In this series, we talk to student and alumni entrepreneurs about how they are making an impact with their startups.
Venture: Charityvest gives anyone a tax-deductible, personal giving fund. The fund is linked to the users’ bank account, and users can add money into it with a tap. Then they can search for any charity in the U.S. and send money to it with a tap. It’s free, so 100% of all donations go to nonprofits.
Founder: Stephen Kump ’17
What was the moment when you had the idea for this startup?
Before Yale SOM, I worked as a philanthropic consultant to high-net worth donors. I was frequently blown away by their generosity. The one thing they all had in common was a “donor-advised fund.” Donor-advised funds are tax-deductible accounts that enable a donor to commit money to charity today, but make the decision on which specific organization to support later. It’s essentially a savings account for giving.
Even though I’m not a major donor, I realized that giving would be a much better experience if I had a fund that acted as a financial interface, rather than awkward credit card forms on websites, transaction fees, and tracking down paperwork at the end of the year.
At the beginning of my startup journey, I imagined a world where everyone has a simple charitable giving fund, and, thus, CharityVest was born.
What’s the problem you’re trying to solve or the gap you’re trying to fill?
Before Venmo, 10 years ago, splitting a dinner bill among friends was possible, but a big hassle. Today, charitable giving is possible for mass-market donors, but it’s a hassle. A charitable giving fund makes giving more like the Venmo experience: easy and free.
What was the most important resource Yale SOM contributed to your startup?
Despite beginning my venture at SOM, I worked for two years as a consultant at Bain & Company before going full-time on CharityVest. Everyone’s path is different, and SOM’s approach focused on developing me as an entrepreneur, instead of rushing my venture. This turned out to be key for me.
I’ve been able to roll lessons learned at SOM into the current phase of our venture, though it looks pretty different from where it was while I was a student. There are a couple of things I’d like to point out in particular that developed me:
- Kyle Jensen, Jenn McFadden, and Rob Bettigole’s mentorship, in particular, was thoughtful and personal. They pushed me to think about the integration of my life and my venture. They didn’t want me to be a successful entrepreneur alone, but wanted me to see success in every area of my life.
- Sharon Oster’s Nonprofit Strategy class helped me think about how nonprofits are strategically arrayed across the market. We now have plans to integrate fundraising capabilities for nonprofits into our app, and these were largely informed by Professor Oster’s class.
- Finally, I must say something about spending time in SOM’s Honest Tea Entrepreneurial Studies Suite, where students worked side-by-side on their ventures. So many classmates helped me. The community around entrepreneurship at SOM is the program’s most valuable resource. There’s a genuine sense of shared friendship in making something out of nothing.
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has hit since graduation?
We launched our beta app in early December 2019. The response was phenomenal. We received more than $1 million in charitable contributions by the end of the first month. We’re moving into 2020 with a lot of great feedback and momentum to go further.