Following an almost 5-year career as a pro basketball player Ronnie Cropper returned to his home of Atlanta to invest in real estate. Unfortunately, soon after, the market crashed and his credit score took a massive hit.
“It was down into the 500s and I spent about a year trying to look for solutions to improve my credit,” says Cropper. “I realized that it was an extremely difficult process — it required a lot of paperwork and I didn’t know what to write on the letters. And the companies that were offering services were charging thousands of dollars at the time.”
Cropper is not alone. One in five Americans has a mistake in their credit report — that’s close to 40 million Americans. Of those, 10 million are overpaying on their loans and other credit-focused bills due to those errors, according to a Federal Trade Commission study.
While there are multiple resources on how to fix your credit score, most are expensive and often inefficient tools that require you to pay upfront just to get your score back up to a favorable number (usually >650 out of 850). There aren’t many solutions to help you dispute errors or explain mistakes in the score. When those errors come up, knowing the right thing to say can make all the difference.
After seeking advice from a colleague and increasing his score by over 100 points, Cropper decided to start helping individuals manually generate explanatory letters to send to creditors and the credit bureaus.
“We used to charge people a good amount of money. It was anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000,” says Cropper. “Most people couldn’t pay that. What I wanted to do was create a solution that was more affordable for individuals to be able to dispute items on their credit.”
That’s how DisputeDoc was born.
Currently housed at Google for Entrepreneurs hub Techsquare Labs, DisputeDoc aims to automate the dispute process for individuals looking for an affordable way to fix and improve their credit scores. They are focusing on the complex credit issues — identity theft, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and student loans — and a user base of those that may have been affected by lack of knowledge of the credit score industry or took a bad financial turn.
One good example of their audience are students or recent grads. Cropper says that he sees student loans contributing to the next financial crisis — they are often reported incorrectly and require supporting documentation to reach a successful dispute.
To test their product and further grow their customer base, Cropper created the UFirstCredit platform, a service that helps you gather exactly the right documents for your disputes based on a quick analysis of your credit report.
But they have bigger things in mind. Using AI, the DisputeDoc platform will produce custom letters for each individual and their specific needs instantly, versus the up to 48 hours with UFirstCredit. Each ‘session,’ as Cropper calls it, will cost only $25 and it will take up to 3 sessions to fully resolve a dispute.
“With the artificial intelligence engine that we’re building, it’s more for the user experience and for educating users more,” says Cropper, who emphasizes the focus on financial literacy. “So when individuals come to our website, they’ll have a more user friendly solution to interact directly with our system.”
In Q1 of 2018, Cropper will be releasing DisputeDoc and migrate those in the UFirstCredit platform to the new DisputeDoc platform.
Also early next year, the DisputeDoc team will be seeking a Series A round of $500K to continue scaling the business. The team is currently recruiting beta users for its limited release.
“Going into that series A round and raise anywhere from $500K to $1.5 million, it’s not necessarily a little bit of money to a lot of people,” says Cropper. “That’s one of the challenges that we have right now. Technology itself is always evolving so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with it. Developing a system that’s user-friendly has been one of the things that we wanted to focus on, so we can give our users the best customer service experience.”