Harvard | Mr. Athlete Turned MBB Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Columbia | Mr. Old Indian Engineer
GRE 333, GPA 67%
Ross | Mr. Civil Rights Lawyer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Stanford GSB | Mr. Co-Founder & Analytics Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.4 out of 10.0 - 4th in Class
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
GMAT N/A, GPA 7.08
Chicago Booth | Ms. CS Engineer To Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.31
Chicago Booth | Mr. Private Equity To Ed-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.4
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Trucking
GMAT 640, GPA 3.82
Ross | Mr. Low GRE Not-For-Profit
GRE 316, GPA 74.04% First Division (No GPA)
Harvard | Mr. Marine Pilot
GMAT 750, GPA 3.98
Harvard | Mr. Climate
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seeking Fellow Program
GMAT 760, GPA 3
Harvard | Mr. Army Intelligence Officer
GRE 334, GPA 3.97
Harvard | Ms. Data Analyst In Logistics
GRE 325, GPA 4
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Comeback Story
GRE 313, GPA 2.9
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Green Financing
GRE 325, GPA 3.82
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Bangladeshi Data Scientist
GMAT 760, GPA 3.33
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Columbia | Mr. MD/MBA
GMAT 670, GPA 3.77
MIT Sloan | Mr. Marine Combat Arms Officer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Mr. Automotive Compliance Professional
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. MBB Aspirant/Tech
GMAT 700, GPA 3.16
Kellogg | Mr. PM To Tech Co.
GMAT 720, GPA 3.2
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Chess Professional
GRE 317, GPA 8.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Deferred Asian Entrepreneur
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Yale | Mr. IB To Strategy
GRE 321, GPA 3.6

A Stanford Startup Shakes Up Student Loans

Stanford MBA James Finnigan co-founded student loan re-financing site SoFi as an MBA student at Stanford

James Finnigan co-founded student loan refinancing site SoFi as an MBA student at Stanford

SoFi’s numbers are soaring. The student loan lending platform, which uses social finance to lower interest rates, has attracted $77.2 million in investment and lends some $140 million to more than 1,700 students across 100 schools. Not too shabby, considering that just two years ago it was still a school project in a Stanford classroom.

Co-founder James Finnigan, 29, entered Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business with an engineering background, a career in consulting and the startup “bug.” He connected with Mike Cagney, Daniel Macklin, and Ian Brady, who were all enrolled in the school’s prestigious one-year Sloan Fellows program for experienced professionals. The four joined forces to gain entry to Stanford’s selective Exploring Entrepreneurial Opportunities course, an academic incubator of sorts that takes enrollees from plan to pitch.

As students, they didn’t have to look far for their business idea – school loans. “We realized that it was a huge market, a huge problem, and ripe for change,” Finnigan says. PoetsQuants-300x250-MagazineAd2Despite juggling a full academic load, the four fleshed out a plan, got investors on board, and confirmed that borrowers were interested.” Being a student opens so many doors,” Finnigan says. He called up nearly two dozen financial aid directors during the research phase. “If we weren’t in school and said we’re calling from XYZ loan company, they’d be like, ‘Hold on,'” he says. Instead, they were happy to help out.

Outside the entrepreneurship class, the founders split up and took courses in operations, service marketing–anything that could inform their business. “People in the school started to get sick of us because every presentation we’d do would be some aspect about SoFi,” James Finnigan laughingly recalls. They even piloted their business by tapping the B-school’s network. Forty MBA alumni pitched in an average of $50,000 each, lending a combined $2 million to 100 graduate students at a rate of 6.24%. The project proved successful–alumni lenders trusted students from their alma mater to repay the loans, and borrowers enjoyed discounted interest rates in return.

Just two days after graduation in the summer of 2011, the founders holed themselves up in a conference room in San Francisco’s Presidio park. By September, SoFi was live. James Finnigan says they could have started the business outside of Stanford but concedes it would have been a lot harder. “The support ecosystem is amazing across all levels,” he says. “You have this feeling of camaraderie–that other people aren’t going into typical MBA jobs, they’re taking risks, it’s very pervasive.”

DON’T MISS: Poets&Quants’ Top 100 MBA Startups or The Top 20 B-Schools for Entrepreneurship or The Top Investors in MBA Startups