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March, 2011

Excelerate 2010 Startup EduLender Secures $1M in Venture and Angel Funding

We’ve all heard of Hipmunk, the Silicon Valley flight-search startup that helps travelers book the very best flights and rates.  Excelerate startup EduLender applies the same winning formula to the student financial aid industry.  EduLender tracks hundreds of loan providers (both state and federal) and updates rates and recommendations daily, making it the go-to place to compare student loan rates.

As if the announcement of a successful $1 million fund-raise from heavy-hitters like Sam Yagan (OKCupid) and Stephen DeBerry (Kapor Capital) wasn’t news enough, Edulender also unveiled its new web-based tool, OnePay.  For borrowers struggling to manage several existing federal student loans, OnePay is the answer to their prayers; they can consolidate their loans, and save money by maximizing interest and savings deductions.  I caught up with EduLender CEO Sue Khim, and here’s what she had to say:

Q. How did your business vision and strategy change from when you were first applying to Excelerate to today?

A. When we first applied to Excelerate, our business vision centered around one product, which was our student loan comparison engine.  Immersing ourselves in the higher education financing world over the past 10 months has helped us realize one thing—there’s a lot of opportunity to improve the entire college financing process.  Making it easy for students to find the best student loans was only the first piece of the puzzle. Today, we seek to demystify the financial aid process as a whole, so our business strategy has evolved and become more robust.

Q. Four pieces of advice you’d give aspiring entrepreneurs?


  • Follow-up with everyone you meet. You never know who could provide that critical piece of advice or that much-needed resource in the future.
  • Remember that one of your most important (and most challenging) responsibilities is to keep everyone, especially your coworkers, excited and motivated.
  • Focus on getting your product and features out quickly and revising as needed, rather than perfecting every little detail before launch.
  • Do your market research. Don’t be afraid to call your customers and talk to them directly about their opinions, needs, complaints, problems, etc.

Q. Most valuable takeaways from your summer at Excelerate?

A. Our biggest takeaway from Excelerate was our sense of team cohesion. Excelerate felt like the growing joys and pains of several years condensed into one summer and the end result was team unity. We also learned some invaluable lessons about dealing with ambiguity and risk, and walked away with trusted mentors who continue to guide us strategically.

Q. What surprised you most about the Excelerate program?

A. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned from the other Excelerate teams. We really benefited from being surrounded by dozens of smart, motivated entrepreneurs. It was a great environment to build a company culture.



Filed under: Status Updates — March 16, 2011

FeeFighters in the news

Another nice shout out for FeeFighters, and Excelerate 2010 company, from as they highlight the momentum that is building in Chicago for tech companies and how were are outpacing the rest of the country, increasing investments by 80% last year compared to the US growth of just 6%!

check out the Video now!



Filed under: Status Updates — March 11, 2011

The Thank You Economy – By Gary V.

I am POSITIVE that everyone who was at the Excelerate’s Demo Day last year will remember Gary V’s keynote speech – The first words out of his mouth were:

“I believe that ‘Giving a F**k’ is coming on strong!”

It was an awesome talk about how the companies that care more about their customers are going to win big in the long run.  He made the ideas of customer service so much fun.  It was a memorable talk and now he has turned all those great ideas into his new book that is being released tomorrow: “The Thank You Economy.”  Gary is one of the most passionate people I have ever met when it comes to business and getting it done – I cannot wait to get my copy, how about you???

P.S. you can see short excerpt from his talk in the highlight video at




Filed under: Status Updates — March 7, 2011

Local VC’s see fresh opportunities

Great interview with New World Ventures in Crain’s talking about the Chicago investing landscape with the nice shout out to Excelerate!

Filed under: Excelerate in the News — March 4, 2011

MidVentures interviews Troy…

Interview with Troy Henikoff about Excelerate and the companies:

Filed under: Excelerate in the News — March 3, 2011