a week. These guides are there help users plan their trips based on the crowdsourced data aggregated from travel sites all over the Web.

The service allows users to ask their first question for free, and if you like the answer that mygola gives you, users can tip accordingly. Users will then pay $30 to ask additional questions or have their entire trip planned for them, or they can pay $100 for a year long subscription.

Interested in trying out the service? Mygola is providing the first 100 TechCrunch readers with a 50 percent discount for the $30 and $100 plans, using the code “TCLOVE”.

Bapna and team have been referring to their model as the “Robocop for travel”, which gives you a sense of the somewhat quirky approach they’re taking. Relying on real human beings to help you plan your trip, leveraging the best of travel information on the Web, is certainly a refreshing alternative to the many user-generated and crowdsourced travel sites out there, but the startup has an enormous amount of competition, and has a long way to go before it can convince users that paying $30 for their recommendations and bookings is easier and more valuable than doing it themselves.

The startup plans to use its new capital to continue hiring its “mygola Guides” and build out its current product. For more, check out the startup at home here.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Contently Raises Seed Capital To Give Writers And Publishers An Alternative To Content Farms

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Contently, a platform that connects brands with quality content and gives freelance writers the shot at a regular paycheck, announced today that it has closed a $335K debt round from Founder Collective. This comes on the heels of the news that TechStars had chosen Contently to be one of the 12 startups to take part in its New York City summer program, which began last week.

The startup is keying into the idea that content farms have become the bane of content production, spamming search engines with low-quality, SEO-optimized content that takes up space rather than inform. Contently hopes to fight this trend by building a business around real engaging, sharable content, rather than an anonymous, outsourced engine intended to game search algorithms.

As marketing dollars shift towards social media and content marketing (according to Custom Content Council, 68 percent of CMOs are shifting marketing budgets to focus on content marketing), and simultaneously, as digital content production ushers in a new era where many bloggers and journalists are now managing freelance careers, Contently’s value is twofold. On the one hand, Contently wants to help web marketers build content strategies optimized for readers online, based on content produced by real, accredited journalists.

Contently believes that marketers want to be producing magazine-quality content that does their brands justice, and for that reason, SEO manipulation isn’t a sustainable model for businesses — or those that take advantage of its rapid-fire content production.

On the other hand, Contently wants to become a source of steady work for freelance content producers. But, to assure brands that they will be getting quality content, the startup is currently only working with journalists and bloggers who have credentials that include “major publications and well known blogs”. Of course, “major” and “well known” are in the eye of the beholder, but Contently Co-founder Shane Snow says that writers from Boston Globe, Gawker, LA Times, New York Times, and Wired are already on board.

For its writers, the New York City-based startup is setting the minimum publishers pay for the work they produce to ensure that they won’t be given $10 gigs, a la Demand Media. Snow says that writers who blog full-time for Contently can make make more than $50K a year, a bold statement, considering that 66 percent of journalists make less than that.

Contently then aims to become a hub, where journalists can manage their careers, without having to worry about vetting clients or whoring themselves out for little money just to pay the rent. Plus, no more late checks. (And they can get bylines like this one.)

For businesses, hiring journalists, bloggers, or copy writers in-house is an expensive endeavor, which is why so many have turned to outsourcing production to freelancers. Of course, finding high quality freelancers on Craigslist, Odesk, or Elance can be more time-consuming than hiring in-house. This is where Contently’s value proposition comes into play, offering businesses easy access to quality content and journalists a steady source of revenue. For publishers, these writers become their stringers, Snow says, in a way that’s more like telecommuting than Mechanical Turk-style outsourcing — they want to get rid of the anonymity.

“Contently is something that literally every one of our portfolio companies could use”, Founder Collective Managing Partner Eric Paley told us. “Contently makes content marketing turnkey for it’s growing base of clients”.

Contently launched its closed beta in December 2010, and has since seen companies like Mint, Grasshopper, and Wix use the startup to hire freelance writers and plan their digital content strategies.

For more, check out the startup at home and sign up for here.



Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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