The son of Iranian immigrants, Arman Hezarkhanic spent his senior year of high school brainstorming a three-part thesis on what he wanted to devote his career to. First, he said that education is the most effective way to make an impact on an individual, the community and the world. Second, he thinks technology is the most scalable way to spread that impact. Third, and finally, he thinks that strong business incentives and especially for-profit companies are the most sustainable way to keep impact – not non-profits 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 with developer programs and Google for Education. Fittingly, though, when it came time to join Google full-time, he turned down the offer to build an edtech startup — one that would help young professionals like him learn continuous, day-to-day, structured learning, but without compromising it. would feel like a chore. After all, not every high school student writes a three-part statement with goals, 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 problem.” One large area where this is prominent is the financial sector, he argues, putting consumers in a place where they need a financial platform that helps them when they have a fever (overspending) rather than when they feel ambitious. (after their New Year’s resolution).
Hezarkhani is the CEO and founder of Parthean, a personal finance monitoring and education app that just raised $1.1 million at a valuation of $12 million by investors including Litani Ventures, Gaingels, Amino Capital, Morning Brew’s Alex Lieberman, Republic Venture partner Namrata Banerjee and others.
Parthean tries to answer a much more complex question than simple productivity software could: How do you turn consumers into better financial citizens — even if they’re largely apathetic about the education it takes to get there? For Hezarkhani, along with his co-founders Nikhil Choudhary and Jason Zhu, the answer lies at the intersection between fintech and edtech.
Currently, Parthean allows users to integrate their finances with the app, through Plaid, to display financial health stats in real time. The data could help Parthean evolve into a platform that can provide consumers with financial advice when they need it most, such as budget tips after a rough weekend or investment advice after a big crypto moment. In terms of format, Parthean modules are broken down into bite-sized, modular videos that guide users through a complicated video — with quizzes and an action item, such as putting money into a crypto wallet, at the end of it.
“The traditional learning model requires this very high level of activation energy on the part of the student; it requires the student to want to learn [something] so bad that they will pay a certain amount, commission a team and stick to it,” he said. A simple Parthean learning flow consists of a trigger, recommendation, and outcome. For example, the startup may notice that a user gets paid on the first of every month, resulting in high spending in the first two weeks of the month, and then they try to save as much as possible in the last week of the month.
“This overspending behavior emphasizes the user’s need to correct their spending habits by establishing a budget. So in that last week, when the user’s need is clear, we recommend a five to ten minute module on budgeting,” explains the founder.
It’s a lofty goal – to provide advice based on a user’s timing and spending habits – but one that personal financial fintech desperately needs. In the meantime, however, Parthean’s execution looks more like an edtech platform than a predictive fintech engine. At this point, the app opens an intro to the crypto section, given by Hezarkhani himself.
Statistics and the market
As with many startups in the education sector, Parthean’s success will depend on whether it can deliver real results to users. Is success defined by saving someone money three months after using the service? Whether they make NFT fluent 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 whether, after completing a crypto course, users end up executing the action item pasted at the end of the lesson, be it setting up a crypto wallet on Coinbase or increase a credit score. In the previous example, the target result would be a user designing their budget in the app, helping Parthean keep track of spending from month to month.
“That’s a metric we can measure, while other edtech platforms are just a content game,” he said.
Edtech and fintech have mixed in the past through NerdWallet, a recent public personal finance platform that offers product recommendations on top of a high-margin content company. But instead of making credit card recommendations and then monetizing referral fees, Hezarkhani thinks the subscription business model better aligns with consumer interests.
Hezarkhani said that during the fundraising process, some investors argued that the best way to make money is through monetization based on advertising or lead generation. Some even said Parthean should become a bank. But he stuck to the idea that there must be an external “ubiquitous financial partner” that consumers trust. In other words, he 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 stock investments, you have traditional retirement accounts, you have credit cards, debit cards, you even have rent – what we’ve done is we said we’re not going to own a vertical here. “We’re just going to own the top tier. We want to own the user’s relationship with this market. It’s going to consolidate, it’s going to get more competitive, but we’ll always be here if that tier.”