Caldwell Chats Presents: Vybe Credit
Join our latest Caldwell Chats episode with CEO’s and Founder’s of Vybe Credit, Kyle Jackson and Mark Gabriel Mislang, moderated by Katherine Rubino, Patent Attorney and Chair of Life Sciences Practice Group. Through Vybe’s propriety methods, all you need is a good-condition, working smartphone in order to register, use the secure credit card service, and build your credit – an increasingly difficult and crucial element for minorities and young adults. Additionally, you can also earn money through Vybe via its Side Hustle Program.
Caldwell Chats is a fireside chat series centered around emerging trends and hot topics in innovation. We have the inside scoop and want to share it. Working alongside pioneering business leaders and cutting-edge machinery and methods, our team members are witness to the next generation of tech shaping the future. We regularly invite top executives from a variety of industries to pick their brain on the latest innovations and IP matters. Our mission is to inform, guide and inspire innovators through this series.
Katie Rubino: Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Katie Rubino and I am here joined by Kyle and Mark and they are the founders of Vybe Credit. So Kyle and Mark, welcome! Can you maybe just tell us a little bit about yourselves to begin with?
Mark Mislang: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I just want to say, first and foremost, thank you for having us. I’m Mark. I am a third-year human bio major at UCSD and I’m aspiring to become a nurse and also a business owner for Vybe Credit.
Kyle Jackson: I’m Kyle and I am a third year student at San Diego State. I’m studying psychology right now. And then I’m looking to also go into nursing. I want to work with children. So, neonatal nurse practitioner, is what I’m going for. And then of course, also running Vybe and creating other businesses along the way.
Katie Rubino: That’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. Can you tell us a little bit about what is Vybe? And how did you come up with this idea?
Mark Mislang: Yeah. Absolutely. So Vybe is a minority-owned business that issues the first, secure credit card that doesn’t require an upfront cash deposit, by unlocking, the trap value and a user’s smartphone and using it to fund the two hundred dollar credit limit, which enables anyone, anyone at all, with a smartphone to build credit easy. And the best part: you get to keep your phone.
Kyle Jackson: So when we were denied – we were denied when we applied for credit cards, and we needed it for an apartment for college – And we just got denied because we didn’t have enough credit and this is just like 26 million, other, mostly young, and minority Americans, we were credit invisible and it sucked but it gave us this “aha” moment and we were like, “what’s one thing that at all 26 million of us have?” and that’s a smartphone. So we said, “What if you could use a smartphone to get this?”
*Shows Vybe Card*
And so we have our card here and we said, “You could get those things and you didn’t have to give up your phone”. So we figured it out and that’s how life was born.
Katie Rubino: That’s amazing. I feel like so many entrepreneurs, the basis of their company is just started out of some personal struggle that just flows over into their company and that’s such a great story. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about what has been your greatest obstacle to date as a start-up in the entrepreneurs face? You’re both college and College full-time. What’s been the biggest struggle for you?
Mark Mislang: I’d probably say that the biggest struggle for us was definitely finding the tech component to our model. Because without the ability to lock the smartphone, you know, use its unique, serial number to authenticate the user and also make sure that the phone isn’t stolen and also enroll the device remotely. We honestly, we would not have a business. So it was hard but we were able to figure it out and, you know, talk to the right people.
Katie Rubino: And how did you both decide to become entrepreneurs?
Kyle Jackson: So we both have always kind of had this passion to own a business and we just, I’ve always wanted to help people. We just didn’t know how or when we would do it and we’re both going to school to be nurses right now. And while we love this career and it aligns really well with our passion to help people, we also knew that we could do more. We don’t have the most money. We don’t have the most connections, but we do put all of our effort into everything because we do and we knew that we could accomplish more so we decided to create our own business and use something that we know others are struggling with and kind of find something where we could help them. We have kind of always had a mentor on our side which is my dad and he has run his own businesses and we’ve learned so much from him. So everything that we do we kind of look back and see how he did set us up with all the tools that we needed. And he showed me especially from a young age that I could do anything that I set my mind to. So we take that kind of mindset into our business as well.
Katie Rubino: That’s amazing and such a great story there. Now, can you maybe tell us a little bit about why did you feel it was important or imperative to protect your inventions with intellectual property?
Mark Mislang: Yeah. So when we would speak to people about, you know, the idea of our model, most people would think that it already existed. I mean, there’s car title loans, so why couldn’t there be maybe a phone title loan or maybe a phone title loan that funded the deposit for a secured credit card, right? But after researching and finding out that it didn’t exist, we knew that it should and we wanted to protect it and also in the future be able to license it to other industries that we have in mind.
Katie Rubino: Okay, and can you maybe also just tell us a little bit about is there any unique story behind your name? Vybe Credit, Is there anything special with that?
Kyle Jackson: So we kind of went off of how our generation is. Our generation has a lot of slang and certain words that they’re just very familiar with. And so, a lot of times when people are having a good time, they’ll say “that’s a Vibe” or something like that. So for our company, we wanted it to feel like we’re relating with our generation. They’re are able to use this card to, you know, do things they’ve always wanted to do and just have fun times and so with Vybe we can ask them, “What’s their vibe?”. And so we just put that together with them having a good time. And that was how the name came about.
Katie Rubino: I love that. How would you say has social media impacted your business? Do you think it’s been a valuable tool to kind of market your business and get the word out there?
Kyle Jackson: Definitely social media is huge for our demographic, Generation Z. We are really known as being so technological, like savvy, just very on our phones hands-on with technology. And so this is how we learn. This is how we speak, and so using social media for business, is definitely a direct line to the people that we’re trying to reach and it is so important, especially for us.
Katie Rubino: Yeah, that’s smart. It seems like every business is launched on Instagram these days. So, can you maybe tell us a little bit about what is your motivation to keep growing Vybe? And where do you see the future of Vybe in five or ten years down the road?
Kyle Jackson: Yeah. So Vybe, we have the motivation just because we really do want to help people. There’s 26 million people in the US. that look like us that don’t have access to affordable credit and it keeps them from improving their lives. Vybe credit is the first credit card company that is founded by people like us, people of color, and we created the card for people of color. And if Vybe is growing, we know that we’re helping more people as well. And so in five years, you know, that’s a long time for us, but it’s also a time where we can be able to help more people. We believe that we are able to have a very good social impact on people and so our goal is to truly democratize credit so that it works for everyone with a smartphone. And that’s pretty much everyone – what becomes and starts with a smartphone can go into a car loan and then a mortgage and we just want to really positively disrupt the secured credit card space and help 26 million credit invisibles, like us, we want to help them build credit easy and that’s where we see vibe in five years: just being able to really have everyone have credit, understand credit, and be able to get credit.
Katie Rubino: Mmm, kind of lay the foundation for that, initial source of credit that can be so hard to build and then just help people kind of take off from there. That’s fantastic. Now, can you maybe tell us a little bit about has there been any challenges you faced as entrepreneurs growing your company?
Mark Mislang: Yeah. Number one, basically learning the difference between a good idea and a viable business. Also how to execute a good idea and make it into a viable business. This is our first start up, so, you know, we’re learning and we’re still learning how to make a good idea and make it into a viable business and really execute. And that leads to my second point, which is that learning that relationships and execution are more important than funding. Bootstrapping makes you kind of figure things out and you know, be creative with things. Especially since you don’t have the money to pay for anything, you learn how to be resourceful, how to problem solve, and how to build relationships that will help you execute.
Katie Rubino: Yeah, that’s that’s really good feedback for people watching this who are entrepreneurs. Would you say to, you know, we all hear that hindsight is 20/20, is there anything maybe you would do differently now reflecting back on where you are today versus where you started?
Mark Mislang: Yeah, in the beginning, we sent a lot of lot of long, cold call emails and we, we did not get any responses at all. So maybe doing that differently and building relationships from the get-go in order to, you know, find the people that we need and find the people that need us as well. And second thing is probably from the get-go as well, going up to people who are high enough in the ladder to get answers we needed, for example, and the tech component in all discovering that we would first speak to sales people and they would tell us “no, you cannot do these functions, you can’t do this, you have to find another company”, but then being able to, you know, talk to talk to them and be able to talk to tech people, like Superior tech people who actually have knowledge of the tech and be able to have them be able to tell us, “Yes, we actually can do this”, you know, things like that.
Katie Rubino: Mmm, I feel like to you’re just what you’re telling us to is just really perseverance, you know, if you don’t get that answer or anybody just keep hanging in there because eventually somebody will bite and it’s just like having that tenacity to keep going and move the ball forward a little bit each day.
Mark Mislang: Right, a lot of people will tell you, “no”, but until you until you get to that, “yes”, you got to keep persevering.
Katie Rubino: That’s right. What sorts of habits would you say, have led to your success to date so far?
Kyle Jackson: I would say that we took a lot of our school habits into our business. Just we’ve always been very good students and we’re very focused and really organized. So we took a lot of that into how we run our business. And so some things that we do is learning how to kind of compartmentalize. We don’t let the stress of school, relationships, work, anything like that go into Vybe, we kind of separate them and we’re able to work on them at our own times and just being able to really put the focus that we need and each of them so that they don’t overlap. Kind of going back on what Mark said as well, what made us successful is not taking no for an answer. We don’t give up when we hear the word “no” when we hear the word “No”, that means we have to prove it to. Then we have to find something else to do and that just kind of fuels us to get that. Yes, lastly, I would say we’re just concrete, we just divide and conquer. We are able to lay out what we need to do, prioritize everything and then attack it one by one and make sure everything gets done.
Katie Rubino: Okay. Taking like a stepwise approach to what you need to do next. That’s fantastic. Now, what do you have any tips about balancing, maintaining your mental health as an entrepreneur? And I think especially not only are you entrepreneurs but your students as well so you’re juggling a lot of hats. Anything that helps you kind of stay grounded and focused at all?
Kyle Jackson: So while we do spend majority of our time on Vybe, we also know that it’s really important to take care of ourselves. Al’s because to be able to give our business the best possible, everything that it means we have to be the best versions of ourselves. So some things that I like to do just to kind of de-stress and relax is I like to just go in a walk or I like to go down to the beach and just kind of listen to the waves and I tried to do these things without my phone or any other distractions because we are surrounded by so much technology. So just being able to get a break from everything and just kind of listen to your body. Listen to yourself. It’s really calming. Yeah, what do you like to do?
Mark Mislang: For me personally to de-stress. I would like to, you know, meditate a little bit listen, some R&B music, maybe I do a lot of hobbies on the side play basketball, you know, by yourself, take a couple of shots. And for the all the hoopers out there. You know that when you take shots by yourself, you just thinking about life and being able to de-stress and just collect your thoughts. And that’s probably one of the most important distresses for me.
Katie Rubino: Yeah, just kind of having that separation from work even just for a couple of hours can really clear the head sometimes.
Mark Mislang: Yeah.
Katie Rubino: Good. What about to what has it been like juggling starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic? Has that been has there been any challenges without being able to have face-to-face in-person meetings or having to do everything virtually any, any thoughts on that?
Mark Mislang: Yeah, so we actually took advantage of, you know, people working more remotely and being willing to take Zoom meetings instead of meetings in person. So as horrible as the pandemic has been, it’s helped in a lot of ways, and zoom classes and zoom meetings, I feel like, has become the new normal for businesses and schools and just everyone in general.
Katie Rubino: I’d say to I’ve seen, you know, businesses are still taking off like crazy. The pandemic hasn’t stopped Innovation. And also there’s still a lot of money and funding going on, you know, there’s plenty of capital out there to to go out and get it’s not like, you know, everything is kind of shut down on the business side here.
Mark Mislang: Right. And we’re able to do Fireside Chats from, you know, across the nation, that’s always good.
Katie Rubino: That’s right. Now, can you tell us to a little bit about what was it like – you recently partnered with MIT and you joined their Smart Start class -what was that like, and what sorts of skills did that teach you?
Mark Mislang: Yeah, that MIT incubator was exactly what we were asking for. When we reach out to all the venture capitalists and incubators that we were talking about – the banking, fintech, credit card, and smartphone spaces are really complicated and regulated. So reaching out to experts in those areas after we completed the incubator with our mentors Dr. Suman Agrawal, Lauren, and Tim Meager assured that every door was open for us and that we received immediate email responses and scheduled meetings. Some of the most important things that we learn in the MIT incubator was to refine and define our business model and revenue models, to make it our value proposition, clear and to direct it to whom it was supposed to be for. There are a lot of incubators out there that they said that they were interested in helping more minorities, but MIT really embrace, taught, valued, and included as minority. It was it was pretty amazing.
Katie Rubino: That’s great. Now you’re both based in California outside of Sacramento. Do you have any plans to come to Boston and see the MIT campus in person anytime soon?
Mark Mislang: We have to definitely it’s a beautiful campus and I don’t think we’ve ever been no, we’ve never been both to the east coast. So I think it’d be a cool experience for sure.
Katie Rubino: Oh, absolutely. All right. Now before we wrap up here today, If there are people listening interested in your company, where can they find out more information about it?
Kyle Jackson: Yeah, so we have a website right now. It’s Vibecredit.com, Vybe is spelled “V” “Y” “B” “E” and then “Credit.com”. Also there will be a pop-up where they can put in their email, any new information that comes out from us, like our test and just any information on what’s going on, will be sent through there so they can put their email in there and they will hear a lot more about our business as well.
Katie Rubino: That’s great. Is there anything else you want to share with us today at all?
Kyle Jackson: We really just want to, thank you, Katie, and our mentors. And everyone that’s helped us through this process. You guys have given us such great resources to use. And you guys have really been there for us and helped us along the way. And we are so grateful for it.
Katie Rubino: It’s our pleasure. We’re so excited to work together with you and to really see where this takes off over the next few years, because I just know it’s going to be a huge thing here.
Kyle Jackson: Yes, we’re super excited and very hopeful for the future.
Katie Rubino: Alright, well, thank you so much for joining us and we look forward to checking in sometime soon with you.
Mark Mislang: Absolutely. Thank you so much!