Relationships, Realizations & A Bridge
We keep coming back with more! Welcome back to your favorite podcast, if you missed our inspiring episode last week, you're certainly going to want to go back and listen to our conversation with the very insightful Mr. Credit Banking. By making intentional efforts to understand the inner workings of his own personal finances, Keith Moore aka Mr. Credit Banking, stopped by to tell us his story about how he lifted himself out of financial ruin, insurmountable debt, and paycheck purgatory. Before you dive into this week's story, listen to Keith tell his tale in Story 14: Paycheck to Paycheck, I Had Nothing.
For this episode, we've got a special treat for you. It's been a long time coming, but this week you're going to hear from a name and voice you might recognize - on The Chirp, we were finally joined by the CEO and Founder of Pigeon, Brian Bristol. Brian, the leader and visionary behind Pigeon, is building a technology company that will one day serve millions across the world when it comes to mixing your relationships with your finances. Having been inspired to create Pigeon due to his own personal struggles with lending money to friends and family, Brian walks us through the difficulties that society faces when having to mix money with relationships and encourages us all to band together to help one another when life gets tough. Here's the episode you all have been waiting for, enjoy!
This Episode In A Nutshell
Loans, money, and relationships. We've all had to deal with them before, and we've all had to mix them together once or twice in our lifetimes. But why do these topics make us uncomfortable? Why do we all struggle to have positive experiences with these constructs? Well, no one truly knows the full answer to these questions, but as founder and CEO of Pigeon, Brian Bristol has come up with a few ideas that may just solve some of these problems. With stories about how important lending is within society, how his own family experiences led him to create Pigeon, and advice on how if we all band together we may just be able to overcome some of life's biggest challenges, this episode will surely explain the method behind the madness of Pigeon, money, and relationships.
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Audio Transcript of Story 15: We Need A Bridge To Get Through This Crazy World We Live In
Hello there everyone, you're all very welcome back to The Chirp: A Podcast By Pigeon. Our main goal is to bring you stories about relationships being affected by money and loans and educating you on what not to do, and on how not to make these mistakes and enlighten you on what’s out there to improve your personal finances, help your fellow lender and make taboo topics related to finance a thing of the past.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to speak with Kaben Clauson who is the co-founder of Pigeon and this week I asked his colleague and co-founder, Brian Bristol, to come on the show, share his story about how a relationship of his prompted him to come up with the idea of Pigeon as a platform and what he has learned over the last 18 months from his customers.
Brian is a software engineer by trade and is a big supporter of The Chirp of course, always checking out the episodes and it felt right for him to finally come on as a guest and give us insight into why lending is so important in society, how it can be a positive thing and what the future of lending holds for those who need it.
Let’s dive in, stick around for Brian’s details at the end if you want to get in touch and most of all, enjoy!
Brian Bristol as I live and breathe. How are you doing? Welcome to The Chirp, how are things?
I'm good. I'm good. And how about you?
I'm very good. Very good. Thanks for asking. Now Brian, we've been doing this podcast for a while, or we've been working on this podcast, and I've always wanted to have you on since day one.
And you were always saying, “Let's wait for other people to share their stories”, and things like that. But as I said to your co-founder Kaben a couple of episodes ago, no better man, no better person to come on to talk about money and relationships and how it all affected then yourself.
You know, I've said it before, for those who don't know Pigeon, you are the co-founder of that platform. It's a platform that facilitates loans between friends and family, giving a structured way to borrow and lend and taking the taboo and the awkwardness out of those types of loans without a system.
So, how did it all come about? What kind of stories do you have that inspired you to create Pigeon?
Definitely. So it's awesome to finally be on the podcast. I've been listening to all the episodes, so it's been great to hear from the grapevine other's stories. Everyone's life is very interesting.
Now to be on it myself and tell my own story, this'll be a very interesting experience, like delving into my own work. So this'll be fun. But for me, yeah, the inspiration behind Pigeon, it came about because I needed to make a loan for myself. If we go back to March 2020, when the pandemic first hit, people are pretty much in dire straits, right?
People who are losing their jobs. Finances were really hard strung on a lot of people and it was just kind of a dreary time for like all of the world and especially just specific demographics and groups in the world itself. So for me, my family was someone who was also kind of affected from it.
It was a situation in which finances became tighter than they usually are. And when finances become tight, we start looking for options. We started thinking, "all right, can I get to the bank and get a loan? Can I go to my local credit union to see if they'll help, give me a cash advance, or sometimes you go to your friends and family".
So for this particular time in my life, I was someone who was fortunate enough to still have my job. I was at Intuit working as a software engineer. And if people don't know, software engineers get paid pretty well, especially in California. So I was still someone who could take care of myself and also take care of anyone else who may need financial help during that time.
And a family member of mine actually came to me and asked for a sum of money. I was like, “Oh, all right yeah, I can definitely help you out.” But this time I had to take a step back and think about it because I was like, " you know what, I need to get paid back". It was a tumultuous time for everyone.
I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep my job. It was funny enough, like Intuit did a mass layoff. 30% of the workforce was gone almost four months later after this initial request happened. So it was something where I had to keep my finances in order as well. And when the request came, I thought I could go online and find a quick app or a quick service to actually make a loan with my family, but that didn't exist!
I went to the app store. I went to the Google store. I went to any type of technology website, application thing that you could think of. And I couldn't find a service that would be able to actually give me the ability to create a loan, generate documents, track payments, all that good stuff, over the course of some time.
So the engineer in me actually woke up and was like, you know what? We're all at home. We're all doing nothing. Most people are watching Tiger King. Most people are literally just spending their days on Netflix, scrolling and scrolling. I opened up my computer and I said, “Let me see if I can create something that I would use for myself and my family in terms of creating this loan structure”, and then have that be a project that I use over the course of the summer.
I did that over the course of 12 weeks. And the very first version of Pigeon was this really bare bones project that I could just spin up a contract, make some payments online and then set reminders for myself with my family member. Funny enough, I ended up going into loan with that family member.
And over a course of what, six months, maybe nine months, almost a year, actually I ended up getting the loan paid back fully 100%. And it was probably the first successful loan on Pigeon in terms of the duration, when it started and ended, all that good stuff. So that's kind of the origin story as to how this all came to be.
And the craziest part was, so many people when I announced this project, this idea on my own social media and my own Twitter and whatnot. So many people DM’d me and contacted me being like, this "is such a great idea! I remember this story when..." someone had their own specific loan, the story about some relationship and some financial mixing. I was just like, wow, there's so many people struggling with this. Is there a way to make this bigger? Is there a way to get this to more people?
So I ended up actually saying, “All right, I'll continue to work on this project. I'll continue to build this thing and see how many people this can help over the course of time.” So now we're here a year and a half later, we've created like 3,200 loans, there's 15,000 people on the platform every single day and they are moving thousands of dollars. So, people are using it. We’re growing. And we think it's going to be a great tool to just help people when it comes to relationships and when it comes to finances.
And the customers that you do have now, obviously, 18 months into it. What are some of the common types of loans that you guys are seeing?
Not so much even the types of loans, but the stories or the reasons for those loans that you come across and maybe some obscure examples as well would be great. But what are the regular reasons people are using Pigeon?
Yeah. So there are three main reasons, I'll give them off.
The first one is to start a business. Second one is for emergencies. Things are speed-dependent. And then the third one is really interesting. People are refinancing their high-value debts. So mortgages, rent, and credit card debt.
And to give you a specific story, one that I particularly like. There are business owners on our platform who are literally saying, “You know what? The banks and credit unions will not service me. Maybe I don't have enough revenue. Maybe I don't have enough traction in my business. I have to go to my friend or family member in order to actually keep my business alive.”
So there's quite a few people on our platform that will say, “You know what? Me as an individual, I'll put myself as the borrower. And then I'll ask a friend or family member to be the lender.” And they will give each other sums of money. Some have been as large as $250,000 on our platform. And that's such a course of strenuous conversation and of back-and-forth thought where you're like, "wow, do I really want to do this with someone that I know? Someone, that I have this relationship with put at risk?".
It's been really eye-opening to see people depending on each other so granularly within their community using our platform is kind of this conduit to do so. So starting a business is huge, emergencies - if your car breaks down the morning of today, right? I can't get a loan from Bank of America that evening to fix my car. A lot of people are using us to basically say, “All right, $3,000 to get it in a brand new engine, I'll fix that. I'll pay you back in the next month or so.”
And then the last portion is that refinancing. Interest rates are high. Inflation is high right now. People are starting to get creative about how they use their money. And we're seeing a lot of progress and a lot of interesting data that people probably don't have a lot of insight into in the markets about people who are actually taking these debts and these things that are no longer serving them the way they want financially and just refinancing them on our platform with their friends and family.
Going back to you as the creator of the platform and as an engineer. What is your experience being, not just as a creator of the platform, but I know you actually use it as well.
And I think you he told me that your one of the biggest users of the platform as well. It is your baby. What has that been like? Not only creating it, but seeing it in action yourself and using it as an end-user.
Yeah, so I've used Pigeon like five or six times. One, I always use it so we can boost our own numbers obviously to make us look better.
The second reason is because I actually do need to use it/ want to use it. Every single one of those loans I've made so far have been paid back. I've been doing loans with my close family, like my mother and my father, that type of nucleus. I've done loans with some good friends of mine simply because they just need to get helped out in a given period of time.
And every single one of them, I've been able to use the platform and say, “All right, cool. I'll put it on here and we'll manage it over time.” I get my own reminders. I'm like, oh yeah, I forgot. I had this out there. And then they get paid back over time, but I've also been able to understand, even deeper, this psychology of the problem we're solving.
There have been times where. I've used the platform. And I said, “Oh sh*t, I wish there was a feature here that all these customers on our platform are probably looking for as well that I haven't built yet.” So there was a specific scenario where I wanted to remind the borrower that they owe me a payment just by just clicking a button on my portal, and that didn't exist at the time.
And I was like, “Why did I not build this?” I should have this where you could just click a button and you don't have to actually text someone or call them about their payment. So I ended up building that and that's one of our most used features, because like me as the customer, I knew exactly what I needed to solve the problem.
And I'll be able to just click buttons left and right. Reminding each other that they need payments to be done without, that whole awkwardness or uncomfortableness of picking up the phone and calling the other person. So being able to use the platform as both a customer, as well as a creator of it, I think that gives us, Pigeon, and me an unfair advantage into the psyche of our customers.
Because then it just allows us to really create the things that have value. It doesn't have to go through the whole process of... "Alright. Do we need to interview customers and figure out if this is worth it?", We don't have to second guess ourselves. We can like genuinely understand what the problem is and then go create a solution for it.
And I know you obviously have high ambitions for Pigeon to be a household name. What Coca Cola is to soda, we want Pigeon to be that for loans and for lending. What are some of the barriers that you see?
Obviously becoming an expert in this field, in this area, what are some of the barriers you see for loans to become commonplace? And do you think that maybe loans have an unobtainable feel to them due to the traditional financial institutions and where as well?
Obviously Pigeon will be able to, to help this by… You don't have to go to a bank. As you said, you don't have to wait for a loan to be approved. It can happen within 24 hours. But what do you think some of the barriers will be to make Pigeon a household name in the future?
Yeah. So the beauty of this is that loans are happening everyday already. They're just not being recorded. No one knows where they're happening and they're not being tracked. So, the big stat that we like to say to our investors and to the public is, there's $200 billion moved every single year as loans between friends and family in the United States, and there's over a trillion across the world in the exact same fashion.
So with that being the case, We have an extremely unique opportunity to create something that would literally sustain the backbone of informal money movement throughout the world. And that's like a very, very big problem to solve, but we have the tools and we have the right timing. We have the resources to get that done today.
So for us, our plans, vision for Pigeon is to always exist when you're making your relationships with your finances. So if I'm someone who needs to loan someone money, great, we'll be there for you. If I'm someone who needs to consider the ramifications of what my will might be in the future with my friends and family, that may be something we get into. If I'm someone who needs access to more cash, but I don't necessarily have the credit score or the traditional financial barriers to entry to get in there. We, as Pigeon, can start using social credit, your relationships with your friends and family members to potentially provide you capital that you might need.
These are all ideas, and these are all concepts that we're working on and being able to improve upon and provide value for people simply because of the activities there, we just need to unlock it and give people the resources and make them comfortable actually separating this transactional lifestyle from the relationships, because that's where the fear comes into play.
The anxiety, the shame, the uncomfortableness of it all comes from the fact that you're tying your self-worth or your relationship to the fact that you need to help out someone or you can't pay back someone. And once you make that separation, people on our platform have already told us it's a night and day difference. You can still break bread with this individual and they owe you money and there's just absolutely no problem behind it.
You have done a great job, this fabulous podcast included, of creating a community of people that wants to lift the shackles of the stigma that happens with loans and lending. And you've done a great job of creating an educational feel as well on your blog, on your website as well with this podcast and enabling me to interview other people and hearing all these stories. Why is the community and the educational part of Pigeon so important to you and how do you think that's going to propel Pigeon forward, but also, as I mentioned in the last question, eradicate that and those barriers of making loans commonplace.
Yeah. So the reason there's so much education and community and why we're pushing so hard with this entire concept is because people are stressed about finances. And if they're not stressed about finances, they're stressed about their relationships.
We were just reading a statistic internally in the team, like a couple of days ago, whereas something like 60 or 70% of all people around the world, they're number one stress is finance. People are waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat because they can't figure out how to pay their bills at the end of the week.
And that’s a horrible thing to think about on a macro level. Like you can't even go to work without thinking, do I have enough money to pay for these rising gas prices to then make it to work, to then make more money to then make it home to eat? Like it's just a vicious vicious cycle.
So for us, we really want to provide the community and education so that people realize they're not necessarily alone. I think realizing you're not alone will help you in terms of getting through your financial struggles, but then also you can work together to get through the financial struggles. If I got a hundred dollars and you got a hundred dollars, we now have $200. If we figure out a way to use this efficiently and be able to band together as people who have resources that others may not have. It's kind of the entire concept we're trying to build here.
We're trying to say everyone can improve their lives and they can work together and we can provide somewhat of a bridge or a platform to do so. And for us specifically, right now, it's loans and that's something we really believe we can continue to foster as long as we have the support of people and people understand that, hey, it takes quite a few heads to get through just this whole crazy world that we're living in right now.
With regards to Pigeon, at a more business-conversation level, what are you looking forward to for the future of Pigeon?
Obviously, we've talked about the problems that you are facing and what you want to tackle in the future, but in terms of your concrete plan and where you see this platform going… and now you’re based in Miami, you have a huge amount of talk around you and hype around you and you've had such success with Y Combinator as well. What is the next one to three years looking like for Pigeon and what are you going to achieve?
Yeah, definitely. So we've been fortunate enough to do well. Our team is growing. We've got people coming on every day to continue to add to the progress we're doing. We got an amazing chance to be a part of the last Y Combinator batch in 2022, but we even got featured on Business Insider last week or a couple of weeks ago. So we're doing a lot of good stuff.
For us, we really just need to continue to hone in, on solving the problem that we had said we want to solve. So for the next one to three years, it's still going to be that. But just in a lot of different ways, right? So one of the more visceral ways is Pigeon just exists as a website right now. You can go to it pigeonloans.io, but that's it, people might want to use this out of the back of their pocket, on their phone, an iOS app, an Android app, being able to create a loan with someone and trust just as simply as you would CashApp or Venmo in the States.
That's something that we're going to be thinking about and working on. The ability to actually build your credit profile/ability to access traditional finance vectors is something a lot of people on our platform are asking for as well. We want to create a system where if friends or family members are helping you, they're not just helping you get through this financial situation. They're helping you build the foundation to get to your next financial situation.
So you can go to a bank later on in the future and say, “All right, look, I now have these criteria, these data points that say, I am a good borrower or say, I am a good person in terms of financials. I can come to you and actually get even bigger sums of money as a bank or institution.”
Those are the things we're working on. And then the other is, being able to take care of people who have small financial needs at any given time. There's so much money and liquidity in the world right now that the difference between the top 1% and the bottom 99% is pretty much the same amount of money on both sides of the coin.
The problem is we just need to really trickle some of that money down the funnel so that people could then live their lives the way they need to in a healthy, safe and joyous manner, right? So for us, we're working on ideas to give people small sums of money. Being able to come to Pigeon and say, “Hey, look, I need a thousand dollars. Maybe you guys can help me as a platform to get part of that money. Maybe you guys can go into a loan together with your friends and family members to get that done as well.”
These are all kinds of ideas that we're thinking about, where we combine the best of both worlds, the social community. This idea of using your relationships to help you out financially with also just the power of a corporation in the United States of America. Companies and corporations can do a lot of stuff that individuals can not do.
So being able to combine these worlds would actually take us to a completely different nexus that I don't think has really been seen before in this world. So for us, there's a lot of amazing things we're working on. Brand awareness. If you haven't checked out our Instagram or TikTok page, we have these really funny comics going on right now.
Charles the Chicken, he's educating everyone on how to use their finances responsibly. And how to mix them with their relationships. Obviously, The Chirp podcast, where we will be continuing to tell amazing stories of people who are just out there in the world going about their regular financial lives but also trying to understand it within the constraints of their relationships.
And then we'll continue to add from there so many different angles, so many different things we can do fortunately enough got funded. So now we just have the cash to really understand this problem as holistically as possible and create some great solutions for people.
You touched on a point there that I wanted to bring up. Your relationship, as a Pigeon customer, you will be able to build up this reputation and if you need to go to a financial institution to get a loan, you have proof that you’re financially responsible when it comes to loans outside of banks.
Personally, what are your thoughts on financial institutions as well? Do you see them as a competitor or do you think it's something that they're just a necessary part of the world of loans in general, and you need to embrace that and work with them.
Or do you think that there is a time where Pigeon would be the go-to when it comes to loans? Because I was chatting to Keith Moore last week and he said, “I think when it comes to large, large loans that are needed for your house or for your car, it probably is best to go there”
But it isn't attainable for everyone. So what is your relationship with banks and credit unions and where do you see Pigeon standing beside them?
Definitely. I think in terms of the sum of money, that's one criteria, but it always depends on your specific financial situation. So if you're someone who can go to a bank or credit union and get a 2% loan and do so within a two or three days turnaround, I would recommend you go to a bank or credit union and do that because that's what they're there for.
They're there to provide you with some liquidity to meet your financial goals, and then you pay them back for just them taking a chance on you. In terms of, the opposite where there are underserved people or under-banked people, or even low-income individuals, that's kind of where our bread and butter is.
People who are being blocked out of the system. The system in itself has a bunch of different levels, criteria and barriers to entry. And we don't have to get into that, but it does have its place. It has its place to support people who can play within the confines of the system. But for people who cannot get into the system right now, we provide this alternative where it's like, all right, let me depend on the people that I know and trust to get me through this current situation.
And then once I've gotten through this current situation, "great". The banks and credit unions are still there for me. I can still go back and I can still go get larger sums of money work. I could still go get more specific institutional funds to get what I need to get done. So for Pigeon, we're working in parallel with a lot of banks and a lot of institutions. We genuinely are partnering right now with credit unions, community banks, any type of financial institution that's in that kind of realm.
Saying, “Look, Pigeon is your alternative right now. You guys are declining people en masse.” People who do not have a specific credit score in the United States of America, you are not getting a loan from anyone because it's such a widespread system. So for us, we're offering ourselves as an alternative solution.
To say, “Look, if you can't get a loan from anyone, you might as well try and get a loan from someone, and then use us as a point of evidence to get to that financial need and have that be met.” So we definitely see ourselves continuing to grow. As a financial institution grows, the ability to bridge gaps, which is what Pigeon really is, is being able to serve as a conduit between all these different systems.
That's what we want to continue to be. And if we can match people with institutions, people, with people as additions with institutions, we're on a good path. We just need to be able to continue to service that going forward.
Brilliant. One love! And I suppose finally, as a last question for me, I know you're co-founder of Pigeon. You've been at this a while. You're, I would say, immersed in the world of lending as well as technology. What’s been the most heartwarming thing that you've learned about people and loans and relationships that keeps the fire lit and motivates you to keep going on this journey of yours?
For me, one big statistic that is kind of eye-opening is that less than 1% of all of our loans in our platform have gone into a state of default. Meaning everyone who uses our platform, 99 out of a hundred times, people pay each other back, which is just phenomenal. So the thing that's kind of heartwarming and really inspiring to me is when you give people who are disadvantaged or locked out of a specific system, the resources and autonomy to do the things that they would have done, regardless, they do it in a very responsible manner.
Like we've seen stories where we've gone online, found borrowers who are in desperate need, giving them loans ourselves as individuals. And the amount of gratefulness that comes from that type of transaction is unmatched. Like no one is trying...the phrase goes, “Don't bite the hand that feeds you.”
No one is trying to screw each other over. When you go through these types of systems and these hoops and ladders to basically say, “Look, I'm going to help you, but this is a transaction where I need this back or I need to make this a transaction versus like just a gift and handing this out to someone.”
So that's been super inspiring. And if we continue to prove out this model and the bigger and bigger we get and the better and better data we get. There could be an entire shift in the way people think about finances, where it's like, wow, I might actually consider going to my friends and family members first.
I might actually consider doing this more than I was in the past, simply because this works. If I know I'm going to give my friend a thousand dollars and he's going to pay me back $1,100 a year later, and that's a 99% guarantee, that's a no brainer - that's a no brainer for pretty much anyone. So, these are the things that we're trying to make known to the public and really trying to grow as we continue to grow vigilance.
Very exciting, Brian, what is the best way for people to reach out to you and contact you personally, or to learn more information about Pigeon as a platform?
Yeah, definitely. So for us, the website is UsePigeon.io. There are so many emails out there about Pigeon, like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, Brian@usepigeon.io. You will literally get to my inbox for every single one of those email anchors.
Outside of that, you can find me on Twitter. You can find me on LinkedIn. Just go to Pigeon, and see who is following, and then you'll find me.
And then outside of that, I'm always open to chatting, doing walkthroughs, education. We love that, especially from our customers, because they just tell us what we need to build and what we need to continue to do to serve people. So I love any outreach, especially from Chirp listeners, because you guys are our bread and butter and it's going to take a community for us to continue to build this.
Well, I doubt this will be the last time that you'll be coming on to The Chirp for a chat. I'll be asking you again very, very soon, but a genuine pleasure. As I said, a long time coming, and since we've been working at this, it's always great, 15 episodes later, for you to actually come on as a guest and to tell your story, which is great. So I really appreciate it, Brian. Thanks for coming on.
Yeah, thank you!
Definitely going to get Brian back for another episode in the future as I’m keen to see how Pigeon grows and to see more and more customers using the platform to lend each other money, so very excited about that.
Very cool to see the growth of Pigeon so far! What started as a software project for himself to organize a personal loan has blossomed into this exciting, successful start-up that is always growing.
And I think the main thing that I noticed about their mission, the work they do, and the type of customer that they serve, is that they are doing good. Brian touched on this, the loan system in the United States can be unforgiving. If your credit score is shot, you’re not going to get a loan easily. Those that are not golden in the eyes of a financial institution will suffer.
Pigeon has entered the chat! Instead of saying, “no you don’t need a bank or a credit union”, or saying “stick with us, we’re number 1. We’ll sort everything for you”, they bridge the gaps between all these avenues you can take with personal finance by allowing customers to adopt a social credit score. If you are involved in a Pigeon Loan and you pay back your lender in time, that will stand for you for when you may want to take another loan out for a financial institution.
This is a tool that can help people, and in the tech world we live in where everyone is clamoring to try and get to the top of the tech world and have the most used app for deliveries or music or communication, Pigeon remains humble and totally customer-focused with a message that says, “let’s help you worry about your finances a little less by asking for help without the risk”.
That’s all for today everybody, I really hoped you enjoyed that episode, be sure to get in touch if you want to say hello and tell your story. I will be back in 2 weeks with another episode for you all to chew on. Thanks again for listening or watching and I will see you all very soon. Stay safe and take care!