Startup showcase: ‘Philanthropreneur’ develops a new platform for giving
In 2016, $390 billion was given to charitable causes. With the growing amount of options to give, convenient and efficient tools are needed to help individuals and organizations manage their dollars. According to Winspire, 62 percent of all donors worldwide prefer to give online. Those numbers were proven in 2017 with online giving growing 11.4 percent higher than was predicted.
Billy Weisman the creator of DoTopia believes ease that giving can change the world and has not only created a digital giving platform but an entire new kind of currency.
Name: Billy Weisman
City you live in: Split time between Minneapolis, Aspen and Miami
City of birth: Minneapolis
High school attended: St. Louis Park
College attended: University of Minnesota
Name of company: DoTopia
Business Start Date: 2013
Number of Employees: 8
Q. What led to this point?
A. I am a serial entrepreneur and now a philanthropreneur. As a third-generation entrepreneur, I created and operated 10 successful businesses from the ground-up. My largest endeavor, Weisman Enterprises, grew to $500 million in managed revenues by generating value for the likes of Target, Home Depot and Coca-Cola by connecting the boardroom to the street. I have always been passionate about making the world a better place through philanthropic ventures and involvement on various boards. Believing in the power that each individual can change the world, my latest venture empowers people to make giving part of their lifestyle and expand the opportunities for individuals and businesses to support nonprofits.
Q. What is your business?
A. DoTopia is a digital giving platform that connects to over 1.6 million nonprofits. DoTopia seeks to make giving more efficient for individuals and businesses by creating a common currency for common good called DoDollars. We work with HR, corporate social responsibility and marketing teams to create giving solutions and campaigns that inspire employees, foster customer loyalty and advance workplace values. Additionally, any individual is able to set up their own Personal Giving Account. Each user creates an account to manage their giving in one place. Individuals can create giving goals, print off tax receipts, gift DoDollars, and add more funds with just a couple clicks of the mouse. Our goal is to keep your giving process as easy as possible. We believe in more givers, giving more and that every gift matters.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. It truly depends on the kind of help I am seeking. For business inspiration, nature or wilderness is where I find my peace and inventiveness.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. After raising my family, growing and selling five startups, as a hobby, I personally challenged myself to create a better giving model. DoTopia is a social venture that amalgamates my passions for business and philanthropy.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. DoTopia provides a new and unique way to include your employees and customers in your company’s philanthropy initiatives. Corporations give away billions of dollars a year and most often a few employees have a say in where the money is going. With DoTopia, brands get more out of their philanthropic investments by driving loyalty and affinity using philanthropy as an engagement tool essentially saying: “we care about the causes that matter to YOU.”
We also make corporate giving easier for brands by managing all of the charity disbursement, payroll deductions, volunteer tracking, and tax receipts in one platform. We have found many businesses are still doing this manually and it is very taxing on the individual or team who is required to manage the program.
On an individual giving level, we are encouraging more givers to give because every gift matters. That said, most people give to at least 3-4 organizations each year. Rather than writing individual checks or sending in cash, all your giving can be done on one platform with the click of a button. We do everything else on the computer today, why should our giving be any different?
Q. Where did you pivot in your company’s journey? What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. Timing is a big obstacle for any distruptive business. DoTopia’s technology was first developed five years ago, but we found the concept was too young for the marketplace. Many company’s social responsibility consisted of supporting just one or two nonprofits and corporate giving was still looked at as a top-down activity. Over the years, the concept of involving employees in corporate giving program has grown and the idea of engaging with customers is starting to break the ice allowing a large opportunity window to open.
Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Most would say my personal strengths include creativity, sensitivity, and experience.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. I have been blessed with many accomplishments and achievements, but I am most proud of not what I’ve accomplished, but how I have accomplished it.
Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
A. In any startup endeavor, having enough cash flow and financing to get off the runway is the main obstacle.
Q. How are you funding your business — organically, angel or VC investments?
A. Primarily myself and a handful of local angel investors. While we are experiencing steady organic growth we are seeking value added investors and partners.
Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
A. To be the most trusted brand in giving by helping brands do good, better.
Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
A. (1) Not thinking that you are great; (2) Imagination and dedication; (3) Humility and humanity.
Q. How are you different from other competitors in the space?
A. DoTopia’s model is different than traditional workplace giving or cause-marketing products because we truly focus on personalizing the experience. The main ways we do that are through Personal Giving Accounts (PGA’s) and DoDollars. Each individual who participates in a brand program is given their own PGA where they can give any DoDollars a brand or company gifts them, in addition to buying more on their own. The platform looks similar to a checking account where you can easily manage all of your dollars and giving transactions online. DoTopia’s mission is to encourage more givers, giving more. Starting at the corporate level is a great way to encourage people who may not already give to become philanthropic and feel a greater connection to both their employer and the organization where they choose to donate the money.
Q. Why do you do what you do? What is your “why,” your purpose?
A. DoTopia is around because we want to help identify and support the good works in others.
Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you? Did you get valuable feedback? Did you get connected to resources? Did you pivot because of the experience?
A. 1 Million Cups helped us hone in our marketing pitch when it comes to speaking with other individuals about our company. The most valuable part of the process was the variety of questions we were asked at the end of the pitch, so we know how to better prepare when these same questions arise again. We were connected to all the incredible resources at the James J. Hill Center and plan to use many of their free business resources going forward.