Cofounders Rohit Mittal started Stilt and Priyank Singh to provide financial services to immigrants in the US. Stilt is a recent graduate from Y Combinator’s W16 batch.
When Rohit and Priyank moved from India to Columbia University for graduate education, they could not access loans for education and other basic financial services. They secured well paying jobs and were still rejected by everyone because of their lack of credit history. No one considered their increasing income and future potential as a part of their risk assessment.
Rohit with his background in credit risk modeling and Priyank with experience in Large Scale Machine Learning decided to get together and solve this problem. They started by providing loans to international students and graduates. Stilt had disbursed $80k in loans over 4 months at the time of the YC interview and reached $130k when YC started.
Stilt wants to become the go-to-platform for all financial services for immigrants. Rohit and Priyank went to YC with the notion that they will add new services to Stilt since they already had traction for their loan product. Their goal was to implement and grow at least one new service during the program. However, YC advised them instead to take a focused direction – build and grow their one product.
Rohit said, “we imagined that we’ll be coding like crazy and shipping features all the time but it ended up being a lot of cold calls and LinkedIn Inmails instead.” According to the founders focusing on just one metric was challenging but the right thing to do. The ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy doesn’t work in practice for most companies. They reached out to users for feedback and debt investors to raise debt capital during the program. Priyank even went to New York for a couple of weeks to visit every university that had international students to market Stilt’s service. The strategy of giving at least one loan in each university helped them build trust among students and get the word out even faster. They actively focused on growth and built new features only after talking to users. All tasks had to tie back to the growth metric. They asked themselves only one question when they worked on something – is this going to impact growth? If the answer was ‘no’ then the task was either dropped or moved to the back of the queue.
Focus on growth is one of YC’s key mantras. A growing company is always moving forward and solving its problems in due time. This was certainly true for Stilt and they achieved 10% week-over-week growth during their 12 weeks at YC, at which point they had disbursed $500k in loans. Rohit and Priyank plan to continually focus on that one metric for at least the next year. As Rohit and Priyank conclude, “the principle of focus on growth is still what is important and what everyone else should be doing.”
Image Credit: CC by Nigel