Three years ago, Laura Malcolm and James Kocsis received the heartbreaking news that they were part of the one in five expectant parents whose pregnancies ended in a miscarriage.
But unlike many of those similarly situated, Malcolm and Kocsis both had years of experience in the technology industry. In the weeks following the traumatic stillbirth of their first child, the married couple started exploring the idea for a project that would leverage their skills and help others who found themselves in unexpected crises.
That was the inspiration for Give InKind, a startup based in Tacoma, Wash. that helps people send gifts and services to loved ones in need.
“We have set out to change the way people give support during a time of need, to make it possible for anyone to send the meals or help that is what people actually want to receive during crisis,” said Malcolm. “Crowdfunding is popular because it’s easy, not because people necessarily find money the most helpful.”
Give InKind has libraries of gifts it suggests for different scenarios a loved one might be facing. The “End of Life/Hospice Care” section, for example, has a Kindle E-reader, grocery and spa gift cards, and a house-cleaning service.
The website also has articles and resources for people dealing with difficult circumstances. Give InKind shares the revenue generated from its recommendations with the suppliers.
Malcolm shared Give InKind’s story for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We make it possible to give the help that’s actually needed during a time of crisis, whether you are near or far.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Our first child was unexpectedly stillborn — and that inspiration hit us like a ton of bricks. We saw our friends and family struggling to know how to help us from around the country. In particular, family members reporting they were calling every Whole Foods in our L.A. neighborhood trying to figure out who could deliver us groceries, friends who said they spent hours researching something more thoughtful than flowers to send, aunts who wished they were closer to come over and do our dishes or cook us dinner. But did we know a service they could order from? The platforms they were attempting to use (Meal Train, GoFundMe) didn’t work for them, and we knew there was a better way.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap to this point, just starting our conversations with angels. Why’d we bootstrap? Because we drank our own Kool-Aid and made money the first week we were live and that was enough motivation to keep going!”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Using affiliate e-commerce in a new way — it’s been around for so long and very few companies are still taking advantage of it. Even more so, the new on-demand and subscription based services have higher revenue shares than traditional affiliate programs, so our ability to say, ‘Friend having cancer treatment? Send a week of dinners via Home Chef!’ drives us an $18 share on a $60 gift purchase. Or send a housecleaner from Cleanify to your friend who just had surgery — 10 percent revenue share on that gift.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Recognizing a B2B use for our platform as soon as it happened, and directing some resources to grow that side immediately. We had someone create a Give InKind page with a wishlist for Standing Rock donations. She received enough donations in three weeks to drive $100 revenue for Give InKind so we immediately began reaching out to non-profits to see if we could put their in-kind donation needs online. Turns out, that’s a major pain-point for them and we can help streamline their donations using our platform as it stands — so we’re currently testing that side of the business and onboarding 10 non-profits per week onto the platform.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Spending money on PR, too early. We’ve found the best PR has come from our own connections and founder outreach —we landed on the cover of the Tacoma News Tribune on Thanksgiving Day from my own pitching and I realized no one can tell your story like you can. Don’t doubt that!”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuck and Priscilla — because, honestly, they have felt the pain of our shared experience and the power of communities to come together in a time of need. They heard the response from loved ones wanting to help. They saw the comments on their Facebook posts of people offering advice, sharing stories, suggesting books. We do all of that on Give InKind and would have been a great resource to add to their arsenal.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Right now, we’re almost entirely co-located so it’s been a while since we did a team building activity. And as married co-founders … oh, who am I kidding? We work day and night.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “A real understanding of the weight of the situations we are covering. A true belief in the ability of Give InKind to impact lives in a tremendously helpful way.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “MVP. MVP. MVP. MVP. Can you launch a single feature of your product to iterate on and drive revenue while you build the rest? For example, we have thousands of curated e-commerce products on the site spanning 30 different life situations that you might want to understand the right thing to send for — we should have launched the totally viable e-commerce portion while we built the rest of the platform. MVP. Did I mention MVP?”