Eric Blue is a native of New Orleans, LA and holds an undergrad degree in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law. Prior to founding Nevly, he spent five years at two international law firms where he focused on capital markets and M&A transactions and was an investment banker prior to heading to grad school. He founded Nevly in 2021 and is passionate about the possibility of leveraging technology to improve the financial health of underserved consumers.
Where did the idea for Nevly come from?
In looking back over my life I would say the roots of this model were probably borne out of my childhood. My mother had her fair share of struggles when I was pretty young and ended up having the state remove her children (myself and my siblings) due to some of those challenges. I watched my mother from afar spend the next eight years of her life getting her life together (beating her substance abuse issues, finding stable employment, etc.) and worked tirelessly to have herself declared fit as a parent to have her children return. My mom was awarded custody of her children when I was 12 years old. Because my siblings at that time were all over the age of 18 it was just my mom and me. I watched my mother work multiple jobs at a time some for what I would later learn was less than a fair living wage just to try and keep things together. Although she would never again touch drugs or alcohol she was still caught in this vicious cycle of poor financial health. We would spend most of my high school life shuffling through this cycle of rental unit – to being evicted – to rental unit and over that four-year period we would be evicted 26 times. It was during this period that I learned some very important lessons that would form the foundation of why I decided to build Nevly: God makes no mistakes and everything He takes you through He does for a reason. People among us with the least often are just as capable as those with a lot but structural issues can often prevent them from improving their quality of life. Poor financial health can be just as devastating to a family and an individual’s quality of life than any disease.
Fast forward, it’s 2020 and I’ve gone to the right schools, had amazing jobs, been able to do things I never dreamed possible, are able to move in circles (professional and personal) that others would dream of and yet on the inside I was dying. I struggled mightily with feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-worth and just generally felt as though I was sleep walking through life with no purpose. There were close calls with suicide and some real issues with self-harming. I struggled to find a way back to the light or something that could anchor me to something that made me want to get up every day and keep going. I convince myself that I need a change and I decide to do a 21-day fast with my church and that period change the entire trajectory of my life and my work. I had been sketching pieces of Nevly’s business model since 2018 but the version that exists now completely came together during that 21-day period. I was reminded that my childhood experiences had prepared me to build what I truly believe will be a generation
altering business. In short, I had found my anchor.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Each day largely starts the same. Up by 5am with prayer and meditation and then a gym session when I am not feeling too lazy (which I try to keep to a minimum). I try to be sitting at my desk by 7:30. It’s usually still pretty quiet at that time so I try to absorb some news and maybe even read a book for a bit. Work usually kicks into gear ~8:30am. My productivity is largely driven by the sheer joy I have for being able to build something with amazing people that I genuinely believe if we are half right can change the face of global financial health in an irreversible manner. Additionally, because work does make a tremendous amount of how I spend my time, it’s important to describe the tools we utilize inside of the organization that drives productivity at the individual and organizational level.
At Nevly, there a couple of principles we adhere to that drives most of our productivity as an organization and my productivity individual as its leader. First, we adhere to what we describe as a Hybrid 2.0 working model. We are together in office Tuesday through Thursday, work remotely on Mondays and are off every Friday. Allowing us the freedom to live a life outside of work has proven to bring a tremendous amount of velocity to our work as well as free form creativity. Secondly, I am a huge proponent of the Lean Canvas building framework for startups. At its essence, it allows us to take what are very ambitious goals and break them down into a series of two-week sprints where we focus on ideation, testing and experimentation and scaling. Lastly, we are guided in everything we do by the Company’s North Star and no matter how small or large a decision is the question is always there, does that positively drive one of our North Star inputs in a favorable direction; if the answer is no or we are not sure then there is strong consideration as to why we are doing it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
For me personally, everything starts with my journal. I am a bit old school in the sense that I carry an actual journal (and a pen lol) and when I have freeform ideas I try and get them down on paper. Depending on how much time I have in the moment likely dictates how deep into an idea I will go initially. From there, I immediately look past my idea and try and answer these questions: (a) Is this a problem worth solving, which translates
into a type of size of opportunity vs. costs estimation exercise? (b) If it is, can we bring something to the party that is currently not there (i.e., can we do it better, faster, cheaper, etc. than what’s currently available to consumers) or if you are creating or defining a market (like on some level we are doing with our mobile app and ARLO), can we actually get it done. (c) Is this a problem I want to solve. This isn’t a business principle at all but given what brought me to the space, place and time I am in right now, money alone isn’t enough to make me chase anything. To be completely honest, when I was contemplating killing myself, I was making more money than I ever had in my life and so for me everything needs to anchor to my personal North Star to make sense.
What’s one trend that excites you?
This is a great question and one that I am super passionate about. There are two trends that I believe are generation defining.
The first one is a technology trend and the other is what I characterize as a social engagement trend.
First, I believe that open finance will fundamentally change the consumer experience as it relates to their money and the benefits that their money affords them even if they are not the wealthiest people in a society. Let me build this up a bit to put it in context and I preface this by saying this is purely my thesis so if you hate it blame my education and life experience lol. I view the consumer market as a pyramid with the most resource rich consumers sitting at the tip of the pyramid, the “middle class” sitting mid- pyramid and everyone else sitting in the base of the pyramid. Now the first observation you should note is that the majority of people in the system sits at the base of the pyramid. Now let’s pick on the U.S. banking industry and take a quick historical tour and let’s start with the largest bank in the U.S. (JPMorgan Chase). JP Morgan’s predecessor bank (The Bank of the Manhattan Company) traces its roots back to 1799 and let’s isolate on two foundational tenets that were true through much of the 18 th , 19 the and 20 th centuries and that I believe formed a basis of the modern banking system – (1) Poor people did not live as long as wealthy and middle class people and (2) that the middle class (the middle of the pyramid was expandable – i.e., a sufficient number of people could move from the base of the pyramid into the middle of the pyramid). I believe these foundational level assumptions formed the basis for how banks built out their business models but what would happen if one or both of them prove not to be true? What if any existing disparities in mortality rate between middle class and lower-class Americans was negated by higher birth rates by lower class Americans? What if the rate of middle- class advancement was significantly slower than expected in the 19 th and 20 th ? I hypothesis that the rise of the fintech revolution and open finance relates to the fact that the consumer pyramid described above is effectively proving to be pear shaped with the base of that pyramid growing significantly faster than early period estimates and as a result legacy financial institutions have in some ways struggled to tailor business models that were not designed around these realities to cater to what is in fact the largest pool of customers. Conversely, fintech has in some respects led this revolution which has led to some early wins (NSF fees have begun to be reduced and I predict will vanish from business models over the next five years; as we move to a cashless society ATMs become less relevant in developed economies and so we are beginning to see compression in ATM out of network fees; etc.). I believe open finance will only accelerate these innovations. The second trend that excites me is what I characterize as social engagement. However, while the rise of social media is a symptom of this trend, I don’t believe it itself is the trend.
Beginning around 2006 I began to feel and observe this level of engagement by constituent groups that had been viewed as silent for decades. Whether you look at this through the lens of politics, engagement around social issues or engagement around personal finances and financial autonomy, you have tens of millions of people that have awaken and began to speak and those voices have in some instances reshaped entire business models. Let’s look at two examples, in the 2000 presidential election the
percentage of voting eligible Americans who cast a vote was ~54%. This percentage had increased to 62% by 2008 and 66% by 2020. Within the realm of politics this level of engagement represents tectonic shifts in public engagement. Second example would be the rise of Robinhood. Robinhood was founded in 2013, released its mobile app in 2015 and is largely credited as serving as the single most relevant catalyst for the elimination of brokerage and commission fees by legacy incumbent providers like Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Now what’s interesting about this is that the narrative about this series of events sounds something like this – Robinhood completely took off during COVID-19 lockdowns as consumers became overnight day traders and this led to the upending of the traditional brokerage business. The problem with this is that only half of it is true or even partially true. While Robinhood’s trading accounts swelled in 2020 and trading volume increased the decision by most legacy brokerage businesses to abandon commission and brokerage fees was announced in the 3 rd and 4 th quarter of 2019, nearly six months prior to the start of COVID lockdowns.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This is going to come across as something I have known for a long time, so I want to make clear that I have not. In all honesty, it is a lesson that I am still learning but that I have come to believe in as much as I do the importance of oxygen. Find time to unplug from the work and step away from it. If it’s worth doing it won’t vanish if you take time to recharge and in doing so it will increase the intensity with which you are able to attack the
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient, put your head down and do the right kind of work and don’t seek validation from man. While it’s great to receive awards and affirmations that you are doing a good job, are special, etc. it is so much more valuable to try and answer these two questions early – Who are you and what kind of life do you want to live? True purpose comes from within.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
For people who are not afraid to put their hands in the clay and build, this is the most exciting time to reshape society in meaningful ways since the Civil War.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Pray and meditate. It doesn’t matter what you believe in do it every day and if you don’t believe in anything or anyone higher than yourself, find something. If you’re doing work worth doing it is going to be extremely difficult and if it is extremely difficult having it rooted and grounded in purpose will make it significantly more rewarding.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Quiet the outside noise, focus on the customer and stay relentless focused on how you can solve their problem and/or make their lives better and trust yourself, which hopefully is rooted in purpose. On this journey there will be no shortage of people who have great advice and are eager to share it with you. You need to get comfortable extracting the pieces of that advice that you need and discarding the rest. Remember if you are a builder and its purpose driven, the journey starts with you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started a venture with another guy because we had a complimentary set of skills, and the timing was perfect and we had the opportunity to make a ton of money. There was nothing else in the equation…just me and what was in it for me. On a level it came be viewed as a success as we did make money but on a number of levels it was an incalculable failure for me personally. I hated the person I saw every day in the mirror no matter how fancy the car was I was driving. I can’t say I overcame it. I can say that God had a real purpose for my life and one day I just asked him to help me because without Him I wasn’t interested in living anymore. He thought enough of me to send me a small circle of friends who rehabbed my mentally, emotionally and spiritually and when I was ready (strong enough), He began to build the vision of this business through me.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think the way the rental market is set up is ripe for disruption. So, for a very large segment of the population who are renters they tend to live on what I characterize as the “two check per month” cash flow model. In this model, the first check they receive pays the rent, which is typically due on the first and late on the 3 rd or the 5 th in some instances and the second check (usually comes around the 15 th ) pays for everything else. As rent rates have outpaced real wage growth the first check has become dangerously close to being completely eaten up by the rent, which leaves consumers in a tenuous position. Either pay all of the rent and then be cash flow negative until the 15 th or pay some of the rent, incur late fees and pay the balance and the late fees on the 15th . Many consumers will pursue the former option and then take out high interest loans like payday loans to bridge the cash flow negative period. This is enormously destructive to the consumer. The solution would be a business model that I describe as a Rent Splitter Model where consumers would onboard onto a fintech platform, sign up for direct deposit and that platform would work with the landlord to agree to split the consumer’s rental payment into two payments (1 st payment on the 1 st and the second on the 15 th ) with the fintech guaranteeing the second payment and in this instance would assess a fee to the consumer.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I purchased myself a hoodie. So when I decided to start Nevly I had a little bit of money saved and I thought hey I can boot strap this business get our first product launched and then go and raise some VC money. Well the money I thought would be enough ran out long before the product was ready and there were points in time during this process where I would pay a bill for the business and didn’t have money to buy myself food. Overtime I came to sell most of the personal possessions I had to pay for living expenses and to build this business and some of those were my winter clothes. When we closed our VC pre-seed round of funding and I was able to begin paying myself a salary I went and purchased myself a hoodie because it’s getting pretty cold in the DC region. That was one of the proudest days of this journey for me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There are two things here. ClickUp and Outlook. With respect to the former, everything we do for this business sits in ClickUp and provides us with an easy platform to collaborate. Having grown up a Microsoft baby I would die without my Outlook. I calendar everything there, including when I am supposed to eat.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I probably have two here. If its startup building related I would hands down recommend Running Lean by Ash Maurya. In the environment we are heading into I believe it offers an invaluable resource for founders who are focused on building and scaling a business in an efficient way. On the personal front, the recommendation would be Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Life changing read.
What is your favorite quote?
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will
maintain mine own ways before him.”
- Anything worth building has to be rooted in purpose. In building anything worth building, stay relentless focused on your customer and their problems.
- Consumers don’t care about your solution, they care about how your solution can help them. Stay there and never leave it. Many of the problems worth solving are rooted in systems that are decades old. If it’s worth solving pace yourself and recognize that you’re not going to solve in a day. Step away…recharge and then come back and attack with ferocity.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.