If all goes as planned for Good Done Great over the next few years, Earl Bridges and David Barach could one day be standing in front of a room of satisfied investors, reminiscing about this moment, their big turning point.
For the past six years, the two have built the startup company around an online platform that helps corporations manage all facets of their social outreach programs. Bridges, president, is based in Charleston, where the company is anchored. Barach, the chief executive officer, is based in a secondary office in Tacoma, Wash.
The two had worked together around 2004 at a San Diego-based company called Kintera, which was later acquired by Blackbaud. They stayed in touch, and after working at several software companies, they decided they “had the right idea and the right tools” to start Good Done Great.
It took a few years of working from their homes on opposite sides of the country to get it off the ground.
Today, business appears to be going well. Good Done Great now serves two dozen Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and Monsanto, with a combined 900,000 employees. When corporations seek bids from companies that can handle their social responsibility efforts like environmental projects or grant-writing, Good Done Great lands 56 percent of those deals, Barach and Bridges said.
So here’s what they think is going to set them apart from their competitors such as MicroEdge, which was acquired in September by Charleston-based Blackbaud for $160 million. Good Done Great recently bought a technology from a website called Give.com, and it’s essentially a savings account individuals can use to set aside money for charitable donations. They think that’s a ground-breaking technology because it can be folded into the core platform their clients already use, and eventually they can build it into an app with an emphasis on social networking.
“So, once employees have this giving account, the features will not only allow them to plan what they want to give to and when … they also will be able to follow people they’re friends with, and see what they care about, what they’re participating in,” Barach said, adding that the goal is to make “workplace giving feel like giving and not like work.”
Their vision is to roll out the program, which the founders have termed “the 401G,” to their Fortune 500 clients first, and then eventually mainstream it to smaller companies. In addition to 401K retirement plans and flexible health care spending accounts, their employees would be able to opt-in to a payroll deduction for an individual giving account, which they can monitor with an app and use throughout the year on whatever causes they feel compelled to donate to.
“So then when someone asks you to sponsor a race they’re doing, you can go into your account and say, ‘OK, I have those funds, here you go,’” Bridges said. “It should be easy to give, and it’s not easy to do right now. If you can make it easy, then giving goes up.”
Although companies may have their own causes, such as curbing childhood obesity or protecting rainforests, Bridges said employers want to support the philanthropic activities their workers are interested in as well.
“The corporations may have the best intentions with their causes, but if you have a sister affected by breast cancer, that’s your cause,” he said.
And it’s not just about doing the right thing for employees. In five years, millennials will represent half of the global workforce, and that generation “wants to work for a company that has a soul,” Bridges said.
The challenge: Although the central technology for the giving account is already built, there’s still a great deal of developing to do to integrate the service into the Good Done Great platform. And the pressure is on to launch the service quickly, while making sure it’s as flawless as possible. After all, this technology has potential to become the PayPal of charitable giving, Barach and Bridges told investors at a fundraising event last week.
That means the startup based in a warehouse on Meeting Street is on a tight deadline to raise millions of dollars to hire more staff, and it has to have the right recruitment strategy to attract the sort of expert-level developers who have the skills to perfect this new software.
Over the next few months, the founders will be pitching the company to investors across the country in an effort to raise $2.5 million. That money will allow them to double their development team within the next year.
Bridges said they’re confident skilled developers will want to join them, even though they’re among dozens of companies in the area recruiting the same type of talent.
“We try to compete on the things that are important to us,” he said. “So, do you want to do good in the world and have a bright shiny penny at the end of the day? Because we’re the guys for that.”
He said they can back up that claim, because they recently reincorporated in South Carolina as a benefit corporation, a relatively new distinction that means companies can earn profits and sell shares like any other corporation, but they also have to prove on a regular basis that they benefit society in a meaningful way.
There are no tax incentives for the classification, and it requires more work as far as tax filing goes, Bridges said. But it was important that the company illustrate to its clients that they were in the business of doing good things, not just make money off of it, he added.
“We want to make a living and be profitable, but we also want to make a difference,” he said.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail