Last week we sat down with the founders of Pigeon Loans, a current InNEVator company, to get their thoughts on everything from their experience in the program to their goals for the next six months.
Brian Bristol and Tilly Tanga met as freshmen at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine, where they hatched the idea for Pigeon Loans – a peer-to-peer lending service. Together, they realized that lending between friends and family can lead to some uncomfortable conversations and the risk that the lenders will not have their money returned. This was a problem that they wanted to solve and to have an impact on real people.
The Pigeon Loans platform includes contract creation and management between the parties, a payment platform to facilitate transactions, and a complete record of all agreements. The platform also allows users to specify the loan amount, loan term, and interest rate in a simple form. Their platform is now available in 40 countries.
Highlighting some challenges when starting Pigeon Loans, Brian shared that the most unexpected challenge was people. As a founder of a new company, he/she will have to interact with various personalities; and as Tilly pointed out, all of them would try to give you advice. With a spectrum of advice coming from all directions, it can be difficult to discern which direction to take. This is not a problem exclusive to Pigeon Loans. Finding good mentors is crucial for getting any venture off the ground, but it can be difficult for new companies to know how to vet mentors or the advice that they receive.
A key feature of the InNEVator program is mentor matching – each team is paired with a mentor that has some background and expertise relevant to the team. Brian shared that his favorite part of the program was the regular interaction with the mentors. The mentors’ commitment to the teams’ learning and success made the program feel very connected, even with virtual program delivery. Throughout the program, they had the opportunity to take the advice from mentors like Rick Winfield, an investor with the Reno Seed Fund, and directly apply it in his calls with investors, which Brian says led to better conversations. Tilly’s favorite part of InNEVator was how the program started in person – being in person opens up side conversations that wouldn’t happen over Zoom. She shared that getting to know the cohort first in person before it went virtual was a great way to feel connected to the other companies going through the same process as them and contributed to the sense of community.
With the InNEVator wrapping up next week, we asked Pigeon Loans what they were looking forward to in the next six months after the program. Besides Tilly’s birthday (next month!), they are going to be taking a deep dive into understanding their customers’ experience to learn how they can continuously improve their platform for optimal results. The advice that they give to budding entrepreneurs is to be sure to ask a lot of questions on this journey, find a good co-founder that you can be friends with, and look for a problem that you are excited to solve. Pigeon Loans will be pitching their company to the Reno community of investors and potential partners at the InNEVator Demo Day on May 6th.