Third Annual Fintech Request for Startups banner


October 29, 2019

Third Annual Fintech Request for Startups

Paolo Bernasconi

Updated on April 13, 2020

Please note that the proposed time period has elapsed, and we are no longer accepting new submissions.

We’re excited to launch our third annual Request for Startups (RFS).

This year, we’re focusing on student debt management, as well as several unmet needs in other areas of financial services.

The total amount of student debt in the United States is at an all-time high of $1.6 trillion. In the last year, the average outstanding debt for those who owed was between $20k and $25k. Even worse: out of every ten adults who are repaying student debts, two are behind in their payments.

We see an opportunity for startups to help improve the lives of student loan borrowers. We’re particularly excited about the ideas listed below, which represent several underserved areas of student loan management, and include a few other ideas in the broader realm of financial services where we believe new and improved products could make a major impact on consumers.


The big picture (of debt)

  • Right now there isn’t a good way for borrowers to see their whole financial life in one place. Today, you can see your checking, savings, and investing accounts together. The missing puzzle piece is debt: credit cards, personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and mortgages. Having this unified view could help student loan borrowers stay on top of managing the various forms of debt.

Automated debt paydown

  • Helping students understand how student loans work is important and the next step is guiding them to make the right decisions when paying off this debt. A tool that helps them ingest information about their debt (whether it’s student loans, personal loans, or even monthly utility bills), does the math about the right order in which to pay them off, and automatically pulls the right amount out of every paycheck to make the monthly payment would be hugely impactful.


Next-generation student loan servicing

  • Once issued, most loans in the United States are immediately passed off to a servicer, whose responsibility it is to collect payments until the loan is fully paid off. There is significant opportunity to help students do a better job of paying off loans by creating good habits and building a better user experience.

Student-centric debt collections

  • When default occurs, what happens next is often dehumanizing. Historically, debt collection agencies have not been built with consumers in mind. But creating one that works on behalf of the borrower to help them build a plan to get out of debt could create massive value for both sides.

Given the current state of student loans, we wanted to focus this year’s RFS on solutions in that space. However, we remain excited about fintech innovation in other areas as well. Below are a few of those ideas.

Other fintech ideas

Last-mile remittance

  • Better solutions for cross-border money movement in markets that are traditionally cash-based and/or have low financial inclusion

Digitizing government benefits

  • Online, real-time balance availability, budgeting, or mobile payment options for tracking and using government assistance, such as disability, welfare, housing, and earned income tax credit  support

Cross-vertical financial infrastructure

  • Infrastructure that enables the expansion to other financial verticals (e.g. brokerage to banking) and allows their customers to focus on consumer experience


  • Plug-and-play compliance programs and platforms for early stage companies to help satisfy requirements for KYC, AML, BSA, and other new or pending financial regulation

If you’re building something related to any of these (or even thinking about it), please let us know! We want to help and would love to put our resources and connections behind you. For select companies new to Plaid, we’ll be looking to grant up to $12k in free usage to get started. Let us know at

Please note that the proposed time period has elapsed, and we are no longer accepting new submissions.