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ActiveGiver CEO Saar Safra.
ActiveGiver CEO Saar Safra

Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid — and Barack Obama’s before him — proved the power of grassroots donations. But a wealthy minority still dominates the campaign finance game.

That’s why ActiveGiver co-founders Saar Safra and Scott Case developed a platform to more efficiently collect contributions from small-scale campaign donors. The platform allows donors to search based on issues they care about, then donate to politicians who champion those causes.

Transparent-Logo-large“ActiveGiver levels the playing field for causes that may have a majority of support but are too often out-spent by a minority of wealthy individuals and corporations,” said Safra, who serves as CEO. “ActiveGiver powers a non-partisan donation platform that enables people to discover, track, donate to, and grow support for the causes that are most important to them.”

The Bellevue-based startup also leverages social media so users can make campaign donations a shareable experience. ActiveGiver launched in 2014, which makes this the platform’s first presidential election season.

We caught up with Safra for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “ActiveGiver’s platform enables people to discover, track and contribute to issues they care about.”

Inspiration hit us when: “Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House in 2016. About 30,000 individuals gave over 40 percent of total donated dollars in 2012 across all campaigns and races. That’s 0.01 percent of the population donating roughly 40 percent of total donations. When we realized that the political landscape of this country has been hijacked by very few extremely wealthy families, it inspired us to take action. And that action is by empowering ‘the rest of us’ (the 99.99 percent of the population) to take action towards the issues we are passionate about.”

The ActiveGiver team.
The ActiveGiver team.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are backed by a small group of prominent angels from the Pacific Northwest, and the next step is to raise venture capital. At first, we focused on proving the concept, market-fit, and identifying (and defining) our target audience. At this stage, we feel more confident about who our customer is, how to find them, and the relevant unit economics. We know what we need to do to scale and we’ll get the capital to allow us to execute on our plan.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is:  “We are the first platform to exist that connects people and politicians to causes they’re both passionate about. Beyond that, we also offer the ability for people to take action on those specific causes (rather than just complain). We are obsessed with transparency and visibility, and hold ourselves to a high standard of being neutral, objective and nonpartisan.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Is hiring an amazing team. That doesn’t come easy, and it takes time, effort and patience to find the right pieces of the human puzzle we’re putting in place. We truly believe that great teams account for great outcomes, and that has been a priority for us from day one.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “It’s hard to choose…there are so many. We have a culture of embracing failure, admitting it and learning from it. We made many mistakes, still do, and will probably continue to do so. Strategically, one of our biggest mistakes early on was that we spent too much time on research and not enough on experimentation; Eric Reis would have not been happy with us.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos — because patience is a virtue, focus is key, and outcome is king. Plus, he has a space rockets company; Mark and Bill don’t yet.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “I would have to say hiring-related activities; we’ve done so much of those, that the only way to stay sane is to love it by now. Other than that, team lunches.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We hire for attitude and train for skills. We believe that good, intelligent people would be able to do any job, and grow into being the experts of their domain. Team fit is crucial and a creative, flexible mindset is a plus.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Only get excited about an idea if most people tell you it is impossible to do. Then, hire those skeptics; a healthy dose of skepticism is always good to have on a team (to keep things real).”

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