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After returning to Delaware, LendEDU focused on attracting users

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After pivoting several times during the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2014 program, the co-founders of LendEDU are happy to have worked on the same idea for the past seven months.

“I think at this point we’re experts – it’s definitely helped when talking to customers,” said Nate Matherson, co-founder of LendEDU. “We came into the student loan market not really knowing anything, other than that we had student loans.”

LendEDU is building a web platform for users to compare student loan and refinancing rates from multiple lenders. The Delaware-based company is now working with seven lenders and is in the process of adding a few more.

To date, LendEDU has provided quotes for more than $60 million in loans*, Matherson said.

The refinancing comparison tool was released just before the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s launch day last fall, with the new student loan tool following it. The co-founders are marketing their service to high schools around the country, and expect demand for the new student loan comparison tool to go up during the summer when students are preparing for college.

Their biggest challenge is “making the numbers line up,” and the co-founders are closely tracking their customer acquisition costs, the value of each customer and their conversion rates.

The co-founders have also focused on content marketing since graduating from the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and have produced educational resources for new borrowers, including a 20-minute video guide to student loans.

They hope these factors can help fill up their sales funnel before they have to seek investment again. Matherson and co-founder Matt Lenhard received a $50,000 investment from Built By Iowa at the end of the accelerator, which has been enough to carry them to this point.

After launch day, the team took a few weeks off to visit family before returning to Delaware and six-day work weeks in 2015.

“We’ve tried to keep up the work ethic where it was during ISA, but it’s hard,” Matherson said.

The support of friends and family is even more important without an established startup community.

“The startup community in Delaware isn’t really existent – the community in Iowa is leagues, thousands of leagues ahead,” Matherson said. “I wish we had something like that in Delaware.”

The co-founders visit New York City regularly for pitch competitions, events and that community support, Matherson said. And in some ways, they’ve been able to act as mentors to other young entrepreneurs.

“Sometimes student entrepreneurs don’t think big enough. I think ShopTutors was an example of that, a tiny idea…I always try to challenge friends, entrepreneurs my age, to think bigger,” Matherson said. “And definitely don’t be afraid to pivot.”

EDIT, May 12: An earlier version of this story misstated this figure.

 

Check back all week for updates on the Iowa Startup Accelerator class of 2014. We caught up with ClikHome, HowFactory, Kids Calendar, LendEDU, ProduceRun, Sift and VenueFox.

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