Winter 2019 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge: 2nd Place Winner
Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/329696489/f2f5bb63c7
Company Bio: Jump Finance partners with financial institutions to offer students in developing countries educational loans at fair, transparent rates, empowering them to complete their studies and pursue their dreams.
John William Meyer’s company truly started when his 22-year-old father decided to join the Peace Corps in 1967. Inspired by his father’s stories, John Willam followed in his footsteps and joined the Peace Corps to serve in Peru from 2010-2012 as a youth development volunteer. In this role, he trained youth health promoters, taught in the schools, and helped inspire local youth leaders in the community. While serving, John William observed the struggles that his students faced financially in pursuing their education. Many of his students would start attending college but were forced to drop out when they could no longer afford tuition and they had to get a job to support themselves and their family. With this problem in mind, John William realized that there was an opportunity to support these people by financing their post-secondary education. This is when Jump Finance was born.
In the past two years, John has been in the ideation stage of his business. He started to gain traction in 2019 when he won the City of Austin Fast Start Fintech competition. After a busy 2019 that included building their proprietary smartphone application and working to find financial and educational institution partners, the Jump Finance pilot program is set to launch later this year in The Gambia, West Africa (where John William’s father served as a Peace Corps volunteer).
Samba Bah, who works on John’s team for business development, was a professor at The Gambia University and knows firsthand how difficult tuition payments can be for students. Samba explains that a college tuition can be up to 80% of household income. It can be almost impossible for someone to be able to pay this up front, which leads to a number of students dropping out in order to find any job that can pay them to get by. This is where Jump Finance comes in to provide affordable loans.
Throughout the process of developing Jump Finance, John William has had meaningful accomplishments. One major milestone was winning the National Peace Corps Association Innovation For Good contest. Winning the approval from the Peace Corps meant a lot to him. John William is most proud of the team that works with him. Each and every member of the team brings something special that gets Jump Finance closer to achieving their mission.
While the team has made a lot of progress, it has not come without its fair share of challenges. The first was the difficulty of launching a pilot program in an area so far away. Progress can stall, especially if you are not on the same continent as your target market. To overcome this issue, it is crucial to partner with the right organizations in other countries. John William has had to navigate around many diverse business cultures to secure these partnerships. The next big initiative moving forward for Jump Finance is to finalize a deal with a financial institution to back up these loans.
John William credits his participation in the Elevate My Business Challenge as one of the major catalysts that has helped grow his company. The one-on-one coaching calls with LIFT have been invaluable to John. He was able to use these calls as a way to strategize and determine next steps to take. This is one of the many reasons why John William decided to join. Being able to leverage the coaches’ knowledge allowed John William to develop his business model. Since winning second place, John has seen major changes to his company.
Many companies fail because they don’t ask or seek for help, but in John William’s case he is more than happy to go find help when he believes things are slowing in the company. Within the next five years, Jump Finance hopes to be the industry leader across Africa in providing student loans. To accomplish this ambitious five-year plan, their biggest initiative will be to continue to make connections so they can expand across the continent. John William is hoping to develop a competitive advantage in the market by being more flexible compared to other lending institutions. Other players in the market seem to only deal with students that have a secure income and credit score. By being too risk averse, it is hard for them to make an impact in these regions. Jump Finance’s goal is to disrupt this status quo and help banks make loans to students they wouldn’t have otherwise made.
John William’s key piece of advice that he wanted to share with other entrepreneurs is “to not be afraid to ask for help.” He says that you should never turn down any meeting or connection with anyone. By listening to so many different voices, John William is able to expand his vision of what Jump Finance can be. Some people will be able to help you in ways that you never could imagine.
LIFT Development Enterprises is very proud of John William and all that he has accomplished so far. The social impact that he will have on thousands of students is astounding. We salute John William on his mission, and we are excited to see what the future holds for Jump Finance. Check out Jump Finance and learn more about their mission at jump-finance.com.