By: Stephanie Scott
Photos by: Deniece Griffin
Christian Zimmerman graduated from Georgia State in December 2015 with a Bachelors in Business Administration. He and Nate Washington are the co-founders of Qoins, an app that allows users to easily make additional payments toward their student loans and other debts. Through Students2Startups they hired their intern, Kofo, who’s creative perspective provided them the feedback they needed to grow their company.
How was Qoins started?
Christian: After graduating from Georgia State, I was working at Hirewire and struggling to pay my student loans. I realized that if I had this problem, many people also did. So I came up with the concept of making automatic additional payments on student loans to help pay it off faster. The idea was originally called ConsoliDebt. I changed it to Qoins, because the name sounded too stuffy and “corporate” to me. There was a pitch competition, ThePlugATL, that I competed in with that idea. I didn’t win the $100,000 cash prize, but I ranked in the Top 10.
How did Nate get involved with Qoins and come to be a co-founder?
Christian: I met Nate at a Co-founder’s Lab. It was a cocktail networking event where you get to meet co-founders and people interested in being co-founders. I didn’t expect to meet anybody there, but that’s where we connected. We built a friendship and I told him about my plans for Qoins. He created an MVP that worked well with how I wanted Qoins to be set up and developed the infrastructure to what it is today.
What is the software and infrastructure behind Qoins?
Nate: We connect to a few external services that allow us to manage payments towards debtors. There’s one service, Plaid, that we use to allow people to securely connect to their online banking. Plaid helps us to instantly verify somebody’s account so that we can pull the excess change from user transactions. We review the transactions and round that up to the next dollar. Then we take that change and put it into your Qoins account in five dollar or more increments. At the end of each of your monthly cycles, we send out a lump sum payment on your behalf to your lender. We essentially make additional payments made to your lender, on top of your minimum payments that you already make, which helps you alleviate debt much faster.
What have you guys sacrificed for Qoins?
Christian: Our pay. We took huge pay cuts to get our business off the ground. We’ve also sacrificed a lot of time with friends and family. We’ve been very focused on building Qoins for the last two years.
Nate: It’s tough looking around you and seeing all your friends that have their corporate nine-to-five jobs get to enjoy their weekends, time off, and not have to think about work until Monday. We’re usually doing something work related on the weekends, whether it be answering e-mails, checking on our infrastructure, or things of that nature.
Why did you choose Kofo to be your Students2Startups Intern?
Christian: Before I had even seen her resume, I had people recommend her personally. Then, when we looked at her resume, she came off as a very creative person. When we saw her Instagram, we liked that she was putting herself out there. Finally, we met her in person and she was very outgoing, talkative, and spoke her mind. We look for people that aren’t shy and will give us good feedback. We have three interns and they are all willing and eager to learn. They all have very interesting perspectives.
Nate: It was important for us to have diverse people of different backgrounds. If you only surround yourself with people who think like you, or you make it a point to be the smartest person in the room, you never have room to grow. Your team can only go as far as your span of knowledge can take them.
What’s it like working at Switchyards?
Christian: I love this place. I promote it everywhere I go. The founders have been awesome to us. They really care about us as people and they promote our business. The community is very strong and we’ve made a lot of friends here. You can create a coworking space, but not always an environment like we have here at Switchyards. That goes to show that the founders were very passionate about their vision for what Switchyards has become for entrepreneurs like us.
What’s next for Qoins?
Nate: Right now, we’re closing out a round of funding. That’s really going the spur some growth for us. Long term, we see ourselves becoming a company that is at the forefront of the debt space. One of things we want to introduce is a way for people to invite family members, like parents, to come connect they’re account with Qoins and help them pay off their debt even faster. We want to work on allowing people to refinance their loans within the app. There’s just so many things we want to do going forward. Hopefully, down the line, a bigger company or bank would be interested in acquiring assets like that.