With a 100,000-euro prize from a French ad agency, a Raleigh startup called GoodBookey
just moved from passion project to full-time business pursuit.
Alongside 89 other startup founders from around the world—the best of 3500 applicants from 141 countries—co-founder and CEO Tony Pease
accepted his Publicis90 prize
in Paris last Friday. Besides cash, his team will get a year of support in the areas of communications, marketing and technology from a senior digital manager at Publicis Groupe,
the world's fourth largest ad agency.
What does it mean for GoodBookey? The hope is to help more of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. raise funds, and in its unique, fun and mobile way.
GoodBookey evolved from its founders combined experiences running a technology consulting business and a family-oriented nonprofit. Pease was vice president of business development at i-Cubed until it was sold to KPIT in 2014. He helped spin out a consulting group called iCiDIGITAL
in September 2014 and continues on as a board member.
Meanwhile, in 2014, he and his wife Anita Pease
launched a philanthropic organization called Small Hands Big Hearts United
helping families find and participate in community service opportunities. The idea for GoodBookey came by accident.
As they met with nonprofits across the Triangle area to source volunteer opportunities, they saw how difficult it was for organizations operated by a single individual or small team to generate funds.
“They have to make the time choice of, are they going to raise money or do the mission?,” Pease says.
He wanted to find a way for passionate nonprofit leaders to passively generate funds without having to make that choice. An avid sports fan privy to the gambling industry around sports, he, Anita and a group of friends—operations manager Sarah Deasy
, marketer Bryan Martin
and developer Brandon Phillips
of the Everest Agency
, product manager Rob Downs
of RD4 Consulting and software engineer Dan Shugan
of i-Cubed—decided to create a way to divert the $1 or $5 bets from online gambling sites into the coffers of charities.
“We’re not actually gambling,” he explains. “We’re betting on who will make a charitable donation.”
And say those bets aggregate across a few hundred people?
“That could create some real social impact,” Pease says.
The app is simple to use. To create a challenge, pick a sporting event, a charity to support, a friend(s) on GoodBookey and a dollar amount to donate (no more than $25). You’ll find some basic information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City or Transforming Hope Ministries in Durham or the NC Harm Reduction Coalition or any of 14 nonprofits already signed up on the site.
Just like in gambling, there’s a spread. If your team wins, you and your friend(s) make the donation at the end of the game. Stripe handles the payment (waiving the processing fee for the first $15K) and directs it to a charity's bank account.
Charities then get a list of the donors and tax information.
And GoodBookey, if successful, will eventually monetize the site from partnership with stadiums, sports teams or brands that want to engage fans around charities. For now, the startup just charges a 3 percent fee on every transaction.
But as simple as it sounds, the app’s development was mired in issues.
The first year was spent getting deep with lawyers about the legal implications. The majority advised him either not to do build the app, to at least change the name and to get umbrella insurance because he could get sued.
Pease didn’t take any of that advice. The name was important—he wanted to redirect existing social behaviors to create an impact, and the name helped accomplish that. He eventually found a law firm willing to help him through the gray area—Forrest Firm
said its lawyers would do everything possible to protect the startup.
The App Store presented another challenge—the app was rejected six times in part because of its association with gambling. It was eventually approved in March 2016. A Google Play app is also available.
Charities were a challenge too. The bigger nonprofits like Susan G. Komen or the Wounded Warrior Project weren’t as focused on the $1 or $5 donations, but the charities with budgets between $2 million and $10 million liked the idea of aggregating a bunch of small amounts.
Raleigh-based Vs. Cancer Foundation
, for example, used GoodBookey to rally supporters and fans around Arizona Wildcats Baseball during the College World Series last week.
Says Ashleigh Kincaid, the foundation’s director of marketing and hospital relations, “It is always a challenge to raise money. GoodBookey is taking that challenge out of our hands and putting it into the hands of people in our community that support us and our cause.”
In Groundwork Labs
this summer, Pease's focus is on publicity and media attention as well as outreach to stadiums across the U.S. in hopes of engaging fans during sporting events. That will be a differentiator, Pease believes. He'll need it—there are nearly 400 charity-focused startups on AngelList
trying to get in on the $400 billion or so in donations expected to be made in the U.S. this year.
Publicis should help on both accounts.
The contest was held in honor of the agency’s 90th anniversary and winning projects had to coincide with the company’s areas of expertise in PR, digital marketing and branding and e-commerce. Prizes ranged from 10,000 to 500,000 euros. And each business gets a year of business and health insurance in addition to the mentorship and branding help.
The funding helps sustain and propel the company—Pease bootstrapped until now.
The real benefits remain to be seen, though at a minimum, the award has offered Pease some validation that his side project just might have what it takes to be a real business.