Pete Ghiorse, Peter Tight, and James Ghiorse have a vision of transforming the way people give back.
Their iOS app, GiveTide, seeks to make charitable giving effortless by letting users link their credit cards, round purchases up to the nearest dollar, and donate the spare change (similar to apps like Givelify and Uback). It may not be a household name yet, but the three co-founders have already done a few things that should serve as be a model for other entrepreneurs.
That's the sense I got, anyway, after meeting them last January on a Facebook group for East Coast entrepreneurs and hearing their story. Specifically, they did three things that I think every entrepreneur can -- and should -- do:
1. Solve a personal problem.
"We're sorry, the minimum monthly gift amount is $25."
That's the message Pete Ghiorse received when he tried to set up a $5 monthly donation to his favorite nonprofit.
It shocked him that a nonprofit would actually refuse money, even if it came in small bills. But on further investigation, it turned out to be a problem with the platform, not the nonprofit.
"The fundraising tools and methods nonprofits have at their disposal haven't changed in decades," he explains.
This experience was the impetus for GiveTide. He knew he couldn't be the only one wanting to donate a few dollars at a time, which meant nonprofits were missing out on a significant revenue source.
Often, the "light bulb" moment for an entrepreneur comes from a personal experience. That's how it's worked for me: It was only after nearly going bankrupt on a bad deal that my own agency came up with Roadmapping, a product offering that completely turned our business around.
But the light bulb moment isn't enough. It's important to solve a problem you understand -- and the specifics of that solution shouldn't come from the founder. Which brings us to...
2. Get answers from customers.
The inspiration for GiveTide came from personal experience, but Ghiorse and his co-founders understood that one light bulb experience does not a company make.
"We did countless hours of research and had hundreds of conversations," Ghiorse says. "Through it all, we identified three key barriers to giving: financial, procedural, and social."
Accordingly, the founders designed GiveTide to remove these barriers.
I've also found this to be helpful -- it's a foundational part of my agency business. One of our foundational priorities is to minimize founder-driven design: The only "true" answers come from users.
We spend countless hours testing our apps and design decisions with users, as that's the only way to know what's working and what needs to change. And whether it's a mobile app or a physical product, that's something every entrepreneur should do.
3. Push through barriers.
Ghiorse says GiveTide's road to launching was initially clear. "We realized there were barely any charitable giving apps on the App Store, and none whatsoever that did what we were trying to build. We thought that was a good thing," he explained.
Unfortunately, they missed something.
"Months into development, we discovered that Apple has a big, bold, double underlined section in their development guidelines stating that charitable giving apps are absolutely not allowed," Ghiorse said.
This might have left them dead in the water. But instead of taking the rules at face value, they changed them. One 20-page appeal and several months later, Apple approved an exception to the rule and GiveTide was go for launch.
The GiveTide story is an instructive lesson in entrepreneurship: It demonstrates that when looking for business ideas, nothing beats a problem you've personally experienced. Identifying problems and pain points that you deal with personally is one of the best ways to make sure you're creating something that people actually want.
However, no matter where the problem comes from, the solution should always be based on customer preference. As a founder, you start out with assumptions. Your job is to test them with customers and revise based on that data.
And finally, perhaps the most important lesson here is that no problem is insurmountable. If you're driven, dedicated, and creative enough, you can find a workaround for almost anything.
When faced with an opportunity, sometimes the best thing is to jump on it and figure out the specifics later. In my own experience with Rootstrap, I've found that having a plan is important -- but if you allow building the plan to get in the way of building the product, you're lost.
Sometimes the best course of action is to jump on an opportunity even if you aren't sure how you'll execute.
Because the truth is, you can't find a golden opportunity.
You can only make one.