Dartboard is the first student loan benefit of its kind. With Dartboard, each payment the employee makes on their loans is matched by their employer as a contribution to their retirement account – all with a model that also gives the employer tax benefits. By linking student loans and 401(k) contributions, Dartboard aims to turn the $1.4 trillion student loan problem into a wealth-building opportunity for next-gen employees.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a business founder, UX designer, and software developer. I co-founded a boutique design studio at age 21, then went on an eclectic path that involved corporate law, software development, golf design, real-estate development. My goal was to create a business built on my current passions: financial technologies, user experience design, and research in behavioral science.
What drove you to start Dartboard?
Returning to university in NYC, I became fascinated with young peoples’ financial lives. In the US, we need to become financially responsible astonishingly early on in our lives. It’s in harsh contrast with what I was used to back in Europe. My hope was to build a tool that will help my generation solve our biggest financial challenge: starting your career with student loans. Dartboard is the result.
What were the early challenges you experienced growing your business?
Through an iterative prototyping process, we managed to develop our proprietary technology and UX early on. But finding the right business model caused us a lot of headaches. We pivoted a number of times: from a B2C solution to an employer-focused offer, from direct student loan repayment to matching contributions in retirement plans.
After a year of beta testing, we understood taxation and limited corporate budgets were blocking widespread deployment of employer-sponsored student loan solutions. Subsequently, we shifted towards a unique model, where we use employees’ student loan payments to trigger employer contributions into retirement plans, turning our offer into the first tax-deductible student loan benefit.
What was the most surprising thing you learned as an entrepreneur?
Dartboard is built at the intersection of the current student loan problem, millennial retirement savings, and HR solutions. As a result, it was surprisingly simple to get people - experts and users - engaged. I wouldn’t have expected that hundreds of experts would accept our invitation to discuss our ideas and test our product. I’ll be always grateful to the NYC ecosystem for the support it provided us.
What has been the most enjoyable part of growing a company?
Our biggest challenge, and subsequently our most enjoyable achievement, was to progressively earn the trust of different stakeholders. In our domain, distrust is the default setting: distrust towards financial wellness solutions, towards benefits vendors, towards recently funded companies, etc. To convince team members to join the business, to receive funding, to sign up customers, we needed to continually evolve not only our messaging, but also our core product proposition.
How do you think about, and what do you do, to ensure growth?
Great artists can be “misunderstood”, their work unsuccessful during their lifetime, and rediscovered hundreds of years after their death. A business founder doesn’t have this luxury: we need to be “understood” immediately, we need to have a deep comprehension of the time and society we’re operating in. Growth is about constantly sensing the pulse of the market and planning in advance to satisfy the upcoming needs.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs looking to follow in your footsteps?
Every other week you’ll read a story about a “ridiculous app” that’s having tremendous success and that raised unlimited funding. All while you’re working night and day to get buy in on an elaborate and potentially life-changing product. Most of the time, business doesn’t seem fair. It’s easy to get frustrated. Keep going, don’t get demoralized.