2018 SXSW Pitch Winner: FutureFuel

The Forrest Four-Cast: October 18, 2018

Some of the world’s most innovative startups are showcased at SXSW Pitch, formerly known as SXSW Accelerator.

If your startup wants to be involved in the 2019 competition, then click here for entry information. But don’t delay on getting involved, because the final entry deadline for SXSW Pitch is Thursday, November 15.

Entrepreneurs, founders, funders, investors and other related professionals will also want to attend these two tracks of programming at SXSW 2019: “Entrepreneurship & Startups” (scheduled March 8–12) and “Tech Industry & Enterprise” (scheduled March 8–13).

Today we catch up with FutureFuel, the company which won the Payment and FinTech category at SXSW Pitch 2018. Other interviews in this series include Vochlea Music, ARwall, DroneSeed, ICON, and Polyport.

Questions for this FutureFuel interview with answered by Laurel Taylor, the Founder and CEO of this Boston-based startup. Photo of Taylor (above) taken by Jonathan Wiggs of the Boston Globe Staff.

Also, click here to read FutureFuel’s pre-SXSW interview from last February.

FutureFuel makes student debt repayment easy — for employers, platforms, and users. What have you been focusing on since your win at SXSW Pitch in March?

We have been focusing on creating an exceptional, mobile-first user experience, elegant interface, and loyal employers and users that just love our product offering. The more we earn the trust and love of our users, the greater the adoption, and thus, the greater the impact and relief FutureFuel.io provides to our user.

What kind of opportunities did winning SXSW Pitch open up for FutureFuel?

First, we met a Fortune 500 distribution channel, that successfully launched FutureFuel.io’s Student Loan FinHealth platform across 11 regions in the US in August. Second, we were encouraged to apply to JPMorgan Chase’s Financial Solutions Lab (CFSI) — and we were accepted. Third, we closed additional capital.

How have you gotten closer to fulfilling your mission to democratize access to student debt repayment and refi as a new normal in employee benefits and partnering with the private sector to eliminate more than $10 billion in student debt by 2021?

We have been intensely learning how to make our offering more robust, more comprehensive, and simpler for both users and clients. We recently released several new capabilities that enable employers to offer student debt centric benefits beyond contributions to the student loans of employees. Creating multiple product on ramps, so that employers can launch student debt centric benefits, offering impact and empathy within a day of making the decision, has been a major breakthrough in customer adoption.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently proposed a new rule that consumer activists say would make it harder for defrauded college students to seek debt relief. Would this change impact your work and, overall, do you feel that national support for college debt relief has changed over the last few years?

The IRS recently released a private ruling that enables employers to provide a 401(k) match for employees doing what they must — paying down their student debt. This is a major tailwind, incentivizing and enabling employers to, for the first time ever, make employees’ own pay down of student actionable in a way that gets the employee into the game of compound interest on wealth (not just on debt).

HR 795, by Rodney Davis, and Tax Reform 2.0 are two other potential regulatory tailwinds that could encourage mass adoption and deployment of employer-sponsored student debt repayment.

All three of these tailwinds encourage employers to enter into the equation of student debt pay down. As we continue to see contraction of forgiveness policies, I think we will continue to see innovation within the employer and financial services/financial technology space.

Would you name your most memorable moment at SXSW 2018?

Jess Merrell and I walking down 6th street with a giant check, getting fist bumps from almost everyone we passed. Twerking and a close call with a biker was involved. You can do it, put your back into it…

Do you have any startups wanting to get involved in the 2019 SXSW Pitch contest?

Apply!

Aside from what you are working on at FutureFuel, what new tech industry trend / development in technology are you most excited about?

Love what the following FinTech + Social Impact startups are working on: Petal, SixUp, WinWin, Resolve, GoalSetter, Alice, Mason Finance, Acorns, Frank, and EdMit.

What should we expect to see from FutureFuel over the rest of 2018 and the first part of 2019?

Big things. Big announcements. Big partnerships. Big wins. Big impact!

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

Remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6. In Austin, early voting begins Monday, October 22 and continues through Friday, November 2.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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