Surviving Bankruptcy: An Interview with Upsolve
When thinking of cutting-edge technology, legal problems are generally not one of the first areas people think of. With numerous rules and traditions, law is one of the hardest fields for technology firms to innovate in. The proper proceedings to file for bankruptcy are often unaffordable for those already struggling financially. Successfully navigating through this legal minefield with little money and no guidance is extremely difficult at best. This is where Upsolve comes in.
Upsolve is a technology non-profit that aims to help people file for personal bankruptcy and get them back on their feet. After answering a few questions online, you will be connected with a pro-bono bankruptcy attorney who will provide guidance on filing additional forms. Then, after your case is reviewed, you must complete a few financial lessons to obtain a certificate that is required by the court for your debt to be discharged. If successful, your debt will be erased and you will have a change to move forward with your life.
I spoke with Rohan Pavuluri, the CEO and co-founder of Upsolve, to learn more about the people they help and the services they provide.
In the Photo: Upsolve CEO/Co-founder, Rohan Pavuluri. Photo Credit: Upsolve
How was Upsolve started?
Rohan Pavuluri: I was a researcher at Harvard Law School when I was in college. We were building the self-help packet for people to solve their own legal problems. I thought the packet could be extended to help people get through such a serious problem like bankruptcy using technology. So I decided to create a technology platform that would help low-income folks who faced sudden financial shocks such as losing their job or getting a medical bill get back on their feet through bankruptcy. That’s how I ended up starting Upsolve, learning about this problem through research I was doing at Harvard.
Do people have to pay more money to get out of bankruptcy?
RP: Normal attorneys cost between one and two thousand dollars. The court has fees that they charge people above 150% of the poverty line. One of the paradoxes of America is that even if you are going bankrupt, it is actually really expensive, and most people who need this help can’t afford it.
How do you incentivize lawyers to work for you over a higher-paying law firm?
RP: I think our mission is unparalleled within the legal industry. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a more transformative organization than ours within the field of law. So that’s what inspired people to come and work with us; they can make more of a difference here than in literally any other organization in America. That’s what our incentive is, to build something amazing and unparalleled.
What major challenges do you face?
RP: One of the challenges is that there are a lot of scams in the financial space. Helping people understand that we are very trustworthy and communicating that to our users that we keep their data secure is something we care a lot of about. Another challenge is reaching our users in an effective scalable way and creating great content that allows them to find us.
In the Photo: Upsolve helping client file for bankruptcy. Photo Credit: Upsolve
How do bankrupt people know to reach out to you?
RP: A lot of people google free bankruptcy help and they find us that way. We wish there were more tech non-profits, unfortunately there are none that I know of who are working on automating personal bankruptcy.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
RP: We’re hoping to help people across the entire country file for bankruptcy if they need a fresh start. We are in the process now of being able to adapt our products to every state in the country. Fortunately, bankruptcy is a federal law, so it’s pretty easy to do. We’re also really trying to figure out the best channels and methods to reach users across the country. We focused the last twelve months on building a great product, but now the goal is marketing and distribution.