Dolr Launches Product to Facilitate Student Loans
Successful entrepreneurs get their ideas for companies from real-life problems. That’s the case with Dolr, a student loan repayment business that enables employers to invest in their people by helping them accelerate to $0 student debt.
The inspiration for Dolr came to co-founder Naveed H. Iqbal, Ph.D., as he was transitioning from a corporate career in the banking industry to an entrepreneurial path.
“I was sitting by my wife as she was arguing with her laptop,” he said. “She was trying to make payments on multiple student loans and having a hard time with it. For me, something clicked.”
That “something” is a platform that allows employers to provide incentives for and contributions towards employees’ student loan repayment. It makes allocating those funds to have the most impact on a borrower’s loans easy and automatic. Helping Millennials and Gen Z more rapidly pay off their student debts—it’s the company benefit most appealing after healthcare. The results? A great recruiting tool that reduces stress and creates “stickiness” as valued employees become more engaged and connected to the companies where they work.
Using Mathematics, Finance, and a Passion for Education to Build a Company
“I am a mathematician,” Dr. Iqbal said. “I always wanted a Ph.D. in mathematics. It felt like the thing that would complete me.” During college, he worked as a software engineer and then as a risk manager at Chase.
“We were at the forefront of identifying new threats and types of fraud,” he said. “After completing my Ph.D., I returned to Chase on the business side as a data scientist. My objective was no longer to minimize loss; it was to maximize the customer experience. I learned so much about making sure your customer is happy. Chase was wonderful, with great money and benefits and meaningful work.”
And yet, for Dr. Iqbal, something was missing. He wanted to make more of a difference in people’s lives. After the aha moment dealing with his wife’s student loans, Dr. Iqbal called his three best friends.
“ I asked them, how would you like to do something meaningful that would help people for a long time,” said Dr. Iqbal. “The person we wanted to help was the borrower. We didn’t get romantic about it—if you are going to help someone, you have to be able to help someone. We set out to build a solution that was meaningful.”
With nearly 45 percent of all Millennials having student-loan debt (per Business Insider), the market for Dolr is vast.
The founders, math PhDs and finance experts all, spent the next three months assessing the market and the competitive landscape.
“We weren’t the first people to think about employer-based student loan benefits,” said Dr. Iqbal. “They have been around since 2012. We did more research. There were new people coming into the space, so that was encouraging. The question for us was, where did we fit?”
The team spoke with employers and people with student loans, asking open-ended questions. “At first, we didn’t know enough to ask well-informed questions. We asked questions to learn how to ask better questions,” he said.
Many companies didn’t know about student loan repayment being offered as an employee benefit. “Or if they had read about this as a benefit,” Dr. Iqbal said, “they thought it was something that large companies offer. They felt it wasn’t for them.”
Dolr’s market validation process narrowed in on small and medium enterprises (SME), an underserved market. They learned that given COVID and other demands, not all companies could commit to monthly payments to help with student loans, but many wanted to do something—especially in the time of Covid. In response, Dolr created options that include shared payments, one-time supplemental payments, and an innovative 401K match alternative. “We are getting a very encouraging response,” Dr. Iqbal said.
As for the borrowers, “No generation knows more about what they want,” he said. “No one is more aware of their finances than Millennials and Gen Z. But they are putting a lot of emphasis on living their lives. They know exactly what they want. This is the person we are serving. We believe they are very smart. Dolr exists to accelerate these busy generations to $0 student debt with their money, their employer’s money, and money from the apps they use.”
It takes less than a minute for them to link their student loan accounts. No social security number is required. The Dolr platform analyzes their loans and makes personalized recommendations based on the borrower’s circumstances. Information is present in one place via an easy-to-use Dolr dashboard. Pricing is transparent.
In creating a solution for the Millennial and Gen Z markets, Dr. Iqbal combined his love of math, his banking industry experience with risk management and customer service, and his entrepreneurial roots.
The Legacy of Entrepreneurship Runs Deep
“My father is an entrepreneur,” Dr. Iqbal said. “He started as a mechanic, then a salesman, a manager, and then his car dealership; he started his business with five Kenyan shillings. He struggled in the beginning. I wondered as a child, what is going on? You are always busy.
The business we are starting is to help people, Dr. Iqbal’s father said.
“His customers were ordinary people,” said Dr. Iqbal. “No one would extend them credit. He borrowed money and lent it to people so they could buy cars. That’s what it was about for him. Not making money or selling cars but helping people. That stuck with me for a long time.”
That sense of duty to customers permeates Dolr’s company culture. “People trust us with their money. We do exactly what we say we will do,” he said.