In 2015, Michael Bloch left his early career at DoorDash to attend Stanford Business School, but the dream of an MBA was short-lived.
Saddled with $300,000 in loans from his wife’s law school, Bloch decided the family had amassed enough student debt.
In fact, Americans had amassed enough student debt, in his mind, and Bloch dropped out of school to tackle the national crisis once and for all.
In 2018, Bloch founded Pillar, a personal finance app that links to loan and bank accounts, analyzes income and spending patterns and customizes payment plans for each enrollee.
It then facilitates payments to the loan servicer through the app.
A week before Christmas, Pillar launched Boost to introduce a new solution to student debt: crowdsourcing. The service allows friends and family to gift loan payments, and it saw hundreds of accounts set up in the first week.
“The reason to build this was to bring the conversation to the forefront,” Bloch said. “Student loan debt is a sensitive topic that some people don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about.”
As of yet, Pillar manages more than $250 million of student debt for college graduates countrywide. It’s hoping to seize more of the market with a suite of products to be released in the coming months.
It likens its model to that of Robinhood or Lemonade: more focused on the consumer experience.
The startup consulted financial advisers to build a payment recommendation engine responsive to different financial information.
Users input personal data, and the app returns various formulas and decision trees for their unique situations.
Pillar found believers in its model. The company raised $5.5 million in its seed round.