01 Mar 2014
Innovation: Crowdfunding College Costsby Julia HannaTopics:
Named godfather to his best friend's infant daughter in 2011, Marcos Cordero (MBA 2005) wanted to give something more meaningful and long-lasting than a stuffed animal or onesie. He investigated contributing to his goddaughter's college savings plan, but the paperwork was onerous. Pain point duly noted, Cordero started GradSave, an online college savings registry that makes it possible for family and friends to contribute directly to a child's 529 plan or savings account. Parents can send digital reminders of the account's existence as a birthday or holiday approaches.
GradSave's revenue model has evolved since its launch. "We used to charge a transaction fee, but moved away from that for strategic reasons," Cordero says. "Now it's simply about customer acquisition and building a community." (Still, GradSave is currently profitable, thanks to the 2012 acquisition of Savingforcollege.com, which Cordero describes as "the Consumer Reports of 529 plans.")
The plan is to capitalize on market share down the road: "There is a lot of value in processing millions of dollars of new assets," he remarks. "Our play is with financial institutions, by showing that we can grow their 529 plans by 30 percent more than would otherwise be true."
And how would Cordero respond to those who might find such a gift solicitation tacky? "The demand and desire to give the gift of education has always been with us," he says, citing the old standbys of savings bonds and stock certificates. "As we come out of the recession, more and more people are asking themselves, do I really need more stuff? People are relieved to have this option."
Finally, Cordero points out the stunning spike in college costs and the need to make saving easier: "No cost in American GDP has increased faster over the past 20 years, including health care and consumer goods," he says. "If we don't think of new ways to finance and save for school today, we're going to be in a world of hurt 15 years from now." —Julia Hanna
Class of MBA 2005, Section B