Travis Holoway left his home in New York City to take a chance on himself, building a start-up in a new city amongst strangers. Jump forward a few months, and Holoway is now a fan of the city and the “strangers” who have helped him establish Solo Funds, a mobile lending exchange connecting lenders with borrowers for the purpose of providing more affordable access to loans under $1,000. The mobile-based platform is peer-to-peer lending in its purest form. From a mobile device, anyone can now lend to or borrow from anyone in the country. SoLo Funds’ has eliminated the strain of pay day loans, the need to borrow from friends and family, and the awkward moments and strained relationships that can often arise when money is involved.
SoLo launched its full version on April 2018 and also announced a $1.2 million round of seed funding led by QCA. T.H.E. caught up with Solo CEO Travis Holoway to learn more about his company, his experience building a business in Cincinnati and the support he has received from QCA.
T.H.E.: What has happened since you received your investment from QCA?
Holoway: We conducted a closed beta of our iOS product, which provided us with the ability to gather data and feedback to improve our process and overall user experience. We are now nationwide with our product through the Google Play and Apple App Stores.
T.H.E.: How have you used the QCA investment to move your company forward?
Holoway: Since our investment from QCA, we’ve been able to grow our team. Key hires for design, Quality Assurance, and marketing were made which have expedited our progress immensely.
T.H.E.: Describe your experience working with QCA
Holoway: The experience has been great so far. There is a reason why they are such a respected group. I appreciate the professionalism, honesty, and support that I’ve gotten both directly and indirectly from multiple members of the group. Investing money is one thing that can be recovered. It’s the time invested in me and SoLo that means more because that can never be recouped. With that said, I feel like they truly care about SoLo’s success, and that means the world to me.
T.H.E.: Describe the interaction with your specific angel member, how does he/she continue to support you
Holoway: I feel like I have “cheated the system” because there are multiple members of the organization that have poured their knowledge and experiences into me. Mark Dawes has been a champion for SoLo since we met at the Hillman Accelerator and I’m so thankful for that. I have no doubt that he is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Jack Ridge and I meet regularly, and he never fails to leave a gem with me. It’s easy to get so far ingrained in your company and personal vision that you are blinded by opportunities that are sometimes overtly apparent. Jack’s questions and suggestions have been extremely helpful. I enjoy leaving our meetings thinking in a way that I’ve never thought before as it will help us grow in the long run.
T.H.E: What’s next for SoLo Funds?
Holoway: The goal for SoLo is to unequivocally be the number one resource for loans under $1,000. That’s a lofty goal, but I didn’t give up a stable career and encourage others to leave their jobs just to join me on a path of mediocrity. The idea for SoLo comes from authentic personal experiences. I’m just tired of watching vulnerable people being taken advantage of by predatory lending practices. It’s been such a long journey to launch this product. The satisfaction for me won’t come from press, notoriety, or revenue. It will come from witnessing the impact of providing more affordable financial solutions for the people who need it most.
T.H.E.: What is your perspective of Cincinnati and its startup/entrepreneurial scene?
Holoway: I’m a huge fan of Cincinnati and its startup ecosystem. I decided to move our company here from NYC, so I feel like the unofficial poster child for StartupCincy. There are the obvious advantages like lower burn rates, big-cos that are open to partnering with startups, access to capital, and talent. What I’ve been most impressed with are the intangibles like how supportive strangers have been to me and our team as a whole. The other startup founders in the area are friendly and always willing to help connect the dots for others. Even though we are running separate companies and competing for investment capital from the same groups, there seems to be an element of team and camaraderie that is truly special. It’s just something you don’t find in most cities, definitely not in NYC.
T.H.E.: What would you say to entrepreneurs or startups considering working with QCA?
Holoway: To understand that their diligence process is stringent for a reason. I think the process helps founders look at their business more intimately and objectively, which helps to identify vulnerabilities and potential opportunities. I would also note that this is an organization filled with a lot of experience and knowledge across various sectors/industries. To me, this is one of the most exciting benefits of having QCA in our corner. This level of knowledge and experience is invaluable, but you have to take advantage of it, having access to resources is worthless if you don’t utilize them.
T.H.E.: What are some lessons you have learned during your startup journey that can help others going through or considering a startup?
Holoway: That you have to be fully committed. You can’t be half-in and half-out. I used to pitch investors while still working my previous full-time job, and I couldn’t understand why they would pass on me because I wasn’t full-time. When I look at the progress I made while “moonlighting” versus being full-time I now wholeheartedly understand the perspective of investors. Being full-time on an idea that has an uncertain financial future is such a vulnerable feeling, but that vulnerability lit a fire in me that I didn’t know existed. My thought process switched from “I hope this works” to “This has to work, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.” That’s powerful. I’d also say that asking for help is important. I’ve always been very much the “I can figure it out myself” type, but that doesn’t work in this world. Asking for help doesn’t show weakness, it shows awareness. Nobody achieves success without help along the way.