Business Plan Challenge

Attacking consumer debt with a next-generation tech solution

The SettleiTsoft team, clockwise from left: Antonio Garcia, CEO; Wilson Velandia, vice president; Martha Henry, chief technology officer; Richard Rudner, CCO.
The SettleiTsoft team, clockwise from left: Antonio Garcia, CEO; Wilson Velandia, vice president; Martha Henry, chief technology officer; Richard Rudner, CCO. jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Let’s face it, most everybody knows somebody in over their head in debt.

Add them all up and it is a huge market. Consider these numbers:

▪ $327.5 billion: That’s the amount of uncollected accumulated credit card debt in the U.S., which is projected to continue growing over the next decade, according to the Federal Reserve.

▪ 70 million: The number of debtors in financial distress in 2017, many of whom feel threatened by harassing collection calls, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That’s where SettleiTsoft, led by CEO Antonio Garcia, sees market opportunity for its first product, a platform offering the next generation of debt negotiation software for distressed consumers. “My idea was, by way of technology, let’s provide all these tools ... in order to make the debt-settlement process efficient,” Garcia said.

The people agree. SettleiTsoft won the People’s Pick award in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge’s online vote. It attracted the most votes in the contest by far — 2,812 — and its multilingual consumer-focused social media campaign drew votes from across the Americas.

SettleiTsoft provides a web-based and mobile-accessible platform that offers 24/7 assistance to debtors and creditors to facilitate the debt-negotiation process. Debtors and creditors may digitally interact, negotiate payment arrangements and create settlement agreements for delinquent debts, such as credit card debt, in a seamless and secure virtual environment.

It is designed to replace the traditional methods of debt resolution with an intuitive, transparent online debt settlement process that gives consumers control of negotiations through a variety of tools. Both parties — debtors and creditors — may choose to accept, reject, or make counteroffers to settlement proposals, the SettleiTsoft team said in their Business Plan Challenge entry.

SettleiTSoft’s platform will be free for consumers to use. It plans to make money — a small percentage per transaction — from the creditor side. SettleiTsoft also offers a premium version through a subscription model to consumers with more than two accounts to settle or who simply want more powerful tools. Additional revenues could come from pay-per-click advertising on the website, as well as partner services linked on the website.

To get the word out, SettleiTsoft plans a consumer marketing campaign with social media, news releases, fliers and bus advertising. The company initially will target South Florida and later expand to the Southeast and then nationally. Once the consumer signs up for the free service and initiates a negotiation, the creditor is invited to negotiate.

CEO Garcia has 18 years of international experience in the technology and financial sectors as a mortgage broker and directed one of the largest U.S. debt settlement companies. Carlos Garcia, who is executive vice president, has 16 years of operations and strategic planning experiment with UPS. Other team members — Mazin Fitiany, Martha Henry, Rich Rudner and Wilson Velandia — bring years of experience in software application development, networking technology, finance, project management and marketing.

Incorporated in 2015 in Broward County, the company began testing the concept with users last year and then launched a beta test of a limited version of the software in December.

This month, SettleiTsoft plans to open up the full version of Settleitsoft.com platform to consumers throughout South Florida.

This month, SettleiTsoft plans to open up the full version of Settleitsoft.com platform to consumers throughout South Florida, kicking it off with an advertising campaign, Garcia said.

SettleiTsoft, incubated in a garage, is now a core team of six with an outsourced team of 14. Garcia said. It is fundraising now, seeking $1 million to finance its growth. Last week, it was named a finalist in the SPARK Hollywood startup competition, sponsored by the city of Hollywood and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

As SettleiTsoft’s South Florida launch approaches, the team is back in the garage, busy making how-to videos and marketing materials aimed at consumers in financial distress.

“This is a major problem we are trying to solve,” Garcia said.

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