Business Analysis: Earnest

Several months ago, I was interested in working for Earnest, a startup that offers lower-cost student loans for students who may not have great credit, but have high earnings potential.  I didn’t know anybody at the company, and didn’t want my resume to go into a black hole, so I instead wrote up product report on them, and gifted it to one of the product managers.

It didn’t work – they were looking for more technical PMs.  However, it got me a great conversation.  Several months have passed since then, so I’d like to share this with the world.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I conducted interviews with recent graduates and current students who are Earnest‘s target demographic:
    • I gathered data on brand awareness among current students.
    • I asked recent graduates to test out and walk me through their use of Earnest vs. their current loan servicer.
  2. Using the data I gathered along with my own research, I created a short product analysis of Earnest, highlighting its current challenges of offering competitive interest rates, providing usable tools for understanding debt and making payments, and expanding its brand awareness.
  3. I’ve outlined several proposed solutions to each of the challenges outlined above.

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In Simple Terms, What is FinTech?

FinTech is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but surprisingly few people understand it, so I’m going to define the term and categorize the industry in a simple and easy to understand way.

Simply put, Finance + Technology = FinTech.

While this sounds reasonable, FinTech is a huge field, and covers a lot of different startups. Broadly, FinTech companies can be divided into 5 categories, with each category solving a different problem.
1. Lending
2. Payments
3. Wealth Management and Personal Finance
4. Cryptocurrency
5. Banking

Broadly speaking, for each problem category, FinTech companies can improve a product or service in one of two ways:
A. Make it cheaper and easier to use.
B. Make it available to more people.

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