Interview with Ed Messman, Giveo

Last week, Boulder-based Giveo (, which develops cause marketing software, said it had raised $1.5M in its Series A funding round. We spoke with Ed Messman, CEO of the firm, to learn more about the company and its plans.

Ed, thanks for the time today. What's the story behind Giveo?

Ed Messman: A year ago, I came off selling HiveLive. Before HiveLive, I had spent most of my career in venture finance and early stage software companies. I jumped into HiveLive in 2008, which made enterprise, white-label hosted social networking software for businesses. The premise there, was that businesses were trying to figure out a way to tap into the medium of social and community. HiveLive grew pretty rapidly, and I sold it last fall. At the same time, the co-founder of Giveo and I--who works for a big nonprofit group doing direct marketing--were seeing how, in the same way that corporations were struggling and testing the social medium for external marketing purposes, that the\ philanthropic sector was starting to do the same thing. The philanthropic sector is full of traditionally slow adopters, and the market is a laggard to the corporate markets. Since corporations are just trying to figure out how to use social, philanthropy is not too far behind. So, after we sold the company last fall, we started building an early platform in the early part of this year and latter part of last year. We raised some seed capital, launched in April and March, and went to market in July. We signed up thirty five accounts in about 60 days, and really during the course of that process ran through focus groups to understand the needs and problem points there are for nonprofits and foundations.

In doing so, we heard a few things. One, is that those nonprofits didn't know how to use social media, or how to use new digital tools to engage with their audience. Nonprofits, in particular, were focused on how to find new donors, but didn't know anything about those donors, even though those donors are now living online more than ever. They don't how to relate and communicate with them. Foundations are really interested in tapping into the voice of the audience, and finding folks that are involved in social issues they support. We took note of that, and launched our platform for two specific reasons. One, is we wanted to create a campaign and marketing management platform for nonprofits to do their fundraising campaigns; and, provide those campaigns with ways to get volunteers, run fundraising events, and to push those out to a variety of different channels. Finally, we allow them to monitor how those channels are performing.

For foundations, we developed a crowdsourcing platform to capture the voice of the customer, through user-generated content. For instance, we work with the Brooklyn Commmunity Foundation, and launched a campaign for them to help them engage their audience, spread their brand through the marketplace, while at the same time, realizing they do not have lots of money to spend on the platform. We turned the platform on for them relatively quickly, and ran a campaign which was a huge success for them. Through the course of the campaign, we were able to attract 32,000 unique users, and capture ten to twelve new corporate media partners. That's a good example of what we're able to do on the crowdsourcing side. We're also looking at wrapping marketing services around it. Nonprofits know how to the analog market works, through things like direct mail and events, but they are not as attuned to moving to the online world, doing things like Google ads, or promoting themselves on Facebook.

So what are you using this new round of funding for?

Ed Messman: The funding will be used for sales and marketing, as well as continued platform development. It's for more solution build out, primarily, because at the core we're a software company. We have an opportunity to help nonprofits understand and run their campaigns more efficiently online, where their audience is today.

With the nonprofits, do these kind of social marketing efforts take a dedicated person, or a part time person?

Ed Messman: They must have someone, either full time, or more than likely part time. It's funny, we had the same conversations with corporation in Early 2008 at HiveLive. That's when Facebook wasn't Facebook, and Twitter was not Twitter. Corporations were asking--do we have to dedicate someone for social? If you want to use social, you need someone to monitor and build the community, and that's the way it is. Now, it's not too surprising to see community managers listed when you see corporate job offerings. I think the same thing needs to apply to nonprofits, you need someone who is monitoring conversations, and who can help you move into this new medium. It takes some commitment--you do need someone part time or full time to jump into this sector. With our platform, we're trying to make it easier to create and push campaigns. So, you can imagine that being able to create a campaign and publish it to many different channels, along with analytics, and an integrated dashboard can be helpful. You don't have to create the campaign, and then go to Facebook to post something, Twitter to post it, and then your email manager. We've integrated all of that to save time, and made it intuitive to build lots of different campaigns.

As a serial entrepreneur, what did you learn from HiveLive?

Ed Messman: The brand--whether it's a corporate brand like Apple, or a nonprofit brand like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science--is still a brand in terms of customer relationships. They believe in the cause, and there are the same relationships. We've learned that it's very similar in how corporations brand relates to customers, as a nonprofit brand relates to advocates. What we learned at HiveLive, is that having a platform is great, but if an audience doesn't know how to use it and the best practices about how to integrate that, it won't be used to it fullest. That's why we're looking to put intelligent and thoughtful services wrapped around our product, which will help get the best usage of our platform, and so we can develop case studies, and so forth. If you look at software companies, you'll see that they have had services wrapped around their offerings for a number of years. That's even more the case for nonprofits, who are without deep marketing teams or budgets to spend on tools. There are a lot of educational opportunities for them to learn these things, and to help package this for an audience that needs it, but doesn't have the budget.

Finally, what are you working on in the next six months?

Ed Messman: The great thing about this market, and which also is a downside of the market, is it is very innovative. It's changing so fast, and ever day news things are coming out. It's interesting to see corporations testing different types of campaigns--for example, the recent World Aids Day Campaign run by Alicia Keys, where she convinced celebrity friends to die for a day online unless they raised one million dollars--cutting off all digital communications, including Twitter, Facebook, etc. People are trying to figure out how to test these different channels for causes. We're looking over the next six months to build best practices into out platform, integrated into a lot of different opportunities to engage consumers. They live on Facebook every day, buy products online, and donate money or volunteer online. It's figuring out how to engage all those different, disparate pieces, and figure out if it's working, and if a nonprofit is seeing higher conversion rates. We'll also continue to bring on nonprofits and foundations, and continue to learn and iterate on our platform, and we'll also start moving to serve corporate customers. We're already talking with corporate foundations to run their cause campaigns as well. At the end of the day, we want to be viewed as both a cause marketing platform, and a services company, able to run a variety of different cause campaigns for nonprofits, foundations, or corporations.

Thanks, and good luck!