My Business Journey: DebtMD
My name is James Lambridis and I am the Founder and CEO of DebtMD, the platform that connects people with the professional help they need to become debt-free. I grew up in the suburbs of Northern New Jersey, and am a first generation Greek American. Academically, I hold a BS in Finance from Penn State University and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. During my college days, I knew I wanted to do something different and make a difference in peoples’ lives. My startup, DebtMD, has given me the opportunity to do just that.
To give you an idea about the problem DebtMD is trying to tackle; in the United States, the total amount of outstanding credit card debt, medical debt, and student loan debt is $1.07 trillion, $1.021 trillion, and $1.45 trillion respectively. To comprehend how big one trillion is, at a salary of $36 million per year, NBA superstar LeBron James would need to work 27,778 years to make $1 trillion. If you went back 1 trillion seconds in time, you would be in the year 29,700 BC. Spending $1 million an hour, nonstop for 24 hours a day, you would not run out of $1 trillion for 411 years.
For a little background on myself, before launching DebtMD, I worked in the debt relief industry for five years, advising people on their best option for becoming debt-free from credit cards, medical bills, and student loans. After speaking to people in debt every day for five years, I began to realize that there was a serious problem when it came to finding a solution. These people were stressed out, under time constraints, and misinformed as to what their best option was to pay off their debt. This made me wonder how I could improve their situation and make it easier for them to find a solution, and that is when the idea for DebtMD was born.
In regard to the actual platform, DebtMD assists people with credit card, medical, and student loan debt, and aims to be a thought leader in personal financial health. We empower people to make the right choices when it comes to their long-term financial well-being. Not only do we connect individuals with reputable companies to help them resolve their debt, but we also educate them on the best practices for maintaining a debt-free life. Since our launch, we have grown our user base by 25% each month and have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Fox Business. In addition, we have just developed a proprietary algorithm that helps a consumer pay off debt and achieve financial freedom. Our mission is to be able to help anyone, anywhere, in any financial situation achieve their money goals.
With any business, especially in the financial space, not only is there stiff competition, but many people don’t know who to trust when it comes to improving their financial well-being. Many companies exist for the sole purpose of adding to their bottom line, with no regard to what’s best for the consumer. Our goal is to give the power back to the consumer through our three core values: transparency, integrity, and education. The more people understand about debt and personal finance, the better decisions they can make for themselves and their loved ones. Instead of telling a person what to do with regard to their debt, DebtMD gives them all the information necessary to make an informed decision. Nobody knows their financial situation better than themselves. This is what we strive to accomplish at DebtMD.
Over the last decade or so, whether it’s fair or not, financial institutions across the world have come under a lot of scrutiny. Many people simply do not trust these firms, and it’s our job to gain that trust back. When it comes to a person’s financial livelihood, this can be very delicate. For one, firms must always put the consumer first, even before profits. In the long run, if you do this, you will reap the rewards down the road. Privacy is also a huge issue nowadays, with most financial transactions taking place digitally on some “cloud”. We also have a duty to keep everyone’s information safe and secure. With regard to personal finance, credit, and debt, privacy is of utmost importance. Fraud runs rampant when it comes to credit and loans. Being able to trust a company with your information is pivotal to peoples’ overall financial health.
Another challenge we have faced is trying to change peoples’ perception on debt. One thing I have always told people with debt is that it’s not a crime to owe money. If that were the case, we would all be in jail. If you’re saddled with an uncomfortable amount of debt, it’s OK, there is a way out. In my humble opinion, it comes down to one thing; discipline. Every dollar you bring in must be accounted for. At the end of every month, if you have no money left over, you’re doing something wrong. This applies to someone making $50k per year and someone making $500k per year. I’ve met people from both ends of the spectrum who have debt they can’t seem to pay off. The point here is that it does not matter how much money you make. People from all walks of life can find themselves in debt. In the end, the key to living a healthy financial life is living within your means.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a lot of uncertainty into the debt space, as it did with basically every other industry. Many types of debt payments were halted, including mortgages, rent, and student loans. Due to the lockdowns, the one positive was that people couldn’t go out and spend money as they normally do, so this allowed them to pay down a considerable amount of debt. However, with people getting back into the normal swing of things post-pandemic, there is still plenty of outstanding debt that needs to be addressed.
One of the biggest opportunities for DebtMD, along with many other financial firms, is harnessing data science and machine learning to help people become debt-free and achieve their financial goals. We have seen this in the investing space with robo-advising, where consumers simply deposit money, and the platform finds investments for them based on their specific goals and risk aversion level. We want to bring a similar concept to the debt space, where we use a person’s credit profile to determine their optimal debt solution, whether it’s a debt consolidation loan, credit counseling, debt settlement, or bankruptcy. Our goal will always remain to help people live a debt-free life. If we can harness data science to make that end goal a certainty, it will be a major step forward for the industry as a whole.
Going forward, our goal is to implement a robust content marketing strategy that goes hand in hand with our mission. Whether it’s blog posts, podcasts, or TikTok videos, we want to give consumers the information they need to take control of their financial future. In the end, we want to be the trusted partner people turn to when they aren’t sure how to pay off their debt. In addition, we hope to harness machine learning to help people realize their financial goals pertaining to their debt. Any successful company needs to continuously evolve to win over time, and we plan to do just that.
Advice to other business owners:
Ask “Why”? – Instead of asking the questions of who, what, where, or when, always first ask the question, “Why?”. By asking this simple question, that is ultimately how you continuously learn and grow. One thing I have learned from launching my own startup venture is that every question has an answer, however the correct one will never be right in front of you. With the abundance of information available at everyone’s fingertips, it is the answer-seeker’s job to sift through this deluge of information and find it.
Pay it forward — Always give back to others without expecting anything in return. This can be your time, resources, or simply your insights. When you have this mentality, I am a firm believer that the help you give someone will always find its way back to you in some way, shape, or form. You tend to attract the energy you give off. If you go out of your way to help others, that help will come back to you when you need it the most.
Be Humble — With social media making everyone’s life as visible as ever, it’s important to remain humble throughout your entire journey. When you finally arrive at where you want to be, don’t forget the people who helped you get there. Humility is a quality that attracts great people. The most successful people do not go around flaunting their money and accolades. This is part of what makes them who they are.
- It’s never going to be the “right time” to start your business, and you’re never going to be completely ready. You have to just do it.
- There will always be obstacles on your road to success; what separates those who succeed from those who don’t is their persistence and willingness to keep going and never give up.
- The key is being better than you were yesterday. Focus on this, and anything is possible.
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