FORWARD'S PATH FROM UCSC TO WORLD'S TOP STARTUP ACCELERATOR Y COMBINATOR
December 10, 2022
The startup world is full of stories of entrepreneurs who have worked hard, pivoted multiple times, and finally found success. One such story is that of Forward, a startup team that recently got admitted into Y Combinator, the world's top startup accelerator. Their journey began at UC Santa Cruz, where they won third place at the Santa Cruz Launchpad, the biggest pitch competition at the university. The team took home a $6,000 prize from the competition, which was sponsored by CIED and the Blackstone Launchpad, along with Santa Cruz Works, Cabrillo College, the UC Santa Cruz Career Success center, and the UCSC IBE Hub.
Forward initially started working on designing a blockchain technology to better manage currency risk, and enable more capital to flow into emerging markets such as Brazil, India, and Sub Saharan Africa. There is a huge demand for loans in emerging markets, but local banks don’t have enough liquidity to finance them. So, they take loans from US lenders, but that exposes them to fluctuations between their local currency and the dollar. Current hedging products are either too expensive or only willing to work with clients with at least $100MM to hedge.
Forward's initial plan was to use Stablecoins and their relative money markets to offer better pricing and more flexibility. They started this project at a hackathon in UC Berkeley in 2022. The organizer informed them of a problem that one of the biggest crypto lenders, Goldfinch, had been facing: currency risk. They built a prototype and placed 1st. They then continued working on it due to real customer interest, and an interest in helping real people access financial infrastructure.
During the fall, they started pivoting, as is common with many startups. They are now working on a different idea, which they have not yet revealed publicly. However, the big news is that they were selected for Y Combinator, which previously selected and accelerated top US unicorns such as Airbnb and Stripe. This is a huge accomplishment for the Forward team, and it is a testament to their talent and grit.
They have been mentored by Andrea Carafa, who leads the Blackstone Launchpad, and Peter Koht, an Entrepreneur in Residence and Instructor at CIED. However, the merit is entirely of Kamil Kisielewicz and Shivansh Rustagi, the two founders of Forward.
The journey of the Forward team is an inspiring one. It highlights the importance of pivoting and being open to new ideas and opportunities. In fact, they were able to pivot from their original idea to a new one and still get admitted into Y Combinator. As part of the YC program, Kamil and Shivansh will receive mentorship and funding to help them launch their startup.
We will undoubtedly hear more about the Forward team and their new idea after their Y Combinator Demo Day in 2023. Until then, we wish them the best of luck on their journey and look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the future.