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New Startup Supplies the Cash College Grads Need to Follow Their Dreams

Upstart wants to take away the excuses for not doing what you want to do 'someday'.

Too many recent college grads end up taking jobs they need just so they can earn a salary to keep a roof over their heads and pay their student loans. Often those grads wake up a decade later, depressed and wondering what happened to the dreams they had of doing something that taps into their passions and makes a difference. Could going to work doing something you don't really believe in become a thing of the past? Upstart, provides new grads with the financial backing they need from angel investors to really do what they want.

"This is not necessarily tied to students starting companies," founder and former Google executive Dave Girouad told the Boston Globe. Instead, says Girouad, Upstart is "for non-traditional careers, people carving their own paths. That might mean their own company, but it could be an artist or creative type of person."

Indeed, Upstart allows participants (called "upstarts") to create a profile, state their goals, and then ask backers to support their efforts. Upstarts might, for example, choose to raise money to pay their student loans for a year while they try to pursue their dream of becoming an actor or launching a tech startup.

"Upstart is an eraser for your excuses," says Melanie Plageman, a 2011 graduate of Duke University and one of seven upstarts the company partnered with to see if the concept could work. Plageman's using the funding she's getting through the company to support herself while she works on developing mobile internet capacity in Kenya. "What do you want to do 'someday'? Okay, do that now," says Plageman.

Although the financial support backers provide is essential for Upstart to work, what young people inching into their careers also need is mentorship. Backers are encouraged to see their roles as more than mere providers of cash. Upstart encourages them to make real contact with the upstarts they're supporting by choosing to receive regular updates on their progress and making themselves available to them for questions.

Of course, upstarts are expected to pay back the money they receive. The annual rate of return on an investment is 14.99 percent, but if an upstart goes back to school or earns under $30,000, the payments can be deferred. Upstart's interested in partnering with recent graduates from 2010-2013 and five schools: Arizona State University; Dartmouth College; the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Michigan; and the University of Washington. If it succeeds and expands, maybe you can really go for your dreams, instead of becoming a corporate drone.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user CubanRefugee

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