Eric Blue is a native of New Orleans, LA and holds an undergrad degree
in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana and a law degree from The
University of Texas School of Law. Prior to founding Nevly, he spent five years at
two international law firms where he focused on capital markets and M&A
transactions and was an investment banker prior to heading to grad school. He
founded Nevly in 2021 and is passionate about the possibility of leveraging
technology to improve the financial health of underserved consumers.
How did you get started in this business?
In looking back over my life I would say the roots of this model were
probably borne out of my childhood. My mother had her fair share of struggles when
I was pretty young and ended up having the state remove her children (myself and
my siblings) due to some of those challenges. I watched my mother from afar spend
the next eight years of her life getting her life together (beating her substance abuse
issues, finding stable employment, etc.) and worked tirelessly to have herself
declared fit as a parent to have her children return. My mom was awarded custody of
her children when I was 12 years old. Because my siblings at that time were all over
the age of 18 it was just my mom and me. I watched my mother work multiple jobs at
a time some for what I would later learn was less than a fair living wage just to try
and keep things together. Although she would never again touch drugs or alcohol
she was still caught in this vicious cycle of poor financial health. We would spend
most of my high school life shuffling through this cycle of rental unit – to being
evicted – to rental unit and over that four-year period we would be evicted 26 times. It
was during this period that I learned some very important lessons that would form
the foundation of why I decided to build Nevly:
God makes no mistakes and everything He takes you through He does for a
People among us with the least often are just as capable as those with a lot
but structural issues can often prevent them from improving their quality of
Poor financial health can be just as devastating to a family and an individual’s
quality of life than any disease.
Fast forward, it’s 2020 and I’ve gone to the right schools, had amazing jobs, been able to do things I never dreamed possible, are able to move in circles (professional and personal) that others would dream of and yet on the inside I was dying. I struggled mightily with feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-worth and just generally felt as though I was sleep walking through life with no purpose. There were close calls with suicide and some real issues with self-harming. I struggled to find a way back to the light or something that could anchor me to something that made me want to get up every day and keep going. I convince myself that I need a change and I decide to do a 21-day fast with my church and that period change the entire trajectory of my life and my work. I had been sketching pieces of Nevly’s business model since 2018 but the version that exists now completely came together during that 21- day period. I was reminded that my childhood experiences had prepared me to build what I truly believe will be a generation altering business. In short, I had found my anchor.
How do you make money?
Let’s start with a walk through of the company’s business and its
product set. We have two products – a web application-based subscription product
and a financial health focused mobile app.
Our web app focuses on providing consumers who need to improve their credit
score in a time sensitive manner with a tool that allows them to improve their scores
significantly faster than legacy credit repair companies at a fraction of the cost and
with a business model that rewards them throughout their credit score improvement
journey. While legacy credit repair companies focus exclusively on providing credit
repair services to consumers, which when used appropriately, our product was
designed to provide consumers with a portfolio of credit score improvement tools
that when used together increase the speed and velocity of credit score
improvement. These services consist of AI powered credit repair services, past and
current rental payment reporting services, credit monitoring with real time alerts and
a credit builder card with a company sponsored initial security deposit. Our web app
product makes money off of its monthly subscriptions as well as the net interchange
generated when consumers use our credit builder cards. You can learn more about
our web app at https://nevly700club.com.
Our mobile app is built around providing consumers with the first of its kind AI
powered financial health assistant capable of scoring, dynamically rescoring and
providing personalized in-app insights to consumers on how to improve their
financial health. ARLO, the core of our mobile app, is capable of scoring a
consumer’s financial health across an 8-factor scoring model utilizing historic
consumer data in under 30 seconds and in providing that score provides a
consumer’s score relative to in-app segmentation categories such as gender, age
and zip code. Scores are dynamically adjusted as consumers engage with in-app
product journeys as well as based on updated data. Overtime, our product roadmap
includes supplementing ARLO’s capabilities with ancillary products and services
that we offer to consumers at competitive rates. The thesis behind our mobile app
consumer strategy is that we build and deliver strong consumer value and loyalty by
focusing on the improving your financial health thesis and as loyalty for the product
builds, offering ancillary services simply relies on extending brand loyalty. Our
mobile app product generates revenue from the following sources: (i) our product
journeys contain monetization events; (ii) net interchange revenue generated from debit card and credit builder card usage; (iii) transaction fees generated from our P2P money transfer services (domestic and cross border); (iv) tipping revenue and (v) net interest margin. You can learn more about our mobile app at https://nevly.com.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
The presence of our web app presents really strong operating leverage
potential for the business. We launched the product in late November and have been
very pleased with our near-term results. Based on our current forecast, the
consolidated business could be profitable by Q3 2024.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
This journey has been probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. From selling nearly every personal possession I had to my name to spending 10 months building the product in isolation, it has been challenging to say the least and at least daily some level of doubt creeps in. So how I handle it can be broken down into states of the world – (i) when I am right and (ii) when I am not. When I am not right and those thoughts creep in, I go running and looking for external validation. Whether that’s an advisor who believes in what I am doing or a VC fund who is intrigued…any validation will do but the solace provided here is always short lived. When I am right and these thoughts creep in, I will stop whatever I am doing and pray and meditate and give all of that worry and doubt to God. By the time I am done with this session, it has passed.
How did you get your first customer?
Instagram live. Seriously. When we launched the web app, we hadn’t yet closed on our pre-seed round and I was broke and I don’t mean metaphorically. I literally spent every dime I had to build the product. I went live with some friends who were kind to me and drove signups.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Because we have two products, I view the answer here through both lenses. With respect to our web app product, we are building this partnership strategy where we partner with leading companies in adjacent industries to grow our subscriber base. The best part about this strategy is that it allows us to develop partnerships with companies in places we might not normally look but whose target consumers have demographic profiles similar to our target customer. With respect to our mobile app, the initial pain point we are solving is providing consumers with a tool that dramatically improves their financial health and so our product design focus has always centered around that. As part of our marketing strategy, we’ve designed our tipping model that over time dramatically improves consumer financial health and serves as an innovative marketing channel for the product. Here’s how it works – on the first of the month ARLO delivers to each mobile app consumer their value number – the amount of value generated by ARLO in the prior month. Consumers are invited to tip whatever amount they would like to in response (0% / 5% / 10% / 20%). The tipping period is only open for 24 hours and then closes until the first day of the next month. As it relates to the tips, 90% of every dollar is rebated back to our community of consumers pro rata from their date of joining. The company invest those tips on behalf of our community members, but users are free to borrow at no interest cost a percentage of their account balance on an as needed basis. The real power of this arrangement lies in the potential compounded effect of those invested assets over time. From a marketing perspective, tips reflect value and there are two primary ways in which tips grow – greater value derived by users and a greater number of users utilizing the app (and hopefully deriving value). From a psychographic perspective it turns every user who is invested in the assets for their benefit into an ambassador of the program.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
When I decided on this journey, I had some money saved that I believed
at the time would be sufficient for me to get to product launch and the company’s
initial fundraising. In true founder fashion I had grossly underestimated the rate of
cash burn and greatly exaggerated the pace at which I would be able to get the
product built. The combination of those two factors led to this moment in time when
I was flat broke. I had literally no cash left in my bank account and was still months
away from delivering the product and an even longer period away from raising any
outside capital. The only thing I had left was my personal belongings and those
items represented all my past hard work. All the 100-hour work weeks. All the
spending holidays in the office; missing and cancelling vacations and most
importantly they represented my badges to the outside world that I still mattered. I
mean it’s one thing to be a broke entrepreneur but its slightly different to be a broke
entrepreneur who drives a Porsche. I had to make the decision whether I was willing
to part with those relics of my past to fund my future and it was extremely difficult
not because I cared about them on any deep emotional level but at that space and
time in my life, they represented all that I had to convince myself that I mattered. I
began selling them and eventually sold everything of value I had to my name. I don’t
regret it one bit!
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I don’t process this journey through that lens. I mean don’t get me wrong I want to win just as much as the next founder but my measure of success during this journey has so far surpassed that “me” framework. My success is measured by what can I do today to make my God proud. What can I do to make my family proud. What can I do take my customers lives better. If I focus on those three things in that order everything else will take care of itself.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Every day is so gratifying doing this work even those that are sometimes filled with challenges. That being said, the most gratifying day so far was after our web app launched and had been out in the market for a month or so I spoke with some early adopters and to hear the level of enthusiasm they had for their future because of the product felt so amazing. I yearn for many more days in the future just like that.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Our mission is to have our brand become synonymous with consumer financial health and to become the far and away technology leader in that space. In the near term what that looks like is we want our web app to own 20 – 30% of the current existing U.S. credit repair market and for our mobile app to become the global mobile product of choice for consumers interested in learning more about and/or improving their consumer financial health.
What business books have inspired you?
Running Lean by Ash Maurya; The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, and The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
We invested in a subscription with the product testing platform Using Testing. It allows us to do customer interviews in a fraction of the time than our previous manual model and for us talking to our target customer is the life blood of our product development strategy.