What do you do when you’re the top company in your niche and in the top five of your category across the world? If you’re fundraising platform GiveForward, you take a step back, dig into your list of goals and set your sights on the future. Ethan Austin, president and co-founder, said his goal is to make GiveForward the place people go immediately after hearing of a loved one in need — even before sending a card or researching on WebMD.
To that end, the company has hired Chad Cooper (pictured at right) as its first CTO. Cooper’s previously held the same position and ran the engineering and product departments at GrubHub, where he scaled product and engineering teams. According to Austin, one of the biggest challenges GiveForward will need to overcome in the coming years will be delivering a robust product that can handle the needs of the predominantly mobile-first users his company has amassed. And to do so, he plans to rely on Cooper’s experience, not only as a team-builder, but also as a top executive.
“It’s really nice, as first-time entrepreneurs, to bring in people who have seen this movie before to understand what hyper-growth looks like,” Austin said.
To date, GiveForward has enabled more than 50,000 families to raise nearly $75 million. That equates to 250 percent growth compared to this time last year. It’s numbers like these that have propelled the company to the top in the crowdfunding world, but Austin isn’t satisfied yet: he wants to see his company help raise $1 billion dollars by the end of 2017.
It’s a crazy figure, but Austin believes the need is there, as indicated by the 54 million Americans struggling to pay their medical bills today. He says people in this country spend as much as $400 billion each year on out-of-pocket medical expenses, and GiveForward provides an alternative to paying those costs down that is becoming increasingly popular.
“We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of people we can help,” Austin said. “To do that, it requires us now shifting our focus toward execution.” The challenge of scaling comes with not only getting the GiveForward platform in front of new people and convincing them to use it, but also being sure that it can handle the type of increased load for which Austin is planning.
The first step in doing so, Austin says, is providing tools that better serve mobile, which makes up more than half of GiveForward’s users. Therefore, the company is working on an app that will allow people to run and manage fundraising campaigns from the palm of their hands. As the product continues to evolve and scale, Austin believes Cooper will become a valuable guide. For a tech company that previously lacked a CTO, the hire comes at a time when managing the product is more essential than ever.
To Austin, quick wins are not currently a priority. Instead, he wants to dig in, grow the product and hit $1 billion within just four years.