Featured Startup Pitch: GradSave is bringing crowdfunding to saving for college
Founders: Marcos Cordero and Irma Grondin
Investors: Private Angel investors in the finance industry
Year Founded: 2011
Brief Company Description: At GradSave, we ‘crowdfund’ college saving, making it easy for friends and family to gift directly to a child’s college savings plan.
GradSave, an online college savings registry, allows parents to grow their child’s college savings plan by inviting friends and family to easily give directly to their child’s GradSave account, which is linked to a 529 college savings plan. Friends and family prefer giving a meaningful gift instead of giving toys or clothes for birthdays and holidays, making substantial college savings more attainable. Virtual and physical gift cards are also available.
Crowdfunding for college with GradSave was designed to be simple and user-friendly. Once on the GradSave website, users create a free account, which can also be done with one-click sign-up via your Facebook account. Parents can import pictures from Facebook or regular upload. Once the account is set up, users share their profiles using a secure, unique URL (i.e. www. gradsave.com/Nicole) with friends and family via social media and email to let them know the child is saving for college. Gift givers then use the easy one-click ‘Gift’ button to gift college funds by using a credit card or echeck, as well as choose the AutoPay plan.
Then, users track progress and watch college savings grow closer to their goals with a personalized savings ‘thermometer.’ GradSave also allows users to track history on who has gifted, making writing thank you notes easier. Users link their GradSave account to any 529 savings plan, a tax-free savings account when used for higher education (until the 529 is linked, money is FDIC insured).
GradSave was inspired by myself and Irma Grondin, a successful corporate attorney at a global law firm and Mom, when she realized that she didn’t want any more ‘stuff’ for her newborn daughter for her upcoming baptism (I’m the godfather). Instead, we thought, “why not have our family and friends share in our child’s special occasion by giving them a gift that would last a lifetime. Even a $10 gift will grow to so much more when it’s time to go to college.” There was no easy way to do this, and GradSave was born.
Today, GradSave helps over 4,000 parents nationwide save early and easily and is the country’s leading college savings registry. We strive to continuously create and implement innovative strategies to accomplish the company’s vision ‘to make higher education affordable and attainable for every child.’
We have an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates campaigns of media relations, social media, email marketing, SEO, inbound marketing, community partnerships, affiliate marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth. We are constantly seeking new trends and innovative strategies to broaden our scope, as well as to stay current with ever-evolving media technology.
How Our Company Differentiates Itself from the Competition
There really is no other company in the field doing exactly what GradSave is doing; this is how we came up with the idea—there is truly a need in the marketplace. While there are other services that provide similar methods of contributing to college savings, GradSave is the only place where you can go to gift directly to a 529 college savings plan, use echeck and enable recurring payments with AutoPay. And we are absolutely the only company where you can buy gift cards for college savings, truly revolutionizing the way people save for college.
Now through end of the year, GradSave is not charging any fees. In the future, GradSave will also receive income from value added advertisers.
GradSave’s primary focus is educating people on college savings and expanding its marketing channels to convey this mission. We are looking for every avenue possible to reach new parents in order to help them and their children avoid massive student loan debt.
Whether it is via marketing, media or partnerships, we would love to hear from people and organizations that share this passion—ideally we would be able to work together. The student loan debt crisis is larger than one organization, and the solution should be, too.
GradSave – www.gradsave.com