April 10, 2014
Upstart and the Heartbleed Bug

Earlier this week, a major security vulnerability in OpenSSL, nicknamed the “Heartbleed Bug”, was announced that permitted malicious users to access sensitive data stored on servers, such as usernames, passwords, and SSL encryption keys. This vulnerability affected the majority of online services, including major sites like Google, Yahoo, Dropbox, and Flickr.

At Upstart, we consider security a top priority. We understand that as a financial platform we have an obligation protect your data and maintain your trust. We have conducted a security review and have no reason to believe that any of our users’ accounts or data was compromised.  We have updated our systems and rotated our SSL keys to maintain the security of our systems moving forward.

What can you do?

Erring on the side of caution, we encourage all users to change their Upstart password by visiting www.upstart.com/edit. This will ensure that if your password was compromised, malicious users will no longer be able to access your account. We also encourage users to change their passwords on all major sites that may have been affected, especially sites containing sensitive information such as email and financial data.

We work hard to protect your data and reinforce a culture of honesty and transparency with our users. We will continue to do whatever it takes to secure your data and maintain your trust.

Jonathan Eng, CTO 

March 17, 2014
9 Money Tips For Twentysomethings


Between juggling student loans, an unpredictable jobs market and expensive urban housing there is little room for error when it comes to saving and spending. The choices you make early on can have a meaningful and lasting impact on your finances. Here are nine tips to help you establish and maintain healthy finances.

1. Save for retirement.

Retirement may be easy to dismiss in your twenties, but developing good and consistent money saving habits now will have a big impact on your wallet and your attitude.Make a habit of allocating 10% of your income to savings and take full advantage if your employer offers matching contributions to a 401 (K). Just do it, you’ll thank yourself later. 

2. Extend your financial runway.

Transitioning from college to the working world requires time and money - be prepared. Before that first paycheck arrives, you may need to upgrade your wardrobe, move to a new city, purchase a car, and begin repaying your student loans, so make sure you are financially prepared for this costly interim period.

3. Find someone who you can talk to about money.

Forget the old adage that you should never talk about money. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the abundance of products and options for saving, investing, and debt. Find someone, a mentor, money manager, or accountant, who can help explain your options and answer your questions. Take advantage of complimentary financial consultations offered at places like Vanguard and Charles Schwab, and consider hiring a fee-based financial planner.

4. Eliminate (or at least limit) credit card debt.

While your goal should be to pay off your credit card balance completely each month, that it not always possible. If you have some revolving debt, paying off the balance on the card with the lowest credit limit, to reduce the risk of damaging your credit score.

5. Live with roommates.

Housing is expensive, between rent, utilities and a security deposit the costs quickly add up. Share the expense and make sure that your housing costs do not exceed 30% of your income. Use Zillow’s real estate market report to find the median rent price in over a hundred cities and track how it changes from month to month. If you’re uncertain about your employment, consider living with your parents - 85% of new grads move back home temporarily after graduating.

6. Automate repayments.

Set up automatic payment on all recurring bills. It will save you time and prevent you from incurring any costly late fees, which can have a negative impact on your credit score. If you are worried about over-drafting, Mint is a free tool that enables you to review all of your bills and financial information in one place.

7. Create a sunny or rainy day fund.

Whether the glass if half full or empty, having money set aside ‘just in case’ is always a good idea. Maybe you have an unplanned and unwelcome expense or maybe you are presented with an exciting investment opportunity - either way you’ll be thankful to have money available to respond in an optimal way. Most financial experts recommend having three to six months’ of expenses in your savings account and building that savings to six months or a year’s worth of expenses as you get older. Learn about how Upstart can help kickstart your savings.

8. Monitor your finances.

Assuming everything is correct can cost you big bucks. Studies show that 5% of credit reports contain serious, credit-damaging errors, so exercise your right to a free annual copy of your credit report. Cell phone and cable and internet provider are continually changing and updating their plans. Every few months review your usage and make sure you are getting the best deal. Audit your credit card statement for unauthorized small fees, subscriptions, and renewals, commonly known as “grey charges.”

9. Identify your goals and make a plan.

Decide what’s important to you. Articulating big goals is the first step, then you can make a plan and begin working towards making those goals a reality. Be realistic about the cost and timeline of your goals and, when you can, begin to save and take advantage of compounding interest. This handy calculator determines how much you need to save on a regular basis to have the funds ready when you will need them.

What money management tips do you follow or wish you had known earlier?

February 28, 2014
Upstart Update: How Laura Shumaker Uses Her Engineering Degree And Creative Mind To Bring Her Ideas To Life


Upstart Laura Shumaker has always been one of those people who looks at something and imagines a better way to make or do it. After completing a mechanical engineering degree from MIT, she realized that her natural non-linear design-oriented mind coupled with her logic-driven engineering degree made her uniquely equipped to bring her ideas to the market. 

What are you currently working on?

I design rock climbing shoes for my company, SFT Climbing. I’ve designed the first pair of climbing shoes that can be adjusted to suit each climber’s individual style, and now I’m working on preparing them for manufacturing.

Many climbing shoes aspire to provide all-around performance: comfort, sensitivity, and support. At best, however, these shoes offer a compromise on the scale between comfort and aggressiveness. SFT’s shoe design is the first to offer the wearer control of the shoe’s parameters - it can be adjusted from a comfortable state ideal for warming up or belaying, to a downturned state which rivals the most aggressive bouldering shoes on the market.


SFT’s patent pending design incorporates a toe box whose position relative to the wearer’s heel can be changed, thereby adjusting the downturn of the shoe and the position and freedom-of-motion of the wearer’s foot within it. The shoe design is lighter than the average shoe, takes less than 2 seconds to adjust (2 times faster than removing most shoes to relax your feet), and offers its wearer the precise performance point desired at all times.

What has been the most surprising part about being an upstart?

The shear diversity of people attracted to being a part of Upstart has surprised me. Its value is definitely in how it leverages all the benefits of a large pool of investors and entrepreneurs, while creating a uniquely personal background for the interactions it facilitates between people who might never otherwise cross paths.

What advice would you give to people considering becoming upstarts?

Upstart breaks down into two aspects: funding and network. Funding is straightforward to understand and can be attained through many avenues, but what sets Upstart apart is the network they’re growing. To maintain this network, then, upstarts have a responsibility to their backers and to the Upstart community as a whole. If you’re considering becoming an upstart, make sure to consider whether this aspect appeals to you and what advantages it might bring you.

You have a degree in mechanical engineering. Any ideas on how to encourage more people, especially women, to study STEM?

Legos. No Child Left Without Legos. Legos are amazing because they’re arguably sexless and allow anything from casual play to developing extremely complex structures. The barrier to fun is low but not insulting.

The Lego model - neutral and approachable but scalable - can be applied at any of the entry points to a STEM career. This means toys, games, school projects. We don’t need to make engineering “girly” in order to attract girls to it (there’s a parallel in outdoors gear: ‘Shrink it and Pink it’ often has the opposite effect on intended buyers). Making STEM approachable also means focusing less on “this is why you should not think that STEM is scary or boring,” and instead focusing more on “this is why STEM is awesome and fun.”

A year from now, what personal/ professional achievements do you hope to be celebrating?

I cannot wait for the first time I see a stranger wearing my shoes. Since the plan is to offer them for pre-order this June, hopefully I won’t have to wait a full year before that happens. However, I know I’ll celebrate every time I see someone climbing in SFT’s shoes for a long time.

 What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Early on, Anna Mongayt told me, “Learn how to hustle.” Even if doing so is second-nature, having a backer say that is an excellent reminder to communicate your story in a focused, logical way.

Do you have a piece of advice or quote that keeps you motivated and focused?

There isn’t precisely a quote, but at the end of the day, I like to step back and ask myself, “Have you done everything you can do today so that you’ll be able to hit the ground running tomorrow? What could go wrong, and do you have a plan to address possible issues?” It’s a mentality I picked up while I was a product designer at a consultancy, and I usually deployed it before a prototype or factory build - it’s always worth checking yourself three or four times before ordering PCBs fabricated or injection molding tools machined. It also turns out that the same questions apply to most stages of bringing a product to market because it reminds me to always go the extra mile.

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or living, who would it be and why?

The practical part of me would like to have dinner with Charles Cole, the founder of Five Ten Shoes, because I could learn a lot from his experience. But that could be a pretty one-way conversation, which gets awkward. So instead, I’d love to have a dinner conversation with Janelle Monae. I’ve been listening to her thematic albums on repeat while building prototype shoes. Her music has a seductive depth, lyrically, tonically, and rhythmically. What’s more impressive is that she set out to tell a story that spans multiple albums and requires tight control over her production - something very few artists carve out the freedom to do in their industry. If her career was a startup, people might call it disruptive. Since I aspire to bring a similar disruption to my field, it would be fascinating to get to discuss her experience and inspiration with Ms. Monae.

February 12, 2014
8 Easy Ways To Improve Your Credit Score


Good credit saves you money. A consumer with a FICO score of 700 saves an average of $648 in interest on their credit cards, $2,340 on their mortgage, and $1,392 on their car loan every year, when compared with consumers whose credit score is below 620 (according to a study by Card Hub).

Could your credit use a boost? Here are eight ways to improve your score.

1. Knowledge is power. The first step towards good credit is understanding the basics about credit reporting agencies and credit scores. Brush up on your credit score knowledge.

2. Never miss a payment. For most people, the bulk of their credit score is based on their payment history, so even if you can only make a minimum payment, make sure you are always making payments on time. If you have any past due accounts, pay off the most past-due accounts first, and gradually catch up on all your payments.

3. Try not to use more than 30-40% of your available credit. While it is important to regularly use your available credit, you should avoid using it all.

4. Ask for a credit increase. This boosts your debt-to-credit ratio without you even having to pay down any outstanding debt.

5. Transfer debt to a personal loan. The interest rate on credit card debt is often higher than it would be on a personal loan. Consolidating that high-interest debt into a single personal loan will boost your credit score and save you money.

6. Don’t close accounts. This may seem counterintuitive, but canceling credit cards has a negative impact on your debt-to-credit ratio as well as your credit history — which are two of the five categories used to calculate your credit score.

7. Get credit to improve credit. If your credit is too low to qualify for a credit card or loan, sign up for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is similar to a gift card, you put down a “deposit” and that amount serves as your credit limit. Make sure that the secured credit card you use reports to all of the credit bureaus to maximize its positive impact on your score.

8. Set up automatic payments. We are all busy people, so it is easy to forget to make a payment. We are big proponents of automating things like this to help you spend your time doing more productive things. Then all you have to remember is to update your credit cards when they expire or get replaced!

February 5, 2014
Demystifying Credit Scores


Who cares about your credit score? Lots of people, including Upstart, which is why you should care too. Establishing and maintaining your creditworthiness, especially at the beginning of your career, can save you lots of money in lower interests rates and give you access to more financial options.

We know it can feel a bit daunting, so here is everything you need to know to begin to take control of your credit.

What is a credit score?

It is a grade used to help people make decisions about your finances and credit-worthiness faster and more objectively. There are 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Each agency reviews your financial history and compiles your credit report. A credit report is a complete history of your credit lines, loans, payments, and shows who has checked your score recently. They use this full credit report to calculate and assign you a credit score, which is commonly referred to as your FICO score. Credit scores range from 501 to 990. The national average score is around 692.

Your FICO will vary slightly between agencies, but any major differences may indicate an error or misconduct, so it is important to get in the habit of checking your credit score at each agency.

How do I check my credit score?

You are entitled to a free copy of your full credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company. There are a few companies that make it free and simple to check your credit score:

Do credit checks lower my credit score?

It depends. There are two types of credit checks: hard inquiry and soft inquiry (also known as a hard pull or soft pull).

  • Hard inquiries are typically initiated by companies that are making a lending decision about you. When you apply for a credit card, a car loan or mortgage, it is safe to assume that they will run a hard inquiry into your credit. This type of credit check will knock a few points off your score for up to six months.

  • Soft inquiries have no impact on your credit score. When you check your score, that’s categorized as a soft inquiry. These pulls are made by potential employers and landlords as well as banks, credit card, and mortgage lenders, who use them to confirm your identity and decide whether you qualify for pre-approval.

We do a hard inquiry after an upstart submits a profile to verify that they meet our credit minimum.

How is my credit score calculated?

Your score is calculated by reviewing your data in five key categories:

  • Payment history - Consistently making on-time payments is paramount to a good credit score. 

  • Amounts owed - Owing some money does not necessarily negatively impact your score — as long as you are making regular payments and have not maxed out any of your lines of available credit. Credit reporting agencies evaluate your debt-to-credit ratio (i.e. how much money you owe versus how much credit you have available). Keeping that ratio low will help your score. 

  • Length of credit history - Holding onto the same credit card for many years will have a positive impact on your credit. Credit agencies favorably value accounts that have a long history.

  • New credit -  Opening a new credit account can result in a small dip in your score for a few months. Additionally, having a high density of credit inquiries can cost you a few points.

  • Types of credit used - Having a healthy variety of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts, and mortgage loans will boost your score.

The exact importance and weight of a single factor depends on your overall credit profile. For one person, payment history may account for 40% of their credit score, but it may only be 30% of another’s score. Unfortunately, there is no consistent scoring methodology. Credit.com has a free credit monitoring tool, which you can use to keep track of your credit score every month and analyze each of these components.

My score is low, but I have a really good explanation…

Unfortunately, you will rarely have the opportunity to explain – and even if you do, most financial services have hardline credit requirements. 

It may not be fair, but it’s reality. If you only have one or two late payments on your account, you may ask the creditor for a “good faith adjustment”. Some creditors will remove a late payment or two from your credit report.

Here are 8 ways to improve your score.

January 31, 2014
Upstart Update: Val Gui


Funded Upstart Val Gui is always on the run (metaphorically and literally), but he recently found the time to sit down for a quick Q&A. 

1. What are you currently working on?

I actually have too many things on my plate at the moment…

I’m currently Director of Sales at MobileWorks, a crowdsourcing startup in the Bay Area.  I was the first full-time hire at the company, and we’ve been crushing it (10x growth in the last year).

In my free time, I develop mobile apps (mostly games) with friends. We have developed 3 games, which have aggregated about ~1M downloads across iOS and Android. Our most popular game to date is Chain Reaction, a remake of a popular game with a twist. We have a new game coming out mid-February that I’m super excited about.

Living in the heart of Silicon Valley means that many of my friends and colleagues are established or aspiring entrepreneurs, so much of my social life is centered around testing and vetting startup/business ideas. I particularly enjoy helping them with the market discovery/validation and sales aspects. Most people are uncomfortable cold calling and with much of the sales process people, but that is one of my skills, so I am happy to help them.

2. What has been the most surprising part about being an upstart?

The strength of the upstart community, including the upstarts themselves and the backers/mentors. I’ve talked to quite a few upstarts, both over the phone, in person and messaging and they’ve all been awesome. They’re a great network to leverage when trying to find answers, shape ideas or get advice and support. It’s invaluable to have a community of high quality, high-achieving people to bounce ideas off.

After funding, I was fortunate enough to meet my backers in person and we stay in touch regularly. I feel so lucky because my backers truly want to help me succeed, and have provided me with introductions, advice, and general support.

3. What advice would you give to people considering becoming upstarts?

Make sure you have a concrete plan for the funding. It shouldn’t just be “I’m going to work on my startup, or I’m going to work on my art project”. Make sure you budget and have a firm grasp on how far the upstart funds will take you.

When you’re creating your profile remember that while it’s about you and your experience/passion, backers are reading it and deciding if they want to invest in you. Always keep in mind how your profile will come off to someone else. This will help attract the most backers and may actually allow you to choose which backers best align with your interests.

4. If you were to declare a personal motto, slogan, or battle cry for 2014, what would it be?

Onward and upward!

5. A year from now, what personal/ professional achievements do you hope to be celebrating?

This is a hard one. I have a few things that I’d like to accomplish this year. One of the big ones is getting started on a book. I’d like to write a sales book that consists of sales experts talking about 1 topic each that they feel like they have the most experience in. The outline now has 8 chapters, and I’d like to be done with the interviews in the next 6 months and have a copy ready to publish in the next 12 months.

6. When have you been most satisfied in your life?

Right now. I have a personality (that I got from my mom) that pushes me to want to achieve to be happy. It usually means working hard and taking on a lot of responsibilities. Even though I’m not close to where I want to be, making progress is very satisfying.

That being said, it’s a double edge sword, and can come at the expense of other things in life. Balancing professional/personal goals is a welcome challenge.

7. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or living, who would it be and why?

This might be a somewhat common answer, but it would have to be Bill Gates. To me, he’s a perplexing character, one that had a reputation as a completely ruthless competitor, doing whatever it took (legal or not) to grow and maintain Microsoft’s dominance. Upon leaving Microsoft, he’s turned into one of the world greatest philanthropists, making huge impacts in the developed and underdeveloped world. Not only that, but he’s been incredibly successful at convincing other billionaires to do the same thing. I want to understand, what was it that drove him when he was younger, and how have those motivations changed now. How does he feel about his legacy with Microsoft, and would have have done anything different.

Also, if he wanted to bring his good friend Warren Buffett to the dinner table, I wouldn’t mind!

January 24, 2014
Meet The Second Round of Innovation Match Recipients

As you may recall, we at Innovation Endeavors are excited to be teaming up with Upstart to support a handful of individuals who are pursuing projects and careers in STEM-oriented industries. We’re pleased to announce the next batch of Innovation Match recipients, each of whom will receive a $5,000 investment from us, in addition to community support from our portfolio. And just as we did with the first group, the returns on the investments we’re making in these individuals’ success will be re-invested with future upstarts.

Instead of simply introducing you to recipients like Michael, a recent grad focused on Android development, and Paul, who has created a benchtop genome synthesis device, I wanted to let the Upstarts speak for themselves a bit. Here are some perspectives that our grant recipients have on STEM fields and their experiences as entrepreneurs.

We were dazzled by Ross Tsakas and the work he is doing to make medication easier to store, and therefore more widely available. When we asked him how he came to a career in science, he explained, ‘STEM surrounded me from early childhood, being raised in a family with a Professor of Genetics as a father and a psychiatric nurse as a mother! I think the intersection of science, technology and business always fascinated me, and my first entrepreneurial ventures in  healthcare will only serve to augment this fascination.’

In keeping with that theme, Tri Nguyen has this advice for entrepreneurs: ‘Surround yourself with like-minded people. At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you’re passionate enough or smart enough, because to get to the stage where you’re at, regardless of where you’re at, requires tons of passion and energy. But to truly sustain the momentum and energy of being an entrepreneur, you truly need to immerse yourself in an environment where great ideas foster and grow, and have the support of people who understand what you’re going through and are willing to help you.’

Community and democratization are essential underpinnings of Ryan Bethencourt’s Berkeley Biolabs. He explains, “One of my core missions is to ensure that when someone has a good idea, they can come into the lab and test it out. For far too long, the tools of biotechnology have been locked up in academic and commercial labs, unaccessible to the vast majority of people. I’m hoping we can change that!”

Robert Cleaver, a chemist, is thinking about support at an even broader scale. He told us, ‘My personal belief is that the state and federal governments can do much more to encourage entrepreneurial growth at the individual level, not just to universities and major corporations. If children see that their parents can have rewarding and economically viable careers in science and technology then it is more likely to attract interest.’

We think the work of all of these upstarts is extraordinary and truly one-of-a-kind. But we also agree with Alex Pak, who reminds entrepreneurs who are building lasting companies, ‘It’s not about building something cool or splashy but rather understanding the job to be done for your customer and relentlessly working in service of that job.’

We are so excited to watch all of these upstarts in the relentless pursuit of their projects and businesses. And we’re excited to welcome them into our community!

To apply for the opportunity to receive an Innovation Match, signup here.

 Posted by Vanessa Schneider, Innovation Endeavors

January 16, 2014
Looking for a high-return investment in 2014? Buy some time.

Choosing how you spend your time today is like choosing an investment strategy for the long term, because the choices you make today have compounding effects on the rest of your life. And if some of these investments cost money, then we believe it’s money well-spent.

This year we experimented with ways we could use money to invest in our time, health, and skills. Here are a few products and services that we used to maximize the number of productive hours at Upstart during 2013.

TaskRabbit - For everything from dropping off dry cleaning to assembling furniture to buying groceries, TaskRabbit can find someone eager and ready to help out. The platform shows you ratings and qualifications so you know who you’ll be dealing with, and the ease of use is fantastic. We hired a part-time Administrative Assistant through TaskRabbit to help out around the office in a matter of days!

Instacart - Grocery delivery, under two hours, $3.99. Items are usually priced higher than they would be in-store, but the convenience is hard to resist.

Lyft - Normal people like you and me will pick you up and give you a ride to wherever you need to go. Cheaper than a cab, and usually more fun. Sometimes it’s good to walk or take the bus, and sometimes it’s a waste of time. Just look for the car with the pink mustache. imageIndochino - Tailor-made shirts and suits so you can “dress better than your boss”. No need to spend time searching for the right fit - these are pricey but are a good addition to your wardrobe for professional occasions.imageLumo Back - Fix your posture in a matter of days. Minutes, really. A gentle buzz reminds you when you slouch. Present yourself with confidence and avoid distracting back pain.

GUNNAR eyewear - Avoid the eye strain and headache that comes from squinting at a screen all day. The tinted glasses bring text on screens into sharper focus, block out harsh blue light, and supposedly increase regional humidity to prevent dry eyes.

imageThinkful - A coding bootcamp for the working person. Learn the basics of web or mobile development and build a portfolio in 3 months, 10 hours a week, with guidance from a mentor. A small investment for a useful skill set in high demand.

Wealthfront - Wealthfront invests your money in a diversified portfolio that targets your desired level of risk and return. It’s all automated with automatic rebalancing, reinvested profits, tax-loss harvesting, and a very simple interface. They make investing easy, with low management fees which are waived on the first $15,000 invested. Read their white paper for more on the investment strategy.

This is a small but growing list - we’d love to hear about other life-hacking products and services you’ve tried! Leave a comment or tweet @upstart with recommendations.

January 14, 2014
Backer Spotlight: Maryanne Flynn On Investing In and Connecting With Upstarts


    Upstart backer Maryanne Flynn, Director of IT at Cisco Systems

Who are you and what are you working on now?

I am very passionate about making the world around me better than the way I found it. I keep this in mind with respect to our community: I do a lot of volunteering in Silicon Valley: Humane Society Adoption Counselor, Junior League Volunteer, and my favorite: as the President-Elect of the YWCA Silicon Valley.  

Because I have a passion for making things better, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to carry this forward in my career by focusing on using technology to drive process improvement and drastically improved operational results. I am a Director of IT at Cisco Systems, in San Jose, California. The time I’ve spent there has flown by because I’ve loved it.  I am currently responsible for the company’s human resources and employee financial services systems and data.  

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

“The relationships with your peers are the most important relationships to invest in”.  When one is early in career, it’s common to fall into the trap of managing “up” and focusing primarily on your relationship with your boss, and viewing your peers as competition.  A  cherished mentor gave me this advice within the first few years of my career, and it’s served me very well. The cohort of people that I started working with in my twenties are now people that are my bosses, my friends, my colleagues, and my reports.  We’ve all ended up all over the map in terms of career paths, and I’m so lucky to have so many collaborators when I need help with advice, or with projects (both personal and professional).

Why did you choose to invest in upstarts?

I really believe in the idea of giving young people as many options as possible when they are early-in-career. It’s tougher to take a risk and start a new endeavor if one is shackled to student loans and other financial obligations.  

I love the idea of being able to connect with the people I am investing in. Sharing and helping my upstarts be successful enables me to help them realize their own potential while improving my financial return. It’s a win-win!

Have you connected with your upstarts and how?

Yes, I have connected with them via email and phone. It’s an awesome way to get an idea about what’s going on in the marketplace, and also to get to know these brilliant folks.  We exchange ideas and advice, and it’s so interesting to see what the upstarts are up to. I also love that they are all over the world, endeavoring to make it a better place!

What is your favorite interaction with your upstart so far?

My favorite interaction is with an upstart who actually worked at a company I worked for, except I worked there almost 20 years ago! It was fun to compare notes about how their operation has changed as well as stayed the same, and to discuss our different paths after leaving that company. All the upstarts I’ve spoken with are so energetic and enthusiastic—I just love being around that positive energy!

How would you describe your experience as an Upstart backer in one sentence?

Being a backer is extremely rewarding because it gives me the opportunity to invest in the potential of talented young people and help them, just as I was helped early in my career.

January 10, 2014
You Have To Start Somewhere: First Jobs of Team Upstart


Did you know Pope Francis’ first job was working a bouncer at a nightclub in Buenos Aires? The unpredictability of that trajectory is one reason why we love hearing about first jobs they are a window into an earlier and often unrecognizable version of one’s professional self.

While first jobs are far from reliable predictors of future income and career prospects, they often reveal early passions, interests, and foundational career lessons learned all of which can play a role in shaping one’s future.

Our CEO Dave Girouard recently talked to Reuters about his first job working at an ice cream shop, which got the rest of our team talking about their first jobs. Check out how each of us got our start and join the conversation on Twitter @upstart using the hashtag #firstjob.

Jeff Keltner, Head of Growth                                                                                             First job: Hanging and framing art

“I spent a summer in high school working at an art gallery hanging and framing art.  My Mom sent me over there because I got on her nerves, but it turned out to be unpaid. I still have the lithograph they gave me at the end of the summer.”

Alison Nicoll, General Counsel                                                                                        First job: cashier

“I worked as a checkout chick at a local supermarket. It was just a job, but it did keep me fashionably clothed during my high school years and paid for my first trip abroad traveling sans family.”

Cindy Smith, Operations Manager                                                                                   First job: cashier

“I worked at the oldest store in Chinatown, Mott Street General Store. I stocked the shelves, worked the cash register and helped customers. I was the only female at the time and learned a lot about Chinese trinkets.”

Paul Gu, Co-founder & Head of Product                                                                          First job: playground assistant

“I was a playground assistant at Makutu’s Island, an indoor jungle gym. Each day, I printed 100 SAT vocabulary words on a small paper and sneakily studied it while on the job. It wasn’t the best paying job I ever had, but it did get me into college!

Ryan Randall, CFO                                                                                                        First job: waiter

My first job was waiting tables at Leatherby’s in Fremont. I started my junior year in high school and worked evenings and weekends delivering sandwiches and ice cream to very happy customers.  It was an amazing introduction to focusing on the customer.

One day I had a table of eight for a birthday party. They came for lunch and ice cream sundaes for the entire family. I was able to serve everyone quickly and was bringing the final sundae to the man celebrating his birthday with his family. It was a large black and tan sundae, which is basically a fountain glass overflowing with caramel and chocolate. As I approached the man, I could feel the glass begin to slide of the plate. I tried to set the sundae on the table, but it slipped from my grasp and landed right on the face and shoulder of the birthday boy.

Needless to say, I was aghast and quickly offered to pay for his laundry and his entire meal. Luckily for me, he was very good humored and told me not to worry. Further, he would not let the owners pay for his cleaning, paid for his meal himself and give me the best tip I had ever received up to that point. My takeaways were twofold: 1) always wipe the extra toppings from the bottom of the sundae glass, and 2) always give the best customer service you can and quickly correct any mistake that may happen.”

Simon Lepkin, Engineer                                                                                                  First job: tutor

“As a Senior in HS, I tutored a roomful of “smart but struggling” Freshmen in math and science. I liked it a lot! I later learned that teaching a classroom full of students is way way harder than tutoring them.”

Vishal Maini, Growth Manager                                                                                         First job: conducting marketing surveys

“In high school,  I conducted marketing surveys on TreasureTrooper.com for a few cents each, so that I could get money in a PayPal account and use it to pay for membership and items in some MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). I used to play 6-12 hours every day - first Runescape, then Knight Online. When I finally quit, I gave away most of my stuff to friends, and then sold my itemless character for about $170.”

Viraj Navkal, Data scientist                                                                                             First job: photo developer

“When I was 16 I worked at a photoshop developing photos.  My most vivid memories from that job are the smell of the photo chemicals, the customers who submitted photos with things I should not have seen at that age, and the guy who bought the shop and slowly replaced its employees (and, eventually, me) with members of his extended family. Upstart is a huge upgrade :) “

Jonathan Eng, CTO                                                                                                       First job: tutor

“My first job was being a tutor for middle school students. I would help them learn math, science, and english. My most challenging case was a student with a brain tumor.”

Anna Mongayt, Co-founder and Head of Operations                                                       First job: piano teacher

“I learned to play piano when I was four. So when I was in high school, I started giving lessons to little kids ages 3-6. By my senior year, they were good enough to hold their first little concert. It was a great way to teach make a little spending money while introducing kids to doing something I loved.”

Brigitte Bradford, Marketing Manager                                                                             First job: camp counselor

“In middle school, I would help at an equestrian summer camp. I would help get the horses ready, teach lesson and do demonstrations. Many of the campers were older than me, so to help establish their trust in my experience and ability to teach, I would do emergency dismounts and jump course demonstrations on the first day of each session.”