Anna Mongayt is being honored as a Champion of Change for her accomplishments as an immigrant entrepreneur and innovator.
Entrepreneurs are at the heart of many efforts to solve the world’s most pressing problems—and every entrepreneur truly believes they are capable of fundamentally changing the world for the better. No country in the world has been more supportive of the risk-taking inherent in the creation of new ventures than the United States. Between the abundance of equity capital, reliable laws, courts, and a culture that believes in rewarding big risks, there has been no better place to start a business than right here in the United States.
This entrepreneurial zeal has special meaning to me personally. I came to the United States from the Soviet Union at the age of 12. Having seen first-hand what a communist society does to personal ambition, I fully believe in the American Dream. While most of my friends pursued careers in accounting and finance upon graduation, I was determined to carve my own path and to build my own business—but like many other recent graduates, I struggled (big time).
Unfortunately, I fear we are no longer doing enough to attract our most talented minds to take a chance on themselves and build something new. Despite the nearly constant political conversation about the importance of encouraging more people to create jobs, our recent graduates are not following that path. While 54% of college graduates say they want to start their own company, the vast majority don’t. Burdened by student loans, comforted by traditional career options, or just not sure how to get started, many are choosing the “safe career path.”
Certainly, the roller coaster ride of starting a new business is not for everyone. It is a labor of love and your heart must be in it—not for the quick riches glamorized in the media, but for the lasting impact you can have on the world. However, I strongly believe that there has never been a better time to start a company. The cost of launching a business continues to decrease. Ten years ago, the cost of a customer running a basic Internet application was $150,000 a month. Running the same application today in Amazon's cloud costs about $1,500 a month, and the Internet has leveled the playing field so that very small players can reach millions of people as easily as the biggest companies in the world. With lower startup costs and a vastly expanded market, companies today can reach unprecedented scale with minimal investment.
At Upstart, our mission is to help people realize their personal potential. We believe young people need two things to make the leap into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship: funding and mentorship. We’ve created a platform that enables young people to raise money from backers who believe in their aspirations, for a portion of their future income. Investors can opt-in to become mentors and earn a return based on a regression model that predicts an individual's income over ten years. While our offering is not exclusive to entrepreneurs, this investment vehicle uniquely supports the lifecycle of an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs often struggle to make ends meet while investing their precious time in building their business. Then as things go well, they can see outsized rewards. By tying their payments to their income, we make sure their obligation is never too daunting. And while businesses may (and more than 60% do) fail, bright, ambitious individuals succeed over time. Upstart is a way for aspiring entrepreneurs to take some of the income they would have earned on the “safe career path” and use it to mitigate their financial risk on the “path less traveled.” Through one lens, Upstart is a way for aspiring twenty-somethings to raise capital and find mentors that can help them pursue their dreams. Through another, we are creating a whole new flavor of risk capital waiting to fuel the next generation of entrepreneurs that our economy so desperately needs.
Anna Mongayt is Co-Founder of Upstart.