Commonbond was founded in 2012 by three Wharton MBA students with an aim to solve the complexity and high cost associated with student debt. The founders, David Klein, Michael Taormina, and Jessup Shean, took what they experienced in their own lives and tried to go out and solve the problem. They started by providing an alternate solution to their classmates and from there expanded to other MBA programs and graduate schools. Turns out the problem may not be that easy to solve.
It can be a telling sign when two of three co-founders decide to forego pursuing an idea or when most of a company’s website is about its press coverage and doing social good in Africa rather than the business they’re actually in.
One of the co-founders Jessup Shean, jumped ship early - upon graduation in 2012. She graduated with an MBA as well as a JD from the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps she felt in over her head on her own student loans and needed a solution, so she decided to enter the workforce as an investment banker with Greenhill & Co. After six years with the firm she moved to Evercore, where she is currently a Managing Director.
Michael Taormino has a slightly different story. He stayed on pursuing the dream for a few more years after graduation. Then in 2015, he had a change of heart and decided to co-found a completely separate startup to help credit unions digitize their lending operations. He abandoned that path in mid 2017 and has since move through a few other companies.
But co-founders moving on or distracting site visitors with social good stories could just be part of the entrepreneur’s journey and marketing strategy. The Company seems to be making progress with its university and business partnerships. Indeed, Fifth Third Bank, one of the Company’s investors, announced its customers can now fund or refinance student loans through Commonbond. Other business partners include Michelin, Humana, Hilton and Pitney Bowes.
In aggregate, over $2.5 billion has been funded through the Commonbond platform and the Company has raised over $1.6 billion across debt and equity. Its backers include Tribeca Venture Partners, August Capital, Neuberger Berman Group, Fifth Third Capital, and Victory Park Capital among others.
Yet with all the capital that has flowed through the Company, only about 100 people work there.