The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been a health crisis, but an economic one as well.
Upsolve, an organization founded and led by chief executive officer Rohan Pavuluri that uses technology to streamline the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing process, is helping solve the latter issue, having relieved roughly $250 million in debt.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Pavuluri, who majored in statistics at Harvard, said he got the idea in 2016, but it stems from his time working with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
“This is one of the places I developed an interest in public service, which led me to found Upsolve,” he told India-West, adding, “I got the idea for Upsolve in 2016, while I was a research assistant at Harvard Law School working on self-help packets for people to solve their own legal problems.”
The packets, he said, were the inspiration for our online education content articles like “Should I File Chapter 7 bankruptcy,” “Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy” and “What is bankruptcy?”
“Eventually, I realized that an online web application that helps people file bankruptcy on their own could have more impact than our self-help education and set out to build a technology product,” he noted.
Pavuluri said that initially, there was a challenge creating the first version of the product, which they launched across the United States in the summer of 2018. Then, he says, the team had to figure out how to reach low-income and working class individuals at scale, which they did by investing heavily in high-quality articles written by attorneys like our Ultimate Guide to Bankruptcy to help people learn more about Upsolve and what they do.
“Along the way, we had to fundraise. We’ve been lucky to raise nearly $3 million from great people like Vinod Khosla, Eric Schmidt, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the Legal Services Corporation,” Pavuluri told India-West.
Upsolve would later go 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 innovation challenge was our largest grant at the time, and it enabled my cofounder, Jonathan Petts, and me to work on Upsolve full-time,” the Indian American entrepreneur explained. “It was the point at which we started to shift from a school project to a full-blown nonprofit organization.”
Since launching, Upsolve has helped about 5,000 people relieve over a quarter of a billion dollars in debt. The company has also built a website – www.upsolve.org –which is one of the best places on the internet to learn about bankruptcy. Over 2 million people have used it to learn how to navigate their debt, covering topics like “Should I file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?”
“Bankruptcy is a powerful tool for low-income families trapped in debt, as it allows them to relieve their debt and get a fresh start. Ninety percent of people file bankruptcy after a financial shock related to medical bills, job loss or divorce,” Pavuluri said. “We help people dealing with these challenges avoid the long term effects of debt-based poverty such as homelessness, hunger and poverty.”
In the near term, Pavuluri said he hopes to continue expanding Upsolve’s content about bankruptcy to help more people learn about the process, focusing on more articles like “How to File Bankruptcy” and “Should I File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?”
In the long term, he hopes to advocate for a more equitable, open legal system where anyone can access their rights, regardless of their ability to pay, the founder said.
Additionally, Pavuluri told India-West, “I would love to inspire more young people to start nonprofits to solve social problems. The social sector presents so many great opportunities to innovate in a way that’s not possible in the public sector.”