An idea for letting students use their college IDs for purchases off campus as well as on campus is now a billion dollar company. But the co-founders of HigherOne put in ten years of work in order to succeed. They had to convince schools and investors to accept a change in how students receive and spend money.
HigherOne technology enables universities to provide banking and payment services to students. The company provides the infrastructure for processing the transactions. Since the actual customers are the universities, pleasing them was the first step. They met with key administrators at various colleges and learned that the payment process between students and the schools was inefficient.
But selling to universities is difficult. The first sale took almost two years after the company’s founding. This required the patience of the entrepreneurs and their investors. The slow process of building a sales pipeline was anticipated. Capital was required as realistic objectives were achieved.
HigherOne had numerous investors. The first was a family friend of a founder who invested $10,000. The same angels continued to fund the company as it showed progress in meeting milestones.
The company obtained letters of interest that acknowledged value in the technology. These were used to leverage additional meetings. Eventually, the University of Houston decided to not wait for another school to act first. This first customer had a vision of the process. After that, the next customers had the benefit of seeing the system functioning for the early adapter.
In its early stages, HigherOne continued to pitch the same investors over and over again. Achieving basic milestones did not require a lot of money. Larger capital infusions were easier to obtain for fulfilling the wave on sales contracts that eventually arrived.
Making the leap with a good business plan and reasonable goals kept the company moving toward large rewards for founders and investors. The company’s story proves that there’s no better time than the present to simply move forward with the application of solid effort to a good business idea.