See a Niche? Start a Tech Company
By Michelle Valigursky and Abi Averill 14C
Tech start-ups often emerge from a recognized need. Before his company’s launch in July 2013, finance professional Mark Feinberg 96B 02MBA took a hard look at how nonprofits raise money.
“I realized there was a growing need for a reliable crowdfunding engine dedicated to the specific needs of nonprofits,” he says.
Feinberg sought to democratize the funding process and allow donors to fully understand how donated resources are applied. “A crucial element to success is follow-through,” he says. “We built a robust application called our ‘transparency workroom’ that provides insight into post-funding budget and project status.”
Now housed in the Atlanta Tech Village, Feinberg’s company, Uruut, has accelerated the concept of collective giving.
“A revolution within the fund-raising space is just beginning to take hold,” says Doug Shipman 95C, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Shipman also serves on the board of advisers for Uruut.
“I’ve long been a fan and user of various crowdfunding platforms including Kiva.org, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. The idea of bringing together the support of many small funders makes so much sense for both giver and recipient,” he says. “I was excited by Mark’s vision of bringing the power of crowdfunding to the arena of nonprofit, especially very localized projects. My background in nonprofits helped me share with him the needs of those who are fund-raising as well as how public-private partnerships work and how Uruut might help.”
For accountability, organizations requesting Uruut support—for a park, an Eagle Scout project, a scholarship—are vetted and must be registered nonprofits. Once a project is greenlighted, Uruut supports an all-or-nothing funding philosophy.
“This has a number of advantages,” Feinberg says. “It’s less risk for everyone. You can’t build half a park. If you need $5,000, you need $5,000. Bottom line. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they’re going to spread the word. Projects either make their goal or find little support, there’s rarely any in-between.”
Project owners set their own funding goal and deadline, craft a story, and upload a few pictures, Feinberg says.
“Individuals can pledge money to make the project a reality,” he says. “Businesses can sponsor that same project, and foundations can contribute to it or match the contributions of others.”
Uruut was just named one of “Ten Start-ups from Atlanta That You Need to Know About” by tech news source The Next Web.
“Charitable giving is undergoing a major shift in how people give,” Feinberg says. “Growth in giving is basically flat, but online fund-raising is growing nearly 15 percent a year and is expected to continue. Crowdfunding is expected to grow by triple digits. Put these facts together, and you are ripe for a sea change in how fund-raising will forever be approached.”
Feinberg is excited to see what comes next. “I want to walk down the virtual hallway that is the Uruut marketplace and say, we helped groups do a lot of awesome stuff.”
When it comes to Emory alumni who have founded tech start-ups, Feinberg is in good company. Check these out:
This start-up is staking its future on the increasingly popular Google Apps platform. While many users are still relying on Microsoft Exchange and Office, Gail Axelrod 11B says Google Apps is going to win because of its cost-effectiveness and simplicity. Axelrod is the corporate communications manager at BetterCloud, founded in 2011 by David Politis 04C, which focuses on administrative management and security for companies using Google Apps. BetterCloud’s product, FlashPanel, is already serving more than twenty thousand organizations and thirteen million end users.
On the Run
Peter Pelberg 11B created the app Yog to motivate users to get outside and go for a run. A runner himself, Pelberg says Yog’s inspiration came from a lack of running buddies when he moved to New York City after college. The app, which gets its name from the movie Anchorman, connects runners all over the world, allowing them to effectively run together through audio and visual pacing cues. While the app’s pacing could be helpful in competitive running, Pelberg says, it can just as easily be used for fun. “I wanted to make different types of runs for different types of people,” he says.
An “ecommerce solution provider,” ShopVisible was founded by Brian Kujawski 94C 97MBA. First developed in 2001, ShopVisible aids in website design and provides strategies to attract new customers to websites and to convert previous visitors to paying customers.
Garret Seiger 11B and Daniel Waltzer 11B created Woblet in 2011, hoping to use buyers’ love of a good discount to encourage local businesses. Popular among bargain-hunting students, Woblet provides discounts of 5 and 15 percent at Atlanta eateries like Alon’s Bakery. Using either the smartphone app or a card, users “spin” for discounts at checkout, and, after they’ve paid, accrue points toward freebies like gelato from Whole Foods.
Founded in 2008 by Eran Gil 05B and Michael Cohn 05B, Cloud Sherpas helps companies implement cloud computing, as well as keep pace with changes in the technology. By using the cloud, which is essentially a storage system on the Internet rather than a hard drive, companies and individuals can access data from anywhere in the world. Cloud Sherpas has grown from an Atlanta company to an international one, with locations as far away as the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.
When Greg Galant 05C started the Shorty Awards in 2008 to celebrate superior work in social media, he realized just how many journalists were using it in their work. This led him to found Muck Rack Daily, a website that analyzes, compiles, and shares what journalists on social media outlets are saying. The site is “a social network similar to LinkedIn, or even Twitter or Facebook, for this one industry of journalists, as well as people who want to connect with them,” he says.