Son of Iranian immigrants, Arman Hezarkani spent his senior year of high school thinking about a three-part thesis on what he wanted to pursue in his career. First, he stated that education is the most effective way to impact an individual, a community and the world. Second, he believes technology is the most scalable way to spread that impact. Third, and finally, he believes that strong commercial incentives and for-profit companies in particular are the most lasting way to make impact last – not nonprofits or government organizations.
Hezarkhani’s early energy took him to Carnegie Mellon, where he studied electrical and computer engineering, and Google, where he spent time on development programs and Google for Education. Yet, quite rightly, when it came time to join Google full-time, he turned down the offer to create an edtech startup – one that would help young professionals like him create continuous, everyday structured learning, but without the it looks like a chore. After all, not every high school student writes a three-part goals thesis, and even those who do need a way to consistently execute it.
“Anyone who tells you that people want to learn is largely wrong,” he said. “[Founders] want to believe in the best of humanity and that people are going to spend time wanting to learn something, but we always come back to this vitamin versus painkiller issue. A big area where this exists prominently is finance, he claims, leaving consumers in a place where they need a financial platform that helps them when they have a fever (overspending) rather than when they are feeling ambitious (after their New Year’s resolution).
Today, Hezarkhani is the CEO and founder of Parthean, a personal finance monitoring and education app that just raised $1.1 million at a $12 million valuation from investors including Litani Ventures, Gaingels, Amino Capital, Morning Brew’s Alex Lieberman, Republic Venture partner Namrata Banerjee and others. The startup also recently graduated from the Pear Accelerator, a program set up by the venture capital firm founded in 2013.
Parthean attempts to answer a question far more complex than simple productivity software: how do we make consumers better financial citizens, even if they are largely indifferent to the education it takes to get there? For Hezarkhani, alongside his co-founders Nikhil Choudhary and Jason Zhu, the answer lies in the intersection between fintech and edtech.
Currently, Parthean allows users to integrate their finances with the app, via Plaid, to view real-time financial health metrics. The data could help Parthean evolve into a platform that can offer consumers financial advice when they need it most, such as budgeting advice after a busy weekend or investing advice after a great crypto moment. In terms of format, Parthean modules are divided into small, modular videos that walk users through a complicated video – with quizzes and an action element, like putting money in a crypto wallet, at the end.
“The traditional learning model requires this very high level of activation energy on the part of the student; the student must want to learn [something] so badly that they will pay a certain amount of money, dedicate a team and stick to it,” he said. A simple learning flow for Parthean consists of a trigger, a recommendation, and an outcome. For example, the startup may notice that a user gets paid on the first of every month, resulting in high spending activity for the first two weeks of the month, and then they try to save as much as they can in the last week. of the month.
“This overspending behavior highlights the user’s need to correct their spending habits by designing a budget. So during this last week, when the need is obvious to the user, we recommend a five to 10 minutes on budgeting,” the founder explained.
It’s a lofty goal – to offer advice based on a user’s schedule and spending habits – but one that personal finance fintech badly needs. In the meantime, however, Parthean’s early-stage execution feels more like an edtech platform than a predictive fintech engine. Currently, the app opens with an introductory section on cryptography, taught by Hezarkhani himself.
Metrics and market
Similar to many education startups, Parthean’s success will depend on its ability to deliver real results to users. Is success defined by saving someone money three months after using the service? Or make them fluid in NFT in 30 days? The founder said he tracks completion rates, which currently rival cohort-based courses, and what he describes as “connection rates.” This means that part of Parthean’s progress is measured by the fact that users, after completing a cryptography course, end up performing the action item that is added at the end of the lesson, which it s whether it’s setting up a crypto wallet on Coinbase or increasing a credit score. Going back to the previous example, the goal would be for a user to budget on the app, and Parthean helps track spending month-to-month.
“It’s a metric that we can measure, whereas other edtech platforms are just a content game,” he said.
Edtech and fintech have intermingled in the past through NerdWallet, a recently publicized personal finance platform that offers product recommendations atop a high-margin content business. But instead of touting credit card referrals and then making money on referral fees, Hezarkhani believes the subscription business model is more aligned with consumer interests.
Hezarkhani said during the fundraising process, some investors argued that the best way to make money was to base revenue on ads or lead generation. Some even told Parthean to become a bank. But he stuck to the idea that there needs to be a third-party “ever-present financial partner” who is trusted by consumers. In other words, it didn’t want to become another platform that recommends credit cards for referral money.
“If you look at the financial market, you have crypto, you have equity investments, you have traditional retirement accounts, you have credit cards, debit cards, you even have rent – which we have fact is we said we weren’t going to own any vertical here,” he said. “We’re just going to own the top layer. We want to own the user’s relationship with this market. will consolidate, it will become more competitive, but we will always be there as a layer.