We don’t normally write about traditional tech companies such as those that launch out of Y Combinator, a seed stage accelerator program that funds and helps entrepreneurs launch web companies. But one recent Y Combinator (YC) company showed up on our radar and there is a great story behind it that can’t be found on its website. ReadyForZero, a site aimed at solving a social problem, is getting some real buzz as a result of the potential for impact that its full-on assault could have on the widespread problem that is credit card debt.
ReadyForZero began with the intention to solve a mostly technical problem. After all, Co-founder Rod Ebrahimi (pictured standing) started young (before finishing his degree) in Silicon Valley building web infrastructure (think web data server centers, pagers going off all hours of the day) at a company started by former Netscape executives. And his Co-founder, Ignacio Thayer (pictured sitting), was enrolled in a PhD program at Stanford for his third computer science degree, after having left Google. Rod and Ignacio showed up at YC looking to build the next smart Twitter app, but launched a very different kind of business this week, aimed to use technology to address a real social problem: credit card debt.
While it’d be hard to know for sure by visiting the ReadyForZero website, these guys are the real deal. In my conversation with Ebrahimi this week, he didn’t hesitate to mention that the goal of ReadyForZero is to empower people against the tactics of a very shady industry. “It’s 90% shadiness out there, ” Rod told me.
With the growing frustration about the bailed out and now back in control financial services industry, a grassroots movement forming in support of local banks that are more motivated to reinvest in their communities and businesses that support them, and mounting credit card debt ($900 billion in credit card balances, spread across 100MM Americans, according to ReadyForZero), you could say that the timing is right on for Ebrahimi and Thayer. One out of three Americans is crippled by credit card debt, paying as much as 30% annual interest, with no way out.
The hope, which coincidentally is the business model for ReadyForZero, is that by getting a full view into your credit card activity, the site can reveal who isn’t as big a risk as they should be, when compared to the exorbitant interest they are paying. So the site will succeed by helping people find more equitable terms for their debt.
How it works
The service aims to provide the motivation and tools one needs to get out of debt, providing what a financial counselor would, in a scalable way, for free.
According to Paul Graham, Y Combinator’s Co-founder:
ReadForZero is essentially a wizard for getting out of credit card debt. It walks you through the same steps a super-organized friend or parent would walk you through if you went to them for help. You import your credit card accounts, and it figures out an optimal strategy for what to pay and when. It sends reminders and you can track your progress online.
ReadyForZero is currently in closed beta, but I’ve been told that they’ve got something of a lottery system going where they randomly select a few dozen users to get instant access to the site. If you aren’t one of them, hopefully an email invitation to join and get help in getting out of debt will be on its way shortly.