Brendon McQueen


Brendon McQueen

Brendon McQueen knows what it’s like to be burdened by student loans -- which is why he wants to take away that stress for others.


When McQueen, 33, dropped out of high school in Idaho, he moved to Hollywood to get into film. He enrolled in Santa Monica Community College and later graduated from Columbia University in 2009. It was a big deal: He was the first to graduate college in his family. But there was a downside, too: He had 12 student loans totaling $120,000.


That daunting reality was the inspiration for his startup,, which partners with companies to offer student loan contributions as a benefit. Similar to how companies contribute to an employee’s 401(k) -- why not offer contributions to their student loans?


The company -- which is based in Santa Monica – launched in January 2013. Since then, it has scored major clients like Fidelity and raised more $8.2 million.


What about your job most excites you?

Creating something entirely new that has the potential for deep, far-reaching impact on the student loan crisis and the 42 million people with loans in the U.S. -- while also serving employers' very real hiring and retention challenges.


How many hours do you sleep?

5-6 hours. I'm a night owl with two little kids (and one on the way!) who rise pretty early.


What do you eat for breakfast?

COFFEE and a banana.


If you could pitch to one person, who would it be?

Susan Peters, SVP of Human Resources at GE.


What’s on your home screen?

Evernote, Apple Music, Pandora, 2 Chess apps, Jalopnik, Techmeme, MyFitnessPal, Kottke.


How often do you exercise?

4-5 times a week. My favorite being hiking with my two dogs (Lexi and Sammy). Being over 30 and working long hours, it's a struggle to stay fit. Operating on an 8 hour workday is no longer competitive. I do try to get outdoors with my family on the weekend when I can.


What app can’t you live without?

Evernote, because there are endless meetings and calls, and all of it needs to be tracked.


What's your favorite city and why?

Edinburgh -- there's a Harry Potter thing happening there that is palpable. Short of that, I've come to really enjoy living in Venice and working in Santa Monica.


What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?

Though many have heard of SpaceX, I consider Mars as insurance on Earth. It’s a company I keep top of mind.


Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?

Refuse is a strong word. I don't use Snapchat, yet.


What are you reading right now?

I check different news sites religiously because having a macro view on what's happening on the planet is important, to say the least.


Do you think there’s a tech bubble? Why or why not?

I think there could be one for companies with an unclear path to sustainable revenue, but then again there are a number of very important companies who have very long horizons who are not near profitability so, who really knows.


Best piece of advice you've been given?

Anytime someone told me something was impossible or couldn't be done, it only inspires me more to get it done.


What keeps you up at night?

Work, planning, rising cost of education, tsunamis, content.


If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Persistence wins the game. Also, specialize, as there are way too many generalists in the job market.

Photo Credits: Brendon McQueen