PeerTransfer, Inspired by Raw Deals for International Students, Rolls Out Online Tuition Payment Service

5/11/11Follow @gthuang

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spreading most of the savings generated from these wholesale exchanges back to the students. For schools, the company says it sets up its software for free in a matter of hours.

Of course, what gets the company and its investors really excited is the size of the addressable education market. In a recent academic year (2009-2010), nearly 700,000 international students sent more than $20 billion in tuition and living expenses to the U.S. from foreign banks, according to the Institute of International Education.

Although he originally envisioned helping small businesses as well as students, Marcaide says peerTransfer is now firmly “focused on education,” and more specifically, tuition payments. “We’ll build our reputation around that,” he says.

It’s still very early, of course, so the key will be whether the company can ramp up its sales model and get enough endorsements from schools around the U.S. Marcaide says the best fits are small schools that care about their students saving money and have fewer levels of decision-making than big state schools, for example. Typically, peerTransfer works with schools’ student financial services and admissions departments.

Incidentally, peerTransfer isn’t the first startup idea Marcaide has had. Back in 2006, he dabbled in the notion of providing capital for companies to get space to install solar panels. And around 2009, he briefly pursued an idea for a corporate video website, like an enterprise version of YouTube. Neither of those panned out, but now Marcaide and his investors think he’s on the right track.

Perhaps the most telling aspects of Marcaide’s leadership have to do with setting his company’s culture. He says one of his top priorities is “hiring employees who grow and become what they want to.” When asked what his guiding philosophy is for conceiving and running a startup, he says, “What kind of company would make me proud?”

If all goes well, peerTransfer certainly has a chance to do that.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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