Student Startup

Rohan Pavuluri (center), a student at Harvard University, started the nonprofit Upsolve to help make the bankruptcy-filing process easier. The company won the top prize in the Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise category of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Upsolve software engineer is seen at the left, with Harvard president Drew Faust at the right. (Harvard University photo)

An Indian American undergraduate student at Harvard University has created a company that promises to help streamline the debt-elimination process.

Rohan Pavuluri, a computer science major at the university, created Upsolve, a nonprofit that uses technology to streamline the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing process, according to a university news report.

The goal of the company is to empower underserved individuals with this form of financial protection, it said.

“Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a valuable government benefit for people who face sudden financial shocks,” Pavuluri said in the report. “The same way that unemployment insurance or subsidized housing are government benefits available for those who have hit hard times, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy helps people get back on their feet.”

According to the report, the idea of the nonprofit was created out of the university’s law school’s Access to Justice Lab last year when Pavuluri developed the concept after conducting research for a financial distress project.

He enrolled in the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences course Startup R&D to develop the skills he would need to refine his idea and launch the company, it said.

Upsolve went on to claim the top prize in the Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise category of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, earning $75,000 in prize money.

The funds earned from the challenge are expected to help in the growth of Pavuluri’s company and served as a confidence-boost, the report said.

With Upsolve, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process would go from months of waiting followed by numerous meetings with an attorney while taking days off of work, to about an hour.

“By making a five- to 10-hour process a one-hour process for these legal aid attorneys, we can enable them to help five to 10 times as many individuals,” Pavuluri said in the report.

Upsolve users go to the website to complete Chapter 7 forms, guided by questions carefully crafted to simplify legalese. A legal aid clinic attorney reviews completed paperwork, contacts the individual to flesh out any additional details, and then files in court, it said.

Because Upsolve works with nonprofit legal aid clinics, the startup’s services, which are offered free of charge to clients, will not result in lost income for attorneys, Pavuluri said in the report.

The website also provides educational resources that explain the basics of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the method and consequences involved in filing, and advice to help individuals determine their best option, the report noted.

Upsolve has partnered with legal aid clinics in New York and, since its inception, has helped erase $2 million in debt for more than 40 low-income residents, according to the publication.

“In my mind, Upsolve is making the best kind of impact,” the potential 2018 graduate Pavuluri said in the report. “We are comforting the uncomfortable, serving people who are vulnerable, and providing value to the underserved.”

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