Ep. #1069 - How to Overcome Adversity
It’s another day to hustle and overcome adversity! And we’re bringing in a new founder for our Top Dallas Startups series.
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt Watson brings insights from Demetrius Curry. Hear about the experiences of the CEO of College Cash as he overcomes adversity. And how every challenge can help shape your emotional and mental fortitude as an entrepreneur.
Also, be updated on all the companies recognized as 2023’s Top Dallas Startups. Get to know all the incredible emerging growth companies in this overview article.
Covered In This Episode
College Cash is on a mission to help those in need. But is the platform focused on one goal alone? What are the possible impacts of the funds on students? And what is the trait that entrepreneurs need to develop the most?
Get to know about these things and more with Matt and Demetrius. Also, walk along memory lane with our guest as he recounts his story of overcoming challenges.
Learn how to overcome adversity. Tune in to this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Demetrius Curry and his background (02:39)
- What is College Cash? (05:41)
- Using user-generated content to generate money (07:22)
- How College Cash works (11:42)
- What happens to the funds? (12:55)
- Real examples of successful user campaigns (14:45)
- How the funds can be used (15:58)
- Target users for College Cash (17:05)
- Current partnerships (18:17)
- Where are the campaigns run? (20:04)
- The future of College Cash (21:49)
- The smart way to hustle (25:49)
- Overcoming adversity as a founder (26:54)
- Demetrius’ drive to succeed (29:54)
- Getting valuable lessons out of adversities (34:02)
- The number one trait of successful entrepreneurs (37:25)
You have to hustle but hustle in a smart manner. You have to be strategic. You have to not be scared. Because, at a certain point, you realize you have nothing to lose.– Demetrius Curry
When you go through that, it makes you a better founder or a better CEO. It is because when things get hard, you don’t fold.– Demetrius Curry
My dad was a hard worker. My dad raised me, and [he] instilled a major work ethic and a major drive to achieve and do things.– Matt Watson
Overcome adversity in recruiting software developers. Full Scale has the best solution to help you. Just take advantage of their platform and answer project-related questions for two minutes. And you’ll be automatically matched with available developers, testers, and leaders for your project. Enjoy hassle-free recruitment now!
Moreover, check out the Startup Hustle partners page and the services of their organizations too.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:00
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson. I’m excited to be joined today by Demetrius Curry, and his company is College Cash. We’re gonna be talking about how to overcome adversity. He’s got a great story. And, you know, the mission of his company is doing some awesome things. I’m so excited to talk about that today. Before we get started, I want to remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Well, Demetrius, welcome to the show, man.
Demetrius Curry 00:35
Yeah, appreciate it. It’s good to be here, man. Good to be here.
Matt Watson 00:39
Well, congrats on being one of our top startups from Dallas. So we’ll have a whole series on that for everybody that’s listening. There’s gonna be a whole bunch of episodes about all the different companies in Dallas. So definitely check out all the other episodes if you want to hear what’s going on in Dallas. I guess you tell us how the startup community is in Dallas.
Demetrius Curry 00:58
It’s growing. It’s growing. Just that Texas overall is like the whole ecosystem is just huge. But Dallas, in particular, I’ll do it because I don’t want to irritate people here. I’ll do Dallas slash Fort Worth because they’re combined. Yeah, both tech things are really kind of really blowing up. You have so many different programs and good investors down here. If it’s okay, I mean like you have Capital Factory TechStars. There are two different programs coming out of here. You have some really good VC firms and angel investors. That’s pretty awesome.
Matt Watson 01:34
That’s what we need. We need all of those things, and we need a lot of mentors. And, you know, Startup Hustle, our podcast here, is glad to be helping out startup communities as well and shedding light on companies like yours. So tell us, our goal today is to talk about overcoming adversity. And it’s my understanding you went through a lot of adversity yourself. So you want to start by telling us your story.
Demetrius Curry 01:59
Wow. Yeah. So yeah, maybe the short version of it. Mostly, we got a history together. So originally from Chicago, Southside, born and raised, did a lot of dumb things as a kid man, like what you would expect to see kids from the Southside do, I did to the point that I dropped out of high school, three months for graduation went to the Marine Corps, cuz it was actually a better choice than where my life was headed. Plus, it was actually less dangerous than the things I was doing in Chicago. And so got out the Marines and just kind of wandered for a bit. I tell people, and I’m gonna tell my age here. I wondered why I came into Kung Fu, just kind of wandering around and eventually just decided to try to get my life on track. So I got my GED, attended college, and then ended up working in corporate America, my first real job was on Wall Street. And so it was really weird from there. But that adversity has always been there, some selfish, some self-imposed, and others just the way the world is.
Matt Watson 03:03
So you went, you went to work on Wall Street? What were you doing on Wall Street? Yeah.
Demetrius Curry 03:07
So I started working for a brokerage on Wall Street, and it was originally just customer service. But then because the guy was just like, Look, man, yeah, got no financial experience. But you were at the core. So at least I know you’ll show up on time. True. I will. And so ended up going into financial services from there working on Madison Avenue and advertising and then just kind of did, I like to call it the banking circuit, different banks here and there. PNC Huntington. But yeah, corporate America. My background is in finance, marketing, and advertising. So yeah.
Matt Watson 03:40
So let’s talk about College Cash. How did that lead you to start College Cash?
Demetrius Curry 03:45
Oh, that’s easy. Because I work with at-risk youth always because I consider myself an anomaly. Because usually, you know, the whole high school dropout from the Southside Chicago story does not involve Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and yeah, that doesn’t happen. So, of course, working with rescue didn’t just kind of be in that person. Everybody’s like, hey, my kid wants to Okay. Part of my main narrative for them was to go to college, leave their neighborhood, expand their vision, your viewpoint, and change their life. It was cool. Then I started hearing everything about student loan debt. And it was just crazy because when I looked for resources to kind of guide people, there was nothing for Pete for us. And when I say us, I mean people with no money. Everything was basically putting the categories of reorganization reconsolidation, which is like shuffling a deck of cards, giving you 52 back, you still have the same number of cards, and I didn’t do anything to help you. Or it was companies that were geared towards, if you have extra money, you spend it here, you’ll get this benefit. Well, in the environments I came from, people didn’t have a whole bunch of disposable income. So as I like to tell people, nobody built anything for broke folks, so I did.
Matt Watson 04:56
All right. So tell us more about what College Cash does?
Demetrius Curry 05:01
Well, College Cash is a platform where users as early as freshman year of high school, so 13 can start engaging with companies and brands that are running user-generated content campaigns. We pretty much see from all the brands, like a post, your favorite picture of the thing is on both sides. You have the brands and companies that directly want to engage with that 1324 demographic. It’s the most coveted demographic for any kind of consumer-facing brand on the planet. That also covers high school and college. So we connect those brands with the users, who can then post pictures inside of our class platform to engage with those brands. And the result is they earn money that stacks and accumulates to offset their future student loan debt. So, you know, like, we would like to say you can start saving for college before you even start college. And it’s all based on everyday behavior.
Matt Watson 05:55
So this is a type of UGC platform. And so, for those who don’t know what that stands for, that’s user-generated content. But that acronym has become really common over the last year or two. And honestly, I didn’t even hear about it until recently because of people I liked. I like to use TikTok, and people talk about doing this kind of stuff on TikTok, right. And they make money creating UGC content. And, of course, you’ve got these, you know, girls that are like rap and makeup brands, and all these different things, and they get paid to make the videos and, and I’m gonna guess there might be some of that on College Cash. But I guess there’s probably a lot of other types of UGC stuff that brands are wanting to pay to promote, and they want their potential audience to, you know, try and get their friends and family to know about the products. Right.
Demetrius Curry 06:42
True. And there are some differences because I’m so glad you use that example of, you know, brands paying somebody on tick tock or, you know, any use other platforms, only a small percentage of people who actually are on these platforms get any kind of compensation help that was unfair. So when, of course, and I love how you said that matter about what UGC is like for the audience, the easiest way to think of it is if you’ve ever posted a picture on anything while we’re on vacation on any of the platforms, that’s user-generated content, anything you post, so we take that, but we went one step further, may not give you an example, say a coffee brand is like, oh, post a picture of our frappuccino. Okay, well, that’s great. The problem is, what if you can’t afford that Frappuccino that day, or you’re just a busy adult like us, like I’m not stopping just to do that, that misses out on a lot of the engagement that these brands could have gotten because you inadvertently created a financial barrier for your same target demographic. Same thing with any other brand athletic company posting a picture of this shoe. What if you love that brand, but you just can’t afford that shoe? Okay, so what we do is we actually change the narrative to make it where there’s no financial barrier. So for ABC Coffee Company, instead of saying, post a picture of our Frappuccino, it would be posting a picture of your favorite coffee mug. Why? Because everybody has that in their cabinet, the athletic company, instead of saying post a picture of our shoe, it’s posted a picture of your favorite workout spot. And we’re able to do that with every brand we work with. Because now you actually have more people that are actually engaging and posting pictures because there’s no monetary requirement.
Matt Watson 08:24
So let’s say instead of, you know, they can’t afford to go buy an expensive pair of Nikes, or whatever to do this with, but they can do it at the gym. So what if Nike or somebody wants to sponsor that? Then how do you? How do you work that in, like, just by putting the branding, you know, their logos and stuff on the videos or the content? Or, like, how do you still accomplish that?
Demetrius Curry 08:44
Well, so here’s the dirty little secret of advertising and marketing. I’m gonna share this, and it may get me in trouble. When these companies and brands ask people to post pictures of their products, realistically, they don’t need a picture of the product. And you say at Nike, so Nike doesn’t need a picture of you in their Air Max because they had a picture of their Air Maxes when they created the product, right. So what they really want is engagement from users and brand awareness. So we provide that to them in a manner that now they get more, whereas, say 3000, people might have engaged with the post a picture of your Air Maxes. Now, you may have five or 10,000 because, guess what, you may love Nike, but you can’t afford those Air Maxes right now, so it was easier for you to go ahead and post a picture of your favorite workouts so they still get the same engagement and it’s still the same brand awareness because the money that’s earned by the users came from will say in this case, Nike or ABC coffee house or you know, XYZ airlines. So you still get brand awareness and user engagement, and the brands are still the beneficiaries of it.
Matt Watson 09:50
So tell us what you know, you’re this is a startup company. So tell us about what kind of phase in that company you are at with this if you guys have done a lot of big campaigns. Are you guys still in an earlier stage of getting started, kind of where you are at in the lifecycle as a startup?
Demetrius Curry 10:07
So we’re really, you know, they were considered early stage, but we’ve managed to get some really great traction and some really great partnerships in a short period of time because we’re very unique in our market, we’re able to do something that most companies don’t. So that adoption has been great. We’ve already managed to start working with Visa, Experian, and the city of Chicago, and the list is growing. And so it’s just been a great thing. We’ve actually started paying out our users already. They’re already accumulating money. And we’re currently in TechStars. So what that has done is that’s actually increased our visibility as well, which honestly, a lot of times for early-stage companies, that’s all we need is somebody in nowhere there. So we’ve already started working and collaborating with MoneyGram. Stellar. And we have some other big players that are actually in the pipeline that I can’t say right now, but they’re big.
Matt Watson 11:02
So can you give us any specific use cases about a campaign that you helped do and, you know, teenagers that helped do it, like in a great story?
Demetrius Curry 11:12
No, absolutely. So while we were running some of our beta campaigns, over 2022, we run campaigns every quarter, I can tell you the most recent one that we just closed out for December ending 2022. We ended up paying out around 700 users. Okay? They’ve all earned money towards their future student loan debt. And so that felt really good, because that was you that was actually paid out to users that just came into our platform organically. Like we haven’t done any kind of marketing or advertising for users. So being able to see users accumulate in this case, I know for a fact that there were a few users that now have earned a total of all their campaigns already around 500 $600. Okay, nice, high school freshmen. So we’re seeing the impact, we’re definitely seeing the impact.
Matt Watson 12:02
So when you use your platform, and they earn these funds, are you actually paying them out directly to these high school kids? Or do these funds get set aside for future college funds?
Demetrius Curry 12:15
That’s what makes us unique, and I appreciate that question. Part of our unique appeal is the funds earned cannot be touched by our users until they enter the student loan repayment free phase. By doing it that way, it doesn’t interfere with that financial aid, because we’re looked at as sort of a consumer based 529 program. So it’s really important that the users don’t think oh, well, you, I earned $50 from you know, XYZ coffee, I’m gonna get it right now. No, the point of our platform is student loans. So the money actually continues to stack and accumulate. So they’re able to see their balances grow. And they’re able to kind of know, which, as we’re growing, we’re learning that that’s going to provide an impact for that same freshman in three, four years, when they are senior, they know the nest egg they have is going to actually help them make better decisions as far as what college or university to attend. Plus, the money isn’t just for the traditional four years. Anything that you take a student loan out for pilot school, H back school, truck driving school, we’re here for you.
Matt Watson 13:16
Okay. So in the meantime, do you invest that money in the stock market or something? Or what do you do with those funds? In the meantime?
Demetrius Curry 13:23
No, because I don’t want to play with my users’ money. One of the main things and I guess I’ll say hills that I die on, is I’m never going to charge my users, our platform is completely free for our users. We don’t take any money out of what they earn. And they sit in interest bearing accounts. That’s two, okay. So we don’t invest in it only because of the volatile nature of the market. And I don’t want to play with their money. I mean, they’re doing something trying to make their life better in the future. And I refuse to compromise that.
Matt Watson 13:54
So can you give me an example of those campaigns? So say my 13 year old like, what would he have he had to have done to earn, like you said, $500, some of them made like, what would he have actually had to have done?
Demetrius Curry 14:05
Oh, I can give you examples from the campaigns running right now, Matt? So right now we have a campaign based around. How do you like your pizza? So just post a picture of how you like a pizza where there are pineapples, mushrooms. I mean, we keep it simple. There’s another campaign just to post a picture of your favorite football team’s jersey. Your favorite game day pick posted that coffee mug the example I gave earlier is actually a campaign going right now. We also have another campaign for one of the companies that we’re working with, Sparkles Dayton, which is just posting a picture of your favorite date, night location, where’s your favorite spot to go? So we keep them really simple. And those are exactly the things that people are doing already. If you’re a fan of your local sports team, NBA, MLB or NFL you already have a gang day picture. You’ve probably been to a game, you took a picture, you already have a jersey. These are things We’re allowing people to do because getting help shipping costs you trying to get out of future debt shouldn’t put you more in debt. So that’s kind of the basis of where we started everything from.
Matt Watson 15:13
So if for some reason these kids don’t end up going to college, what happened to these funds?
Demetrius Curry 15:18
Well, in that particular case, Matt, we’re actually happy to be able to say the funds can be used for any other debt class as well. See, I was one of those people who had debt with no degree because I went to college but didn’t finish. Okay. You can go towards that. Or if you ended up saying, Hey, I didn’t end up going to college. I say I have an accumulation of, say, $8,000. What can I use it for? Well, you can use it as a down payment on your car, you can have a slot in your checking and savings account, or you can have it be used to offset any other major debt classes coming your way. So when we look at the focus of our platform is student loan debt. But realistically, life happens, you may not go because guess what you got to take over the family business or yours decided, college isn’t for me, that money is still yours. And it can be used toward any debt class you have. So we kind of preemptively reduce all forms of debt.
Matt Watson 16:14
This is awesome. I love it. So is this open today for like kind of open enrollment? Like can I kind of get my teenager to sign up for this today? Or is it still kind of a limited scope? Or?
Demetrius Curry 16:25
Oh, no, absolutely. We’re completely open. We have iOS and Android in both stores. And as long as you are at least 13 years old, freshman year high school, good to go. Matter of fact, we have people on our platform in their 30s and 40s, because they’re using it to pay down their student loan debt currently, that’s another thing, I needed a dimension. For high school or college students, you can’t access the repayment period. But if you’re an adult that’s already out of school, you can use our platform, and every quarter that you’re earning money is money. And you can have us directly paid towards the student loan companies, because we take care of that part for you, too. That’s all.
Matt Watson 17:02
So it’s not just for high school students. It’s also for adults. Oh, yeah,
Demetrius Curry 17:05
we’re pre emptive. But hey, we’re gonna help you if you already have the debt in the same manner, because here’s the thing. Looking at the example I gave earlier for other companies that are out there, it’s great. Well use you. For example, Matt, if you say you had a $20,000 student loan debt, okay, you should be able to help find ways to pay that down without having to go outside and spend extra money that you may not have. So that’s what we provide.
Matt Watson 17:31
Awesome. That’s awesome. So I saw a note here, do you guys have some kind of partnership with chime?
Demetrius Curry 17:37
That is correct. That is correct chime, we actually have a partnership with them. And the manner that we help drive new users to them. If you look at the main things that you get in the first year of college, it’s usually debt. And so you, you really want to be really selective in institutions that you can send that first time bank account holder to, so we partnered with chime in as part of our whole thing with experience. John has a lot of great products to help protect credit, build credit. And for a first time bank account holder, especially with a college freshman, that was a really good fit for us. Versus the days when I went to school, and probably you two, were that first week or so on the quad or campus, Hey, open up a bank account with us, and we’ll give you a free Frisbee. Yeah, they can’t do that anymore. So alternatively, let’s use our platform to help direct people to get valuable value ads that can help their financial health.
Matt Watson 18:37
So if I wanted to have my teenager do this, for example, does he have to have a certain size of social media like audience or is there any kind of requirement there?
Demetrius Curry 18:48
I love that you asked that? No, because I don’t wanna say we’re an anti social media platform. However, I didn’t like that aspect, either. Oh, okay. So this person gets elected because they have a million followers on this planet. That’s not fair to the average person. This is all about equitable access to ability offset debt. So our platform does not connect to external platforms. We’re not a social media platform. The benefit of that is, it doesn’t matter if you have a million followers on IG, or if you don’t even have an IG, you have the same ability to earn as everybody else.
Matt Watson 19:24
So aren’t they potentially posting on those other platforms, or they’re posting on your platform?
Demetrius Curry 19:29
No, we are completely self contained. Everything that’s most of the campaigns run on our platform, the users posts in our platform. And there’s a reason for that. There are two reasons really, one was from a well, I just didn’t want to do it. Because certain platforms have a little bit better or worse data, data security, let’s just say they value user data, more or less. The other thing is, if you look at it and let’s use you for example, if you have Matt’s coffees If a user posts on any other platform, that image doesn’t even belong to them, it belongs to that platform. So why would you pay or compensate that user for an image that they don’t even own because when you compensate them as the CEO of Matt’s coffees, those images are yours to use in your own advertising and marketing. So I couldn’t ask a brand to pay Tommy for an image that Tommy posted on IG or meadow that doesn’t even belong to him anymore. That was part one. Part two is the business side. Well, the money that the brands give the users for the images, that’s an advertising right off and completely deductible up under our advertising guidelines by the IRS brand awareness and user engagement. Well, by me hosting these campaigns and doing everything internally, even the yearly subscription fees, the brands pay me to host these is also deductible as an advertising expense, because I’m looked at as an advertising platform. So by keeping everything self contained, I provided a great value proposition to these brands and companies as well as my users.
Matt Watson 21:08
Got it? Okay. Very cool. Well, I do, I do want to take a minute to remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs. And then see where developers are available to join your team today, visit FullScale.io to learn more. So what do you do where do you see the future of this going? What is the next step for you guys?
Demetrius Curry 21:38
Well, the next step is because like I said, we’re part of TechStars, we actually now have some really fantastic opportunities that are coming up, that allow us to grow internationally, our scaling is actually going to take us outside of just the domestic, you know, say United States, because student loan debt is not just an issue that’s regulated here. We also often look at it like that, because such a major issue here. But other countries have student loan debt even for their own native universities. Then also, if you look at international students, most people don’t really factor in demand because international students don’t have student loan debt per se. However, somebody back at home in their home country has taken out a loan, this education related. So now we’re able to help not just domestic but international students, students and other countries, even for their own native universities, once again, starting the first year of secondary school. And the good part about that is a lot of these brands and companies that have the ability to run these campaigns and my platform, remember, we were discussing the deductions for advertising, they’re able to still get the same ones because they’re all based here, no matter where they’re running the campaigns at. So we’re actually growing and scaling outside the United States. Also, as I mentioned, that aspect of being able to affect other other debt classes, has gotten us some really good conversations and some things in the pipeline, such as being able to be used for people with IDA accounts to use my platform as a way to earn money for their downpayment on their first home, do a lot of community banks and the IDA program. Once again, most of the people who qualify for it, the problem is they don’t have disposable income to go ahead and put in the account for people to be able to match. So there are some really good opportunities in the pipeline. But right now, short term, we’re scaling not just outside the United States. That includes Indonesia, Latin America, Africa and Europe.
Matt Watson 23:34
Wow. And so do you credit a lot of that to TechStars and the connections they helped you with?
Demetrius Curry 23:41
Or what TechStars definitely helped with the signal effect. Just because the I’m sure you know, and probably all your audience knows there’s a signal effect we’re getting into a program. Yeah, it’s almost like a stamp of okay, this has some wheels. However, I’ve been I’ve also gone through some other really good programs such as village capital Tampa Bay wave. And just visibility and being seen as South by Southwest, I won the speed pitch for social and culture last year at South by Southwest. I won the visa FinTech event in New York in November, all of these things combined. Plus goes back to overcoming adversity. Having not had the I don’t want to say benefit but the trajectory that sent me through undergrad and then getting an MBA and then maybe being an ex Googler X meta, the things that give you that ready access to certain conversations or rooms when you want to grow a company. When you realize that you’re not going to get that you have to make it happen. How you can there’s a saying from a really good movie Artemis hotel that goes play the cards you’re dealt, not the ones you wish for. And that’s what I do. But it also means that I’ve done things that are completely backwards in some sense, such as I built a platform for people with no money didn’t make them the product, you know. So the desire to help keeps me going. So I kick in doors, I asked for meetings, I scour LinkedIn. So all of that, combined with the good visibility from these programs, and a really good group of investors, both VCs and angels, has gotten us to where we are. So I’m accredited everybody, honestly, I like the hustle. You would do the whole Startup Hustle, no pun intended, that’s what you have to do. You have to hustle. You know, because if you don’t, it’s not the it’s not like some of the narratives like hustle 24/7 I mean, no, you shouldn’t, because you’re gonna burn out. I’m a, basically a solo founder. And so you have to hustle, but hustle in a smart manner. You have to be strategic, you have to not be scared. Because at a certain point, you realize you have nothing to lose. If I refine, go into a meeting that I asked for? And they say no, well, cool. That was the same No, I had before I asked for the meeting. So what did I really lose?
Matt Watson 26:07
I love that you have nothing to lose. I’m writing this down here. You have nothing to lose. I’m gonna quote this one later. Well, no, but it’s true.
Demetrius Curry 26:14
I mean, what’s the worst to happen? Is he I mean, you. There are so many things that go into overcoming adversity to becoming a founder, or to even going through a sea to a point where your company valuation has commas in it. Part of that is you got to learn how to do a few things, one, tune out certain people and voices. And everybody hears that, like, oh, like one of the most common things people say is, oh, if they don’t support me, they just hate me. No, no, it’s not a matter they hate on you. That’s a simple way to put it. Maybe they just don’t understand your vision. And maybe some of them really care about your well being. Case in point. When I left a good job to do this. Everybody’s like, Man, are you crazy? And my family? My family was like, Man, are you sure you? Well, it wasn’t that they were hating on what I was doing. They just didn’t want me to be that starving artist, starving startup person. Okay, I can respect that. And then other people were like, Man, I don’t know, well, you may not see what I see. Just like, you know, if you if any of your listeners just do a simple experiment, get three of your friends, look out a window and ask everybody to tell you the first thing they see guarantee, they’re all gonna say something different. Why? Because everybody’s view is based on their own personal biases, things they’ve been through. And you can’t look at that as, hey, this thing will support you. Alright, cool, I’ll just, you know, keep your distance, you know, I may not talk about my business, but I’m a keep doing it. And then the most important voice you got to go ahead and shut out is your own. See, that’s kind of that’s the one people have a problem with once you can learn until your own voice to shut up you good. Because that voice when you want to do something that hasn’t been done, oh, man, you know, you don’t have that degree, you don’t have that background in that field. He you remember back in sixth grade, when you did that, that’s the voice that knows everything you’ve ever done. And that’s what comes up to make you doubt everything you want to do. The problem is so hard for people to not realize that they should tell it to shut up because it sounds like you want to know everything you’ve ever done. So I tell people and even some of the other startups and founders that I mentor, hey look like, for example, Matt, your name is Matt, if somebody ran in a room and said, Hey, Dave, you wouldn’t turn around? Because it’s not you, you wouldn’t even think about it. So why respond to the voice in your head that you know is completely counterproductive to everything you’re trying to accomplish? That’s the first voice you got to tell Shut up.
Matt Watson 28:37
You know, we’re not just the thoughts in our head.
Demetrius Curry 28:40
Facts. And here’s the thing, the more time that people focus on those, the less time they can actually make things happen. Like, you know, I had no background in student loan debt. I mean, I have some background in advertising marketing, but this was entirely new. So we’re talking about coming home from a job, staying up studying everything, googling at knowledge is freezing some cases, learning everything about it while I’m still hearing that. Well, you know, that didn’t work out for you. Or this didn’t work out for you. Eventually. You just got to go. Yeah, that’s cool. But this time it will.
Matt Watson 29:14
I love it, man. I mean, how I mean, you feel like your adversity growing up has really given you the drive to work hard and succeed and had a big impact on you.
Demetrius Curry 29:26
Damn straight man. And I hate to put it like that, but it’s our superpower. Anybody that’s ever created anything that came through adversity. The problem is we’re often taught to hide it, not embrace it. Oh, I was homeless. I was a high school dropout. I was me, you know what? Yeah, use that. Let me give you an example. Somebody asked, well, you know, in the early days, did you read the lean startup? Not bad. I had a fan. And they were like, why not? I was like, because I’ve been homeless. I know how to stretch $50 for a whole week, you can’t tell anybody who’s ever been homeless, underemployed or unemployed, anything about being lean, you can tweak it toward a business. But as far as the concept of being lean, we already know how to do it. Yeah. I mean, it’s the same thing. Just like, you know, strategies zero to one. I mean, these are all great books at a certain point, but when you’re just starting out, you know, hey, you know, what are the war 48 Laws of Power, the subtle art of not giving a fuck, I mean, those were great books for me in the beginning, because of the background because of the adversity. But it also means for like, even any of your listeners who have gone through stuff like that, embrace it, you made it through everything. I love to tell people every day that you used to say man is the best and worst day ever. I’m never going to make it through it. Here you are. You made it through it. So guess what you’re batting 1000 use that as your superpower. I’ve no more founders that go through some adversity in their life. And I mean, really adversity, not some of this other kind of reversing. I’m talking about real adversity, like, you know, you’ve been homeless, you had your utilities cut off, you’ve had to get food from a food pantry. I mean, hell I sell plasma to pay a hosting fee at one point. Here’s the thing. When you go through that, it makes you a better founder or a better CEO. It’s because when things get hard, you don’t fold. You don’t fall. Oh my god, I’m down to my last 1000 a month in my checking account. I’ve heard some I’ve heard a founder say that and they started panicking like I’m done in my last 1000. Meanwhile, some of us who have like technically underserved founders are going through that be like, Oh, damn, you got 1000 You’re checking it like that? What’s that? Like? I’m worried I mortgaged my house and max my credit cards out to start my first company. Oh, damn, you have a house? You have credit cards, bro. What’s that lifelike? But here’s the thing when things go hard, people who had to do it the hard way we don’t folk.
Matt Watson 31:57
Like it. You know, and I imagine your investors like that, too.
Demetrius Curry 32:02
You know, they do. And it’s kind of funny, because in the beginning, especially for, like, precede seed stage companies. Everybody needs to remember your investors. Angel institutional. You said I can speak freely here, right? Absolutely. Your business model doesn’t mean shit. Let’s just be real. The idea shit. What are they Betting on you? They’re betting on you. They’re betting on your team. I’m a solo founder. So I didn’t really have a team. But they were betting on me. What’s your passion? Is your passion shown? So? Yeah, my investors like it because I embrace everything I’ve gone through and I use it almost as a superpower. I mean, if you’re starting a company, you have to be like that. You have to let your investors and people see you. And if you’ve been through some rough stuff, but you’re still here, dammit, say it because they’re gonna have a lot more respect for that. There’s somebody who’s never been through anything. So the first scrape on their knee they’re gonna be like, you know, family got Peter Griffin on the sidewalk. No, you want somebody who’s gonna be like, Man, I fail. Alright, cool. Shake it off, walk it off, throw some dirt on it. I mean, just keep going.
Matt Watson 33:16
I love it man. I didn’t have quite the same adversity as you. I had my own version of it. I grew up extremely poor. I lived with my grandparents and had no money for clothes for school, you know, all that kind of stuff. And but my dad was a hard worker, and my dad raised me and it instilled a major work ethic and the means for sure, and a major drive to like, achieve and do things. And, you know, I was never homeless. I was never never quite to that level but was very poor. But it definitely impacted me and created that work ethic for me that I can definitely relate to.
Demetrius Curry 33:52
No, absolutely. And here’s the thing, adversity is so funny. Because, you know, for, for what I went through, like we were saying, like my adversity, your adversity wasn’t mine. Somebody else could look at you and go, Hey, your adversity wasn’t mine, like I thought I had a bad one. The interesting thing is we’ve all pulled something from those experiences that go into what we do. And so and how we move and how we operate, I was able to build a company. Because I understood what it was like to want to do better but be broke. So I built an account for people with no money and realized how to leverage everyday behavior because I looked around and saw certain things such as, for the most part. The reason we chose that is because I chose everyday behavior starting with user generated content. If you look at some even some of the most underserved financially, financial communities in the country, large metro areas and things like this. Even in some of the worst families, you know what they still have cell phones, social media and a gaming system. Yep. Because As if nothing else, that’s their escape. So let’s start there, I want to start at the lowest common denominator of what I can use to help everybody. The problem is, when you come out of different backgrounds, people aren’t able to build things like that, because they don’t see it. They never experienced it. So that’s why I say for anybody looking to start a company or just starting one, believe in yourself, understand that as you see a problem with different eyes and other people.
Matt Watson 35:26
You think, do you think that people have overcome extreme adversity? Are they a lot more fearless?
Demetrius Curry 35:33
Gotta be I mean, you got to be because it just comes inherently with certain things, such as using the same example. Oh, man, I don’t know, I’m gonna do I gotta do this, because my lights gonna get cut off, guess what? My life has been cut off before. So that’s not really something for me to worry about and scare me. Right? You know, I know how to move around in that. So you be but you also realize that you’ve made it through probably worse stuff. Yeah. So there’s no reason to be scared or somebody telling you no. Are you about data? Are they about to take you in an alley out back and beat you? No. So guess what? Open your mouth, ask for what you want. Don’t be scared to build something because most times you’ve gone through adversity, you’ve had some pretty bad reactions to things and choices. You made lights, cut off water, cut off evictions, cars, repossessed, you know, not eating. I mean, yeah, we will do stuff like that. Yeah, you’re ready, you’re ready to be a founder. I mean, no disrespect to those that come up in different paths. But if you’ve gone through adversity, not only are you fearless, you look at things from a more realistic perspective. I can make this work standpoint.
Matt Watson 36:45
I think it was on LinkedIn. Recently, I saw somebody they were talking about, like one of the number one traits of successful entrepreneurs that was related to this. And their version of it was fierceness. And you know, I think it’s it’s similar kind of concept, right? Like to survive that adversity, you just have become very fierce, very bold, you know, you got to build up a lot of confidence, you become fearless, like all of those things, right? To overcome this adversity. If you’re going to survive it, you’re going to survive that adversity. Otherwise, you just fall over and you’re like, you know, give up all of it. But if you’re gonna overcome all of it, it really, you know, makes, you know, really instills in your personality, a lot of these traits that are great traits to be an entrepreneur later.
Demetrius Curry 37:29
Oh, no, absolutely. I mean, it’s like, you know, not only is that fierceness, but also hunger. Because you’re usually when you come from adverse situations and backgrounds, and you start a company or you go into business, it’s usually to affect changing your family. On some level, its effect is to effect generational wealth change that changes the trajectory of your family, your parents, your kids, you know, your cousins. And that creates a hunger and a passion that you can’t replicate just because, Oh, I saw a cool concept. And, you know, I think I’m gonna try a couple my buddies and Bill, you know, for this. You know, there’s a difference in that passion. Because you know why you’re doing it and why it is so important. And it’s like, I have a sweatshirt that I made that actually says, I don’t hope. I hustle.
Matt Watson 38:28
Love it. Dang, maybe that should be the official motto of the Startup Hustle podcast. I like it.
Demetrius Curry 38:35
So you weren’t mad? I’ll send? I’ll send you one. I’ll send you one.
Matt Watson 38:39
I love it. That’s awesome. Well, I’ve really enjoyed this, this conversation today and your story about overcoming adversity and excited to continue to see what you guys do and helping other high school students and other people, you know, make more money for college. All that I think it’s a it’s an excellent cause. And I’ll have to check this out for my own teenager as well.
Demetrius Curry 39:04
Oh, absolutely. Feel free to hit me up. I appreciate the opportunity. I appreciate being selected as one of the top Dallas startups for 2023. You know, these are all things that just kind of backup the mission of what we’re doing. So much appreciated. And I definitely enjoyed the conversation as well, Matt, and I’m still going to send you a sweatshirt.
Matt Watson 39:25
Well, as we wrap this up, I do want to remind everybody that if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. We have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions on our platform, and we will match you up with a team of fully vetted, highly experienced individuals at Full Scale. We specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you to learn more at FullScale.io. So on our way out here, Demetrius, are you a first-time founder?
Demetrius Curry 39:55
Matt Watson 39:56
So you know, as a first-time founder, who’s going through this, going through TechStars, all this kind of stuff. Any final words of wisdom for those that are listening?
Demetrius Curry 40:07
Yeah, absolutely. So two sides. For those who are either starting a company or thinking about starting the company, just fucking do it. I hate to say it like that but just do it. Don’t let nobody, including yourself, talks you out of it. If you see that, there’s like, Man, I wish somebody would be okay if they didn’t do it. This, that’s part one, run through walls for it and always be yourself. For the other side of people who may be listening, such as investors and corporate partners, here’s the thing I do better at reaching out to underserved founders. You know, most of the time, one or two good partners or one or two really good investors. I mean, we’re not we’re. We’re all different. And so sometimes I would say for them, take a look at the founders’ road traveled, so to speak, their road traveled is their CV, hold that with the same way that you would hope people say, Oh, I’m an X this or X that. That’s all I ask.
Matt Watson 41:08
All right, man. Well, I love it. Thank you so much for being on the show today. Again, this is Demetrius Curry. His company is College Cash. You can check them out. And if you’ve got some students out there thinking about going to college, I’m sure they can make a few dollars with the platform. So I love it. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Demetrius Curry 41:26
My pleasure, man. Thank you for having me. Thank you.