(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of six articles describing the companies that will make pitches during Tech 20/20’s “Entrepreneurial Imperative 2012” conference November 12 and 13 at the Knoxville Marriott.)
Nate Buchanan is passionate about helping college students ensure that they have solid credit ratings by the time they graduate. He is a student, and he’s witnessed what can happen if students aren’t diligent during their collegiate years.
The Hendersonville, TN-native completes his MBA at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) this December. In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Buchanan talked about his experience since winning the UTK Business Plan Competition his junior year at UTK and becoming an Entrepreneur Fellow in the university’s full-time MBA Program.
He said that he “cycled through a number of business ideas” before deciding upon his new company, Credit Virgin, which he will present during next month’s “Entrepreneurial Imperative 2012” conference. Nate is the recipient of a $30,000 donor paid fellowship that requires he start a new venture while a MBA student.
The idea for Credit Virgin “evolved over time,” but Buchanan says that two factors significantly influenced him. One was his observation of how easy it was for college students to ruin their credit rating by the time they graduated. The second was the challenge that his college roommate experienced when the two decided to rent an apartment.
“My roommate had a full-time job, but he did not have a credit score, so he could not sign the apartment lease,” Buchanan explained. “This raised my awareness that I needed to do something (about my own credit rating) before I got out of school.”
Buchanan applied for a credit card and secured it. Once he had the card, he decided to better understand “how I build a good credit score.” After reading volumes of documents – something most students were not likely to do, Buchanan hatched the concept that led to the creation of Credit Virgin.
“The idea is to do it in three parts,” Buchanan says in explaining the business model to monetize the new start-up that will be web-based.
The first element of the strategy to help students is the production of approximately 10 educational videos that he describes as tutorials. They will run from about 90 seconds to five minutes each with all 10 lasting less than an hour and be available on the start-up’s web page by the first of November.
“Students will have a base knowledge to build good credit in school” after viewing the videos, Buchanan says.
The second element of Credit Virgin’s strategy is built on helping students select the best card for their individual needs. Buchanan explained that factors like annual percentage rate (APR) of interest charged, credit line, annual card fee, and rewards for use are decisions that students need to consider.
When Credit Virgin’s web page rolls out in November, the evaluation page will be static, listing these and other factors for a handful of credit card companies focused on the collegiate market. They include Capital One, Citi Group, and Discover. Buchanan plans to roll-out a more interactive version of the evaluation page that will allow students to answer questions to help guide their credit card selection.
“The ultimate goal is to match students with the best card for them,” Buchanan says.
The final element of his three-part plan for Credit Virgin is a monitoring system that Buchanan says “will monitor student spending patterns and tell them how those patterns are affecting their credit scores.” Like the interactive evaluation page, the monitoring system will be available when the second version of the web page is available.
The importance of a good credit score when an individual wants to buy a car or other major purchase is obvious, but Buchanan notes some additional reasons for students to be sensitive to it.
“Car insurance companies and prospective employers are now looking at credit scores,” he says.
Buchanan said that he is funding Credit Virgin himself.
“When I decided to start the business, I had no technical skills,” he says. He spent the summer teaching himself to build his web page and educational tutorials. He’s now looking for a technical partner as he prepares for the November presentation.