By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
While attending the University of Southern California (USC), Michael Broughton ran into a problem.
He didn’t have enough money to pay his tuition, and despite his efforts to get student loans, several lenders turned him down.
“It kind of taught me that there’s a lack of what I call access to credit and ‘zero-to-one’ financial opportunity,” Broughton said. “That gap really made me think that there must be more than me, and there was. Americans are facing this gap problem, and I wanted to solve it.
Its solution came in the form of Altro, an app that allows users to build credit and financial power through recurring payments and subscriptions, including rent plans and Netflix.
In French, “altro” means “other”, and the word is representative of the platform’s target community that has been ignored or purposely excluded from the US banking system.
Despite knowing nothing about entrepreneurship or venture capital funding strategies, Broughton eventually dropped out of USC to focus on developing the app, which was created last year.
Initially, Broughton worked two jobs to start the company, but eventually sought funding from pitch competitions.
He competed in hundreds of competitions before perfecting his storytelling and finding the perfect pitch.
Notably, Jay-Z’s venture capital firm, Marcy Venture Partners, discovered Altro during a pitch competition and invested a quarter of a million dollars in pre-seed funding. The company continues to invest in Altro today.
When people use Altro, they can turn their non-traditional recurring payments into business lines or consumer credit behavior records. Once their account is set up, users are not required to return to Altro, but the app will show their credit score and how it has improved over time.
Altro is completely free, a factor that was critically important to Broughton.
“As a company, we’re really focused on a few pillars, and one of those pillars is making sure we’re as accessible as possible,” Broughton said. “I think putting a price on your ability to access credit is just a predatory practice, personally.”
Currently, Altro is exclusive to the Apple App Store and can be used in states such as California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Utah.
This year, Broughton is working to expand the app to all 50 states and bring it to the Google Play Store for Android users.
“People who have generated real wealth don’t manage their money, credit or anything else. They have people who know better than them and who manage
] on their behalf and in their best interests. I don’t think you see that anywhere other than the 1%,” Broughton said. “We really want to create these tools so people can have that level of concierge and expertise around their own personal finances, despite not being part of the 1%.”
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