It started out as a plan to create a simple tool to manage business donations. But then, Karrie and Lance Hungerford realized the opportunity grow something that connects traditional workplace giving and employer-matched donations.
The answer was GIVINGtrax, a Seattle-based startup founded in August 2010 that helps both businesses and their employees manage donations for social impact and measurable results.
We caught up with co-founder and CMO Courtney Titus for this installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “From cause marketing to transparent giving, GIVINGtrax offers all businesses, their employees and customers a shared-cloud marketplace for transparent collaborative giving, seamlessly connected with social media. Employees and consumers want to know what businesses are doing to give back and they want to be involved.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Inspiration for GIVINGtrax hit us during the economic downturn when co-founder Lance Hungerford encountered a problem with his own giving at Round Table Pizza. Across four stores, he gives nearly $100,000 every year. As revenues dropped, suddenly his giving was more than his bottom line. And, to make matters worse, he continued to be bombarded with donation requests every day. He had no way to track or manage giving, let alone raise awareness by involving employees and customers in the process.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are fortunate to have the resources to bootstrap while we met with potential customers, created focused groups and gathered requirements. Now that we know all businesses are impacted and to a massive scale, we can confidently seek outside funding. Our objective is to accelerate development of additional capabilities.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Perseverance. We had a “near death” experience at the beginning of this year. Rather than succumbing to our mistakes, we learned from them, sought advice from peers, pivoted and are much stronger for the experience. That said, our team is what is driving success.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Hiring our rockstar developer, Kai Sounthala.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Initially going with an outside development house. Needless to say, we learned the hard way.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We’d love to have all four in our corner! But if we had to choose just one, we would go with Mr. Jobs, if he were still here. Jobs is a visionary and creates markets where none existed. That‘s what we’re up to at GIVINGtrax.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “GIVINGtrax is the Facebook of giving, so we could say, our world domination strategy starts when Facebook begins to use GIVINGtrax.”
Rivals should fear us because: “GIVINGtrax solves pain points on multiple levels – consumers can finally “own” their contributions. Employers are freed from supporting yet another internal tool, and the general public has a transparent view of a company’s giving behavior.”
We are truly unique because: “What’s unique in GIVINGtrax is the option to connect to our employer, bridging the gap between consumer and workplace giving. Let’s say I work for IBM. We simply search for them in GIVINGtrax and connect, choosing “employee” in the dropdown. By doing so, IBM’s employee matched giving programs are “pushed” out to me. Should I later change employers, I can easily disconnect from IBM, and when ready, reconnect to my new employer. In the meantime, all my giving history, photos, videos and stories from my favorite causes remain intact on my dashboard.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Oh, that would be our “near death” experience and starting development over. “Pivoting” away from a product development effort that we had so much invested in was our low point. It was a painful process to assess the pros and cons of starting over and hiring an internal team. But once the decision was made, we moved on and focused on the tasks at hand. Ultimately, it was the best decision we made. We now have an amazing team focused on the success of GIVINGtrax.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “The advice we’d give to fellow entrepreneurs is to take the time to understand your customer and the problem that you are solving. We spent a year researching all facets of giving and met with over 50 potential customers. Through interviews, we came to understand this market from various perspectives and learned how we could bring value to everyone involved. We also took the time to vet our pricing model. Armed with those tools, we were able to create a product roadmap that front-ends features needed by businesses, who are our paying members. We particularly want to thank Key Bank for openly sharing their entire process with us. They opened our eyes to a larger problem. What started out as a plan to create a simple tool to manage business donations, grew into a scope that embraces traditional workplace giving and employer matched giving.”