Today I am speaking to brothers Colin and Whit Hunter, the Cofounders of Better World. After years as entrepreneurs, the brothers began a social impact venture built to support nonprofits, individuals, and businesses. They are disrupting the non-profit industry with their free and easy to use fundraising platform.
In this episode we will cover:
- What Better World provides non profits
- How Better World is funded
- Building Growth
- How to be unique and different
To learn more about Better World check out their website.
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The Legalpreneur Podcast is advertising/marketing material. It is not legal advice. Please consult with your attorney on these topics. Copyright Legalpreneur Inc 2022
Episode 239: Building a Better World with Colin and Whit Hunter Transcript
Andrea: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Legalpreneur podcast. I’m your host, Andrea Sager, founder and CEO of Legalpreneur Inc. As a serial entrepreneur and someone that works exclusively with small business owners legally protecting their business, I’m dedicated to covering common legal issues faced by business owners, providing you with the business knowledge you need to catapult your businesses growth and showing you just how some of the world’s most elite entrepreneurs have handled these legal and business issues themselves. In true attorney fashion, the information in this episode is not legal advice. This is for informational purposes only, and you should always consult with your attorney before implementing any of the information in the show. Hello there. Welcome back to another episode of the Legalpreneur podcast. Today I am joined by two co founders. I don’t think we’ve ever had co founders on the podcast together at the same time before, so I’m really excited to see how this goes. Today I have the co founders of Better World, Colin and Whit. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me today.
Whit: [00:01:07] Thank you for having us. Thanks.
Andrea: [00:01:09] Amazing. Well, tell us, give us your backstory. How did you get started? How did you all both individually get to where you are today?
Whit: [00:01:18] So we started Better Worlds just around nine years ago. We’ve always been interested in businesses that do good and better. World was born out of a desire to kind of build one ourselves that serve the common good. So we started off with a main focus is working with non-profits really, How can we give organizations easy to use fundraising tools that are beautiful and modern and free? Yeah, I mean, in some ways it was kind of a passion project. I think we both wouldn’t have been entrepreneurs for a long time and worked a lot in the for profit space. But we’ve also non-profits have always been an important sector to us individually and volunteer work on serving on boards and advising nonprofits, etc. In our volunteer capacity, we saw the tools that the nonprofits that we cared about were using, and it just felt about 10 to 15 years behind. Everything that was being used in the we had access to on the for profit side. And it kind of felt like there was this opportunity to. If we could serve nonprofits by delivering kind of bringing them up to a modern era and even taking it beyond and providing best in class tools, that would be awesome, even in a for profit arena that could help them raise more money with less effort, save them time, and ultimately allow them to do more of what they do best, which is kind of serving their mission.
Andrea: [00:02:52] So can you give a more of a background of better world? What exactly does Better World do? And I’m very curious, how did you find those first clients?
Whit: [00:03:04] So Better World Today has a free suite of easy to use fundraising tools for nonprofits, anything from online auctions to online crowdfunding to ticketing to donations to raffles and sweepstakes, to just kind of a full suite of both virtual tools, but also in-person kind of hybrid event solutions. The simplest way to put it is that we make it really easy for organizations to raise funds and engage donors. How? Wherever those donors are. We began just with an online auction platform. It actually began as a student project at the University of Virginia, where we created this online auction. And in hopes of trying to raise some funds for the restoration of the rotunda, which was the university’s central building that was falling in disrepair. And so as students, we we built this platform. And then with what we had built, we started getting attention from people in our network saying, hey, this is actually really beautiful. We like this more than other things that are out there. Could you do this for us? And so from one organization we were raising funds for that turned to two. And then we said, Hey, maybe there’s actually a need for this. And and we went from there.
Andrea: [00:04:15] That’s awesome. So how I’m curious how how does Better World actually make money? I know you have the free suite. So do you actually make anything off of that? Is there like interchange fees from payments or do you only make money on the paid products or services that you have?
Colin: [00:04:31] Yeah. So we are we are not a freemium model, which is pretty common in the software space. You have a free version. Then the goal is to really migrate people to a better version that’s paid. I think our we consider ourselves as a social impact venture. So if we can run at cost, clearly there are costs to providing all these tools and marketing and everything for our non-profits, and it’s really important to us that we’re providing living wages and health care for our team and really caring for our internal team as well. So we have we have a funding model very much like Wikipedia or NPR. We try to keep it free for the nonprofit because every dollar counts for them, but we give every donor the option of making a contribution to help keep better world free. It’s 100% optional. If every donor at a nonprofit chooses not to contribute. We don’t go back and charge the nonprofit. But there are enough people, and we’re very transparent with our mission and what we’re trying to do. And so what we have found is definitely a leap of faith for us. But what we have found is enough donors are really supportive of that, that they’re fine, making that sort of micro contribution, the equivalent of like an Uber eats delivery fee or something like that, so that they know that nonprofit is keeping 100% of whatever they’re giving to the nonprofit.
Andrea: [00:06:00] Nice. That’s that’s really interesting to know. That’s how it works. I I’m curious, have you ever had any donors give you any pushback or any hate for offering that?
Whit: [00:06:11] I mean, the beauty is if you serve hundreds of thousands of people, you’ll always find just statistically, you’ll find a couple of people that are having a bad day. But but the beauty is it’s 100% optional. So if they don’t want to make a contribution, they don’t have to. And if they made one by accident and are upset about it, then we’ll refund it to them. You know, we really are in this to serve nonprofits. We think we can help nonprofits raise over $1,000,000,000 and keep 100% of what they’re raising.
Andrea: [00:06:43] That’s awesome. I love that goal. Now, how I know you said y’all are nine years in, so how big is the team now?
Colin: [00:06:51] It’s a good question. So we are we like to say that we are a two year old startup that’s been around for nine years along. We spent a long time building out the product suite and doing it in a way was part out of self preservation and part out of setting it up to be able to scale with a small team offering a free product with a small team. We have to keep our costs low and so we have to automate a tremendous amount. But with that automation, it actually makes it easier for those nonprofits to do the things that they would want to do. For example, if you make any sort of contribution to a nonprofit, whether it’s online through our platform or you give them a check or cash or whatever, they can automatically send receiving to all donors in a fraction of a second. That saves them hours of time of sending kind of donor receipt letters and things like that. And that takes a long time. But we’ve got a brilliant CTO and tech team like that takes a long time to be able to plan that in the right way. That can work for tens of thousands of organizations without breaking.
Colin: [00:08:02] And so for us, it was like it was that long run way of getting to a point where we could scale. So then in the beginning of 2020, when we really started making ourselves available and aware to the public, we went from about 100 organizations that we were working with to over 35,000 in the first 11 months, and now we’ve had over 70,000 organizations sign up for our platform. We’re the fastest growing fundraising platform in the world right now, and so we actually have a pretty small team. We’ve got about eight people internally. We’re definitely growing and we’ve got even some offers going out in the next couple of days. And then we have a great group of partners and vendors that are some outsourced roles that kind of we found allows us to focus on what we do best instead of spending a tremendous amount of time on hiring, training, etc., which is still really important to us. But we’re moving at such a pace. We need to be able to work with some of these external groups and partners that are really best in class to help accelerate our growth in the right way.
Andrea: [00:09:10] Wow. That’s that’s really impressive. That’s massive growth. And so but I guess. I guess it was a lot of patience, I think. Was it seven years that you were really building the foundation and then you said really two years ago is when you’ve really ramped up on boarding. So talk to me about those seven years, because I feel like that’s where we are with Legalpreneur is like we have like bills are paid, we’re not flush, we’re not incredibly comfortable, but it’s like bills are paid and we know we’re just really building that foundation. So talk to me about that.
Whit: [00:09:46] I’m certainly happy to be on the other side of that period, and in hindsight, it’s very easy to make it all seem intentional, which is true. I think what was really helpful is staying very close to the customer when when we during those seven years, we were doing everything for the organizations we were serving. So I was uploading items. I would be setting up their campaigns, doing all of the work. And the beauty of that is that you emerge with an intimate understanding of everything that needs to be going on. It was an education. I came from venture capital, so I knew very little about this space that I was trying to serve. So a long, a long educational time where we were building a bit better and better tools. But I didn’t expect that we would scale from 100 to 70000 organizations. It’s hardly a repeatable business model of build all these tools than hope. But I think we were just committed to we knew the organization we were serving, we knew the need, and then we were hopeful that that that message would resonate. And we’re fortunate that it did. Both win and our third co-founder been our CTO. They really. They really deserve that credit for that patience and vision of what this could be and also speaks to some of our early investors.
Colin: [00:11:12] This is I think a lot of investors have to view this as a more philanthropic initiative. And that requires patience because we are not a typical we’re not trying to be an Uber or that’s like maximize revenue. Again, we’re social impact ventures. So patience is a great word that not only internally but with the community community that we were surrounded by of the the organizations that we were supporting that understood that we were a work in progress, that we were building tools that we didn’t have yet. And they stuck with us and were and we took their feedback and our early supporters that gave us the runway to be able to build these tools. And now it’s starting to really kind of flourish and take off. And and so, yeah, I think it’s it just speaks to this ethos of like to to actually build a better world. We can’t it’s not just about one company. It’s about creating this ecosystem of like minded individuals that all play their role and share that vision of where we’re going and are just committed to the long, slow obedience of getting their.
Andrea: [00:12:22] Yeah, and I. I’m very curious what you think. Worked or what finally happened. What do you think the magic was from going from 100 to 70000? Was it was there like influx of cash raising around or what do you think? What was it?
Whit: [00:12:43] I think it’s always there’s rarely a magic bullet or we haven’t found one yet. I think it’s a variety of factors. Candidly, I think COVID was in some ways a fortunate accelerant, not just for us, but for the industry. This this is an industry that you just have some of the best people working in it, the biggest hearts. They’re working tirelessly. They’re not a lot of nonprofits that are overpaid. So people are working with very little resources and and doing the best they can. And they couldn’t necessarily afford these expensive tools that were out there or they didn’t even necessarily know about them. They also just. Who has the time to do that? Digital migration that’s so important to make you relevant? And COVID just forced that. It was like you can’t do any events. The galas that you’ve relied on, the dinners like done canceled. And so everyone had to go through this painful process at the same time of embracing kind of that digital revolution that the for profit world is like, yeah, of course e commerce, everything is moving toward phone. But a lot of the nonprofits were just lagging behind. So that was definitely a big accelerant. And then I think we spend a lot of time internally just focusing on. How can we be different? How do we obsess over making things easier for the nonprofit? And that’s a very different corporate ethos than like, how can we focus on maximizing profits or driving revenue? And when you focus when you put your finger on the pulse of the people you’re trying to serve and you treat them as people instead of customers.
Colin: [00:14:32] Like, it’s so simple, but amazing things can happen. And we just have built these amazing relationships with and I committed to doing all of our customer support for the first two years until. And now we have an amazing team that they’re way better than we would be at support. But we wanted to to be in it every day, talking to people, hearing their feedback. And I think that led to a tremendous amount of word of mouth growth. And when you have a good people are skeptical of free because there’s a lot of free stuff out there that’s not any good. But when you have a beautiful product that is like that works and is amazing and stands on its own and that’s combined with awesome support and something that’s actually free. You just have the right ingredients where like things are going to grow. We’re doing our best to steward it and like, get the best assemble the best team that we can possibly assemble and invest in culture and serve our clients. But we kind of now have the easier job of just cultivating a garden that is like growing because of amazing soil.
Andrea: [00:15:41] I love that. I want to touch on the team and the two of you. So nine years ago, I’m sure you weren’t even thinking about doing this for nine years, so. In those early days. Was there an agreement between the two of you? Was there a written agreement, some kind of partnership agreement and operating agreement? What what were those conversations like? Because I. So where I’m coming from, I have literally every single day I hear from co founders that they didn’t hash things out at the beginning and they wait until there’s an issue. And so every single time I talk to at least any two or more partners, I just try to harp to them like from the very beginning, Please, please, please get this agreement done. So I’d love to hear what you all did.
Whit: [00:16:28] What are the most helpful parts of working with my older brother on this, which I’ll emphasize because we get the question, Are we twin? Am I the older brother? I just want to put on the formal record that I am the younger brother. I said, Let’s let the record show. Anyway, one of the benefits of partnering with my very much older brother in this early on is that he had a decade more of experience in not fully but seven years, more experience in the entrepreneurial space which prevented us from making some of the dumb early mistakes that a lot of ventures will do. Of poor equity distributions, not having these terms tightened up, not having some of these conversations early on. So I was that that helped us avoid a lot of the pitfalls that a lot of companies can easily fall into. Yeah, Yeah. I mean, and I think there’s also we had some of the. We were fortunate to get like documents and everything sorted out pretty early on. With that said, there’s just such a tremendous amount of. Trust and respect and lack of ego on our team. You hear that a lot of a lot of companies and a lot of companies.
Whit: [00:17:45] But it really is it’s a difference maker for us. And we are committed. We we trust each other. We are committed to the same mission and goal. And I think when you have that internal mission alignment and alignment with vision, like the legal work becomes more of a formality, which is an important formality. But I’ve also seen situations where, of course, co founders, you’re in it to start something, but you have different objectives of where you want this to go and timelines and all of that. And that’s typically what leads to greater conflict down the road. I would also add relational alignment of I care more about my relationship with my brother, then an extra point on the percentage table or even how well better. What does I mean? That’s the first and foremost a commitment as family, which just helps when there’s the early stage. And we’ve never had conflict within the leadership team. But even any disagreement, there’s just kind of the foundational investment in the relationship that smooths over anything that ever happens. And there’s that foundation of this is a person I care about and they care about me and. We can have details.
Colin: [00:19:02] Yeah. So, my best friend, my real life best friend is my CO. And she started working with me right when COVID hit because she was an NCAA bowling coach and their season got scrapped. And I was like, Hey, I need help. And she’s just taken over. And we have had those conversations like, Hey, we have like if there are any issues like I need you that need you to communicate that with me because I value our friendship more than anything in this world. And I think having that conversation upfront and laying out clear expectations, even if you don’t have any, I literally told her like, Hey, I have no idea where this can go, but I like if you’re open, I would love to have you along for the ride. And even yesterday I just had this conversation where two co founders had. I was talking to one of them and she had told me, well, we talked about this. And basically I told her, look, the the issue and the reason why you want something actually written down on paper is and be as clear as possible is because you may both have this idea to you know, you’re going all in on this idea, this product or this service, whatever you’re doing. But if you don’t have it all written down, you both have completely different expectations on what’s going to happen down the road. Like, you may think she knows and she may think you know what she wants, but unless you clearly communicate that you can’t read each other’s minds. And that’s why for those listening, that’s why the operating agreement, a partnership agreement, whatever you want to have with your co founder or business partner, it’s just really laying out expectations that way. Both parties are on the same page about not where you are right now, but where you’re actually going. Talk to me about family dinners. Have. Has there been any big falling outs where you’re like, Mom, I’m not coming to dinner. I’m not coming to Thanksgiving Any any bad any bad family holidays?
Colin: [00:20:59] Not at all. I mean, if anything, Whit’s an amazing cook. So if he’s if he’s cooking, if there’s a family dinner, I’m going to be there early. No, I mean, I think as with said, like, we’re just very fortunate that we have a super close knit family. And I would say that our our priorities in life are aligned and in the right place. And so this is we want we both want to use the gifts that we have and we’ve been given to the best of our ability and for a greater good. And right now, we’ve got an amazing opportunity with better world to do that. And where that ends up going, we’ll see. We’re taking it a day at a time, in a year at a time, and we definitely have big aspirations. But yeah, I think if anything, there are a lot of jokes and I mean, my wife probably wishes I could turn off the business side of things more often and just like just have a dinner. Whereas when we get together, there’s a lot of, Hey, did you hear about this? Or Let me tell you about this call or brainstorming or things like that. I will say I think working together has forced me to be a less annoying younger brother, just as siblings know how to poke each other’s buttons when you’re playing games and such. And it used to be a great joy of mine. If I were losing to make sure Collin would lose as well. Younger brother things which I have had to do less. That is true now that we’re wit is better at every game than than I am. So it’s I don’t I don’t love losing. So I just stopped playing some of them.
Andrea: [00:22:44] Oh, my gosh. Well, gentlemen, before I let you go, I ask everybody the same exact question. What is your number one piece of business advice?
Whit: [00:22:57] You know, I think. I had a mentorship lunch yesterday that I was basically giving this and I was like. There are two things that you can control when doing a business every day. One is your attitude. The second is your work ethic. So talent, there’s a certain amount of God given talent that that you’ll have in something. And but talent will also just come over time with experience. There are no shortcuts to that. So. Plan. If you want to be successful, if you want to win in a space, of course you have to have a good idea that differentiates from the ads real value and differentiates. But you’ve got to look in the mirror and say like, Am I going to show up every day? Am I going to be a leader? Even if it’s a team of one or two? Like, am I going to be a leader with my attitude and my work ethic? If you do those, if you do those two things and control those things every day and you have a good idea that differentiates and adds real value to someone’s life. It’s a roadmap to success. Yep. Yeah. I think on the adding value front, I would add around the importance of talking to the people that you’re serving and if you can obsess over what their needs are. Then everything else takes care of itself. Of.
Andrea: [00:24:22] I love that. Well, how can we support you if there’s somebody listening that wants to take advantage of what better world has to offer? How can how can they find you?
Whit: [00:24:32] Yeah. Better world. Dot org. Go there. You can reach out to us. We’re just calling it Better World. Or with a better world. We will answer your email. We would love to serve you if you have ideas about the space. We love to listen. We’re both entrepreneurs at heart. And and again, this is it’s very cliche. I won’t say it takes a village, but it definitely like it takes a community of people that want to see these things happen and want to see good happen. And if we can be helpful and we can be if we can serve anyone who’s listening, we want to do that to.
Andrea: [00:25:08] I love it. Thank you, gentlemen, so much.
Whit: [00:25:11] Thank you. Have a great time.
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