The following blog is from the co-founder of GAN Startup, LendEDU, Nate Matherson.
When we started our company, LendEDU, we needed a lot of help. After all, there were a lot of things we didn’t know. In the first year, for example, we realized that we had to pivot our tutoring company, Shop Tutors, to focus on something else. We were able to see an opening and create a student loan refinance marketplace, which has since evolved into an online marketplace for all sorts of financial products.
As young entrepreneurs, we weren’t just new to the financial industry. We were also new to entrepreneurship. So we needed all the help we could get. We were eager to find mentorship, training, and support to ensure that we would be able to prioritize our business growth and grow smart.
Many other startups like us have benefited from taking part in an accelerator, and we were no exception. We wouldn’t be where we are today without funding and support from Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA). They introduced us to a team of mentors who helped us refine various aspects of our business, connected us with other startups we could work with, and gave us access to great marketing workshops, founder fireside chats, and panels of experts on things like term sheets, intellectual property, and software architecture.
It was basically like getting an MBA in how to run a startup. Before, when we didn’t know something, we weren’t sure where to turn. But after taking part in ISA, we knew exactly who to talk to about any kind of business problem.
Access to a Global Community
Of course, being a company in the Iowa Startup Accelerator meant we were also a GAN Startup, instantly connected to the nearly 5,000 other startups who have been through a GAN Accelerator. The global GAN Community has helped startups from Nairobi to Nebraska since 2010, with accelerators in more than 120 cities, spanning six continents. They also have an amazing track record. Since its inception, 75% of GAN Startups are still in business and continuing to grow and thrive today.
How American Airlines Stepped In
One great benefit of being a GAN Startup is that they have amazing partnerships with corporations like American Airlines. Yes, the American Airlines that flies daily to 350 destinations in 50 countries and is a founding member of the Oneworld Alliance. That American Airlines.
It was extremely exciting for us at LendEDU to have a great corporate partner like American Airlines in our corner when we first started. Since we were bootstrapping the business, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on travel. But sometimes travel was necessary to grow our business. It’s the typical startup “Catch-22.” Though you have to spend money to make money, you might not have the money to spend.
That was where American Airlines came in and saved the day. When we had a big meeting we needed to get to in San Francisco, we were able to use a travel grant through the American Airlines Business Extra Program via GAN. And guess what? The travel grant we received afforded us three round-trip flights across the country, from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California.
That travel grant was able to save our company thousands of dollars and help us gain access to a new bank partner. I remember sitting there and opening the email from GAN, confirming our travel grant, and feeling so relieved. It felt wonderful to know that airfare was one thing that I wouldn’t have to worry about.
It also meant that we could keep our expenses and our burn rate low. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees. And when you’re growing your business, the lower you can keep your expenses, the better. It allows you to prioritize your spending on the things that are important without having to worry so much about running out of money if you’re pre-revenue or if you have a slow period. It keeps your startup in business and growing rather than shutting its doors due to cash flow issues.
Connection to Other GAN Partners
While GAN’s American Airlines partnership really helped us out, they have a lot of other partners that startups can access. What do GAN Partners do? Each offers different sorts of perks and engage startups in various ways, but they all strive to create mutually beneficial relationships so that founders can do what they do best: change their industries and—just maybe—the world.