Dale Nirvani Pfeifer knew she had a calling, and she set out to make it easy and frictionless to donate with one click to any charity on social media. CEO and founder of Goodworld, Dale is helping to revolutionize payments for social good. With a new deal with MasterCard, Dale talks about her startup’s fast growth, how the first VC she pitched laughed at her and what it takes to succeed as a female entrepreneur.
Melinda Wittstock: Dale, welcome to WINGS.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Thank you so much for having me. Wonderful to be with you.
Melinda Wittstock: I am so excited to talk to you, because I love when entrepreneurs use business for social good.
I want you to tell everybody about the really good work you’re doing with Goodworld.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Well, first of all, thanks for the opportunity. My company, Goodworld, is a social payments company, so that means is we do payments on social media, a little bit like a PayPal for social media. And we add an element of impact, an element of doing good into every single payment.
And so the way that we started as a company was really through doing philanthropic donations on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and the mission is to make it so, so easy to make a payment. So the moment that you’re inspired, you might see a video coming through Facebook, you might see a picture on Twitter, and you really, really want to help that cause, what our technology does is it makes it very, very simple to donate. You can literally donate by using a hashtag, writing “#donate”, or re-Tweeting something on Twitter. The first time you receive a prompt to go and sign up, and then you’re in our system and you can be in transit instantly just on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, just like you can with PayPal on a website.
Since then, we’ve grown other tools to help other financial institutions help their customers do the good that they want to do in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so wonderful. I know you recently did a deal with MasterCard, and congratulations. That is awesome for a startup. So tell me a little bit about that. What are you doing with MasterCard?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: With MasterCard, we’re part of their Global Start Path Program, and so what that does is that gives us a door into all our MasterCard’s major customers. So now I’m working with some of MasterCard’s biggest customers. I’m under NDA, so I can’t talk about the details yet, but very soon we’ll be announcing more things publicly. But what we’ll be doing is we’ll be providing social payments, payments on social media for social good for some of MasterCard’s biggest customers, which are banks and large merchants.
To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be an internal optimist and you have to be wildly optimistic. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @DaleNIVPfeiferClick to tweet
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. Isn’t it interesting how the economy is really changing in that way? It’s becoming necessary for big Fortune 500 companies to really have this conscious capitalism or evolved enterprise aspect to their businesses; otherwise certainly Millenials won’t by from them if they don’t.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Isn’t it wonderful? It really is wonderful, and we’re really experiencing our growth because of that very thing. Financial institutions who were previously very, very focused on profit, they’re still focused on profit, but what they’re beginning to see with their customers is a real nudge to add elements of social good into their products so they’re able to attract next generation customers. And that’s one of the big reasons why we’ve been able to secure so many big partnerships in the last year or two.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, ’cause you’re so much in the right place at the right time. Did you know that you would be? I mean, ’cause … take me back. When Goodworld was launching, what was it, about 2013, ’14, something like that?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Yeah. It was actually in 2015, late 2015, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind tour. But I started thinking about this and I saw the problem that needed to be solved right back in about 2012. I’m from New Zealand, which is where the accent is from. And I was over here and I was working in a nonprofit in New York City, and because I was living so far away from home, I was spending a lot of time on social media just to kind of catch up with what my friends and family were doing.
And I remember seeing this video that really touched my heart, and the video was about a woman called Sakena Yacoobi, and she has an education nonprofit and she provides a lot of education and healthcare services to women and children in Afghanistan. She’s touched nearly a million people and she’s an incredible social entrepreneur in herself.
But I saw this video and I really wanted to make a donation but I didn’t know how. So I went off, I went online, and it literally took me over 10 minutes to find the place where I could donate to her and then go through. I had to fill out a long form. I had to get out my credit card and then I donated. And it was at that moment I realized that technology was getting in the way of people being able to do good or people being able to act from their hearts.
And so I started thinking, I started thinking about okay, well, there’s this technology problem, and I kind of filed it away in the back of my head. And a few years later, to fast forward a few years later, I was living in DC and I decided that I wanted to … I was working for big foundations and nonprofits and decided that the work that I was doing was good and it was meaningful, but I was noticing my critic going on in my head about how things could be better.
My family or where I come from in New Zealand, we’re not so much people of kind of griping and things. It’s very much an action-orientated thing. So I decided at that moment I was going to create a company. It was going to be called Goodworld and it was going to do the most amount of good possible and it was going to have a really exciting, viable business model.
And so I started with that, and then as I was going on, I was researching the area that I knew, which was kind of philanthropy and raising money and everything, and then I remembered trying to make that donation. And all of a sudden it just all came together and we managed to build the technology and the company started growing. But we began on going to market with nonprofits, so we’re now lucky to work with over three and a half thousand of incredible charities from the biggest ones that you could think of, like UNICEF and Save the Children, right through to mom and pop animal rescue shelters that are very, very active and very, very good at social media fundraising.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so interesting how the best businesses grow out of a challenge or a personal problem or some sort of block we experience in our own lives, and the difference between … I think everybody gets those moments, those frustrations, but what is it that sparked you to go the entrepreneurial journey? Because a lot of people don’t do that; they let those opportunities pass them by.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: It’s an interesting question, because I started off as an academic and then I went into the world of nonprofit and foundations, and then I jumped into entrepreneurship. So I’m definitely one of those people who have taken the squiggly line, but I think it’s because I’ve always had a personal mission to go out and do as much good as I can in the world. And I started doing that in academia and I think academia is a brilliant place to be able to make change, but make change in the lives of students, and you can write books that are influential, and that’s good. But then I thought, “Let’s try this out in the world of foundation and nonprofits. What change can I enact from there?” And then as I saw the problems and everything in that field, and also it’s an amazing platform to be able to make change, but it just didn’t feel quite right for me.
And then I had this idea about entrepreneurship, and I was fortunate to be … I had this idea for this technology and this mission was really driving me, “How can I, what can I do to make the most change and have the most positive impact while I’m on the planet?” And that led to the evolution of the concept of Goodworld.
I’ve always been a very big thinker, and the part of it that really, really excited me was the fact that you see around the world there are so many systems that are changing, old parts of the systems that are sort of eroding and dismantling and other parts that are new and growing, and you definitely see that with the financial infrastructure that we all live inside of, particularly things to do with banking and payments.
There’s a big trend at the moment with Crypto-currencies and other things, but payments themselves, there has also been a huge amount of change. Now all of a sudden people are making payments through Venmo. They’re not going into their banks anymore. They’re not even getting out their credit cards to pay for something online. They’re going on to Venmo and with writing in a dollar sign and a few emojis they’re sending a payment to their friends, or they are going on to Amazon and with two clicks they pay for something through their Amazon credit card.
I saw this kind of right back, really not long about 2010, 2012, I sort of … I realized that as more and more people were going to be spending a lot of time on social media that same sort of infrastructure would need to be built for social media as there was on the web. And so what my theory was, if you can get on and build that infrastructure first and add an element of impact into every payment, figure out how to make payments for good or social payments, then what kind of effect would that have on the world. That could have a huge amount of impact on the world if with every payment there was an element of social good, there was an element of impact.
And so I really set that out as my personal mission, and that’s the mission of Goodworld, to build a payments pathway that’s a global force for good.
Melinda Wittstock: You’re well on your way, and you’re at the intersection of two such powerful forces at the same time, and this is the wonderful thing. When it works for an entrepreneur like that where your timing is right and you get into flow with the forces around you, that’s, oh, I don’t know, sublime. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t necessarily get that, the beauty and the serendipity of that kind of timing.
But on one hand, as you’re ascribing, the changing nature of money and banking and how we pay for things, all of that, how quickly that’s changing, and on the other hand, the trend towards evolved enterprise and conscious capitalism, something that’s been driven so much by Millenials, where Millenials have really influenced everybody else, as well, won’t buy anything from a company that doesn’t have, say, a clean supply chain or isn’t giving forward or donating in some way or doesn’t have a transparency or a genuineness or a social mission of some kind.
So Dale, you’re right in between these two powerful forces. And so when you think of your mission, which is a beautiful mission, and where you are now relative to where Goodworld, say, could be in five years, 10 years, what’s the big moonshot vision? It seems to have so much potential.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: So the moonshot vision is to really make payments a force for good in the world and to automatically … and I think there are several different parts that go into that. We need to make it easy, we need to make it absolutely frictionless for people to be able to do good, because I think that people, they really want to do good things in the world, but if you’re going to have to grab your credit card every time … I mean, every time now I get out my credit card I’m like, “Ugh, can’t I just pay with Amazon Pay or can I Venmo?”
So there are these pain points I think that people feel in doing good, so we really need to eliminate those pain points: One of those things is having to reach for your credit card. We need to make it seamless. We need to make it social. In my experience, particularly with people who are Millenials, they want to do good but they want to do good with their friends. They don’t want to do it in isolation. They want to feel validated and they want, frankly, the charities or the causes that they’re giving to be validated by their friends and people they trust prior to taking part.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, hence the social aspect, the fact that you started this on social media is wonderful, because people feel really good about giving, and that group aspect is so true.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: And it needs to be fire and forget, as well. We’re currently in development on some other technologies that will enable people just to effortlessly give with every payment, and it’s turn it on, fire and forget. And then at the end of each month, you’ll get an email letting you know, in our state, letting you know how much you’ve given.
But it also needs to be not intimidating. I think philanthropy and giving in the past as sort of been the domain of people who are older and had money and that sort of thing. I mean, in my thinking, it is powerful even to give one cent per transaction. And I think what that then starts to do is … I think if you make five transactions in a day, you give five cents, and that in its own way is a very, very powerful gift, but it’s not an intimidating gift. A lot of people could do that without feeling scared about deleting their bank account.
And I think really democratizing philanthropy and making it accessible to everybody is really a mission of Goodworld, as well, because the cumulative amount adds up. And it’s not even just the payment, the money amount; it is also the sharing and the endorsement of the charities and that sort of thing, as well.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. So how does a company work with you? Take me through the process. Say, for instance, WINGS, okay, say WINGS podcast, we wanted all of our listeners to give them the opportunity to donate or any future product, say, or trainings or virtual summits or anything like that that WINGS does, how could we incorporate Goodworld into that? Because it’s so much a part of my mission, obviously, to give forward to women all over the world and empower their entrepreneurial journeys.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Fantastic question, because we have a lot of corporations coming to us and asking us that very question, particularly because these days a lot of people are turning to … for a lot of people, social media is the internet now. They do a lot of their messaging on it, events are organized on social media, everything. In fact, teens check their social media counts up to eight times every day.
A lot of big corporations have realized this, and what they are driving to do is to do their philanthropy right on social media, so it can also be a form of advertising for their businesses so they can spread the word about the good deeds they’re doing as a business, because that is so important to the younger demographics, and I think older demographics, as well. I think that everybody’s changing; it’s not just Millenials.
But the way that it’s done is you would simply go to our website. If the charity that you want to raise money for is signed up with us, you could instantly load their technology onto your social media assets and then you could ask for donations and people could instantly make a donation on your social media assets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
And then essentially what that does is when people make their donations, those posts are then elevated on the site of the social media and have much wider distribution than the normal post does, just because of the way that our algorithm works.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s so interesting. And so what if there’s a charity that’s not associated yet with Goodworld? What’s the process to get that charity associated with you so that they can benefit, and of course, there’s also a benefit in the company that is encouraging its customers, or its listeners in this case or whatever, to be able to give, as well?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Absolutely. So there’s a form there that you can fill out, and we will go and approach the charity for you or give you the tools to go and approach them, as well. Very, very easy for a charity to sign up! It takes less than five minutes and costs them absolutely nothing.
Melinda Wittstock: So Dale, take me back on what it was like to get Goodworld off the ground? You talked about your squiggly line, right? You tried different things, different tools, I guess, to advance your mission. You settle on an entrepreneurship and suddenly it’s this whole new world, you got to go out and raise money, bootstrap technology, find the right team, do all that kind of stuff. What were the early days like?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Oh, gosh. The first two years were … everybody talks about the entrepreneurial roller coaster, particularly those first two years. They are an absolutely roller coaster.
When I first started, I was the academic, so I did what I knew how to do. I sat there and I researched and really started out developing the company in a pretty different way than most people do, because literally, I had Goodworld, I had the name Goodworld, I had my personal mission, and I had the fact that I wanted to do as much good in the world and have a really solid business model. That was basically what I was going for. I hadn’t really remembered that technological hiccup that I had with the Afghani educator yet.
I really, once I had decided that I’d do it, I was just lit up. And you ask my poor friends and family, that’s all I could talk about was Goodworld, Goodworld, Goodworld. Goodworld, Goodworld, Goodworld.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You have to be a bit obsessive to succeed in entrepreneurship.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: I would get up at 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM, because I was working full time, as well. So just any spare moment that I would find, that I could find, I would just work on my company.
The first year I remember, I mean, there’s just so many things that happened, and it was just really, the company was in those first two years just really built of the force of my will and charm and ability to be able to talk people into doing things, because I was totally bootstrapping it. And as the company actually took off, I was working on several different nonprofit contracts and I was about able to start letting them go. But it wasn’t really until two years in that I started to have significant … when we raised capital that I had significant time to start working on it.
But I got to the point where … and there were so many highs and lows. I remember getting the technology built, because I am not a developer, I don’t have a technical background and nor would I know the quality of code that was being built.
And I remember the first year after kind of working on this for a year and we had the technology, the concept, the wire frames, everything had been drawn up, and I’m working with this wonderful young man who was a developer and very, very smart guy, but really young and inexperienced and not wanting to also disappoint me. And I remember I’d talk to him pretty much every week and he’d tell me that the technology was nearly ready, and I remember just that … and I saw something and it was kind of working and everything, and then I remember we were going to … I had lined up a whole lot of quite big name nonprofits to kind of work on this technology, because everybody was excited about raising money on social media.
And then October came and the Internet wasn’t ready and November came, and he told me essentially that there was a wait left of coding left to go on the project, but he wouldn’t be able to complete it. And I just remember this sinking feeling and this, “Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do, going back and telling the nonprofits that the technology wasn’t ready after all?”
And it actually took another seven months, maybe, to get the technology, the first prototype, up and running. And then we ran eight campaigns with that technology and learned a lot from kind of these working prototypes that we built. And then got enough data to be able to understand it, enough feedback to be able to know what was working, what wasn’t, and we tweaked it. And then I was fortunate enough to get my current CTOs and incredibly gifted both architect and developer on board.
First of all, he’s a very good personal friend of mine from way back in New Zealand, and I remember … because the second developer that came on board and did it, as well, had had some problems. And I went to him and I said to him, “Can you please take a month off work to rebuild Goodworld for me, just basics so I can shine and be a star?” And he came back to me, he was like, “All right.” So we ended up actually taking three months of work and rebuilding the entire thing, and [inaudible 00:24:52 since then.
But there’s so many kind of stories of the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey from there. But the first conversation I had with an investor, basically they laughed at me.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, God. Laughed at you, seriously?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Yeah. And I ended up just getting … because I believed in what I was doing so much, and I ended up almost kind of I wouldn’t say … I did end up standing my ground and telling him that I thought he was missing out on a very specific opportunity, and him turning back to me and saying, “Well, frankly, Dale, I don’t agree with you.”
And it’s those moments I think that are sometimes the hardest moments are also, they’re really the teachable moments. I think if it hadn’t been … I went away and I didn’t speak to another and face the horror for quite some time, probably seven or eight months.
But I learned so much from that moment, because he really challenged me to think about the [inaudible 00:25:59 in my model, and caused me to change my model significantly. But he also taught me something about readiness. If I had gone and talked to … we’ve raised about $3 million in venture capital at this stage. If I hadn’t met the VCs that ended up leaving out our rounds and Goodworld, if I had met them back then and pitched them, we would not have been ready to talk to them.
So I think organization or readiness and being really ready to go out and talk to investors is another really valuable lesson that I learned back in those early days.
Melinda Wittstock: I want to pick up on a couple of threads of what you were talking about…. going back to the technology, there are so many women who are nontechnical founders who’ve had exactly the same heart-wrenching moment that you had, I mean, including me. I know personally what that feels like to have somebody not want to disappointed you and so they are spinning you along saying, “Yeah, everything’s great, it’s all great, it’s all great,” because they’re afraid to tell you the truth, I guess.
But it’s disastrous. I’ve seen companies crushed and die in that moment. And it’s a testament to you that you were able to just pick up and keep going, learn from the experience, not make it something about you, right, just learn and find the right people.
So in that heart-wrenching moment where you discover your technology’s not working, you’re supposed to launch, right, and it’s not going to be ready for a long time, I mean, hats off to you for not making it something about yourself and not letting it defeat you, figuring out a way to pick up and find the right person and just keep going. How did you do that? What was the kind of grit inside you that kept you kind of sane and stable and moving forward through that process?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Well, I mean, I think I’m a fairly determined person, and it was really … my heart was speaking to me and really I felt that I needed to do this. It’s always been my mission. And I saw this huge opportunity and I knew the size of the opportunity. I’d done a lot of research and I knew that it was [inaudible 00:29:31. And I knew that I could eat, secured or not. I just needed to keep going.
And I think there comes a point where you’ve invested so much in an idea that almost the opportunity cost outweighs the … you just need to keep going, because the cost of not keeping going was just about too much for me.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. But as long as you’re in alignment personally, like it is your true mission, your true purpose, it’s authentic to you, and in that case, yes, keep going. Sometimes when people keep going in a business that’s not actually authentic to them, it’s like a ‘should’ business. You’re doing something … a lot of people fall under this trap where they’re doing something that they think they should do but it’s not really actually in their heart. In your case, to be dogged and keep going and keep going and keep going when you know you’re so in alignment with your mission … which I think something you knew, which is very clear kind of in your heart, right?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: It was clear in my heart, but the business case was there, as well.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: The business case was really one of the big things that kept me going, because I knew that we could crack this nut and I felt like I was really close, and I just remember one pretty desperate day calling my mother and her just talking me through it, the hearts, the [inaudible 00:31:00, the mission, the business case, and then her just saying, “Look, I know that you can do this. I have every faith in you. Just keep going.”
People like that in my life at those desperate moments and just having other people’s belief in you and feeling [inaudible 00:31:23, these are the things that kind of brighten up the dark days. And honestly, I think as an early stage entrepreneur, you don’t need much to kind of keep you going.
I remember flying to New Zealand. I went and I flew and I met with somebody else who was interested in working on the project. And he said, “Yes, I will take over as CTO in the interim and build on the technology so we can get a working prototype going.” And that was it. I was back happy again, because I think to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be an internal optimist and you have to be wildly optimistic. And I think sometimes these little roses that the universe throws you to keep you going, the little cookie crumbs, they don’t need to be huge morsels to be able to … they didn’t need to be huge morsels for me be able to have to keep going.
Melinda Wittstock: I want to get back to that VC that laughed at you, but also helped you change your model… in a minute… but there’s something you’re saying that’s so important here now. It’s really about the mindset that you need to succeed as an entrepreneur.
And Dale, you work alongside many other entrepreneurs, you’re in different networks of entrepreneurs, as am I, and you have your own personal experience. And when it comes to that mindset, you’ve mentioned optimism, but what are some of the other things? What’s that kind of inner right stuff you really need to be able to do this?
The ability to be able to not take things personally, to be able to receive feedback, but then to really be able to take that information and agree with it, disagree with it, wrestle with it, and then learn from it and move on is the key to optimism. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @DaleNIVPfeiferClick to tweet
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Optimism, I think determination. Courage and determination. The ability to be able to not take things personally, to be able to receive feedback. And it might sting for a little bit, but then to really be able to take that information and agree with it, disagree with it, wrestle with it, and then learn from it and move on.
And I think the other thing is to not work in isolation. I mean, you need to build a community of support around you, be that teammates, be that friends and family, be that mentors that you’ll create. You need to do something alone to be that customer’s … for us, we had a whole lot of customers cheering us on, saying, “We want this technology.” They’re ready to meet with us, talk with us at any given moment. So to have that group of cheerleaders and to put time into building that, but to really be willing to receive their support, to receive support, I think has been such an important thing for me in growing Goodworld.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Receiving is interesting, because I think a lot of women in particular sometimes have a hard time receiving often, and this comes up on the podcast a lot, where women tend to put themselves last, like we’re so acculturated to serve others to the point where sometimes we end up giving, giving, giving, giving, giving, but then not receiving. So that’s so important not only to be able to ask, like know what you want but ask for it and be able to receive it. It sounds so simple when it’s said that way, and yet it is hard for a lot of people.
I was once in one of my entrepreneurial networks, a group called Netcito. We did this exercise once where we had to take turns, and all the other entrepreneurs in the room would give each person a standing ovation. And I swear to God, it was the hardest thing in the world, to be the subject of the standing ovation, right? It’s so funny, like everybody was squirming like it was some horrible torture. And I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting how bad we are at receiving.”
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: ‘Cause I feel like we all have these blocks and we all have different blocks, and it is so interesting how often that we are handed something that we need, and we say no to it in some kind of a way, be that a piece of advice or a compliment, because whatever the reason is, maybe we don’t feel worthy of success. Maybe we don’t believe we’re good enough. It’s amazing how these mindsets can implicitly really sabotage our businesses.
Throughout this journey, I’ve done a lot of … I meditate a lot. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and a lot of personal development, and just really being very, very aware of when I’m saying no to things and why that is. Now, sometimes you’re saying no to things and you say no to them for a really good reason and that is great, but just making sure it’s not because I’m triggered because of some deeply held belief that I have about myself and that is holding my business back.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s beautiful. Again, I swear, every interview now we tell the same joke. “If you want therapy or personal growth, become an entrepreneur,” because the business is going to make you go down that route of meditation or introspection or visualization or self-care or something, a mix of all of those. And with that personal growth, the business grows. And as the business grows and gives you new challenges, it spurs you to grow as a person. I think these things are so integrally linked.
And so were you always a meditator, or did you start with meditation relatively recently?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: I’ve meditated for about the last, I guess, 10, 15 years. And I really agree with it, but I also think the hard side of business is so important for us not to ignore the harder sides. And this is a really interesting podcast, and I always think about and talk about, which is called the missing 33%. And it talks about woman and women’s professional development and talks about there being three main areas. One is leadership, one is kind of professional development, and the other is financial and business literacy.
And essentially as a woman, quite often, in mentorship and in a business context, we often receive that the professional development and the leadership development, but for some reason, the financial kind of literacy and business development [inaudible 00:38:42 for woman, and we don’t actually go out and seek those opportunities.
So I think for me coming from a place where I never learned about that, I never did an MBA, I never studied business at university or anything like that, as much as the kind of self-awareness, it was equally important for me to have that very … to really go out there and learn and be able to speak with a lot of confidence about the business side of my business.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a prerequisite to be able to raise money. I mean, if you don’t know your numbers, I mean, essentially you’re taking to a VC an opportunity where they need to know with … it’s somewhat risky, but they want to know that it’s conceivable they could get 10X their money out within a time horizon. So you need to know, “How much money are you going to need to get there,” right? You need to know your numbers to be credible in that game.
So how did you get … because we’re finally turning the corner into this VC experience and how you raised the money and what that was like…but how did you educate yourself, Dale? What sort of things did you do to really get ready to be able to dig deep and be able to talk competently about the numbers, the numbers for your business, where you were going, the market, what kind of investor return, a sane investor could expect that kind of thing?”
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Well, I worked really, really hard, and I worked really, really hard not just to be able to know my numbers and understand them, but talk about them with supreme confidence. And I think that is a really important point. You need to be able to go and tell that story with a huge amount of confidence and bravado.
I think as women we often check ourselves, is that really realistic? And this is our looking for the moonshot, and they need you to be an [inaudible 00:40:54 with their investors and VCs. They need you to be able to convince them that the moonshot is possible. And so to do that, you need to be able to pitch with confidence and answer all of their questions with confidence.
Now, the way that I handled that is I knew that I needed to play to my strengths, and I went out and looked for a co-founder who was very, very good at precisely the ad. And I have an incredible co-founder, his name is John Gossart, and he’s a man. And frankly, him being a man as well as being incredibly talented in this area, I mean, he’s raised millions of dollars prior to coming to Goodworld, those two things just made it so much easier. All of a sudden I would walk into an investor meeting and people would take me seriously and we could have a conversation about money. We could have a conversation about my business. Which was just really different from before.
And I think it was because of those two things, because of … and essentially what we would do is John and I would rehearse this. It was really his area to go out and raise the money, but as the founder and CEO, it was really important that the investors know that I am also competent in this area and that I understand that part of the business.
And so what we would do, A, I worked really hard to learn it, and B, him and I would rehearse and rehearse and rehearse before we went on there, the exact talking points for a slide. And then essentially what we would do is I would kick off the conversation on each slide, present the talking points, answer some of the questions, but then also kick it over to him, because investors also like to see is a really strong team and a good relationship between the founders of the company. And so by doing it that way, we’re able to show both of those things.
Melinda Wittstock: One thing I wanted to pick up with you is because you found an amazing co-founder. Some women struggle in this, how a visionary finds their integrator or how the CEO, yeah, with the big mission, the big vision, finds the person who’s got the money side handled, the detailed operations handled, what’s known in, say, the book Rocket Fuel as the integrator. How did you find your guy?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: I think a part of it was putting myself in a situation where I was more likely to meet those people, to meet him. We’re fortunate to be part of an incredible co-working space in DC called 1776. And particularly at that time when it was open, it was really the heart of entrepreneurship in Washington DC.
Goodworld was one of the first companies in there when it was just me with a laptop, and John’s company, RideScout, was also in there. And I used to see him just sharing around 1776, negotiating investments, and I remember just thinking, “Wow, he is the person who is the least fearful of money that I know. I need somebody out like that on my team.”
And so I kind of … I made friends with him, and then I started to ask him for a little bit of business advice, and so he started to kind of coach and mentor me, more on governance issues that anything else. And then RideScout was acquired by Daimler Mercedes and so one of the first conversations I had with John as RideScout was being acquired was about Goodworld. And I really opened up on the business model to him and asked him if he would come over and help me raise some capital.
And then he got bit with the Goodworld bug and he was all of a sudden thinking about Goodworld more than he was thinking about RideScout. So it took about six months and he came over full time and as my co-founder rather than the initial, rather than just initially him raising some capital.
And then with him on board, and as I said, timing is everything, because at that point The Ice Bucket … prior from when I had my first investment conversation where the guy laughed at me to now, all of a sudden we had like 30 or 40 nonprofits who were actively using the platform. Some of them were [inaudible 00:45:48 names. We had a technology that was up and built and fully scalable. There was the Ice Bucket Challenge had happened, so every single nonprofit executive was being tapped on this show by their board member going, “What are you doing about fundraising on social media?” So the conditions and the timing was just right for us to launch that product with that use case at that moment.
And I remember going out and the first bit of money we brought in was half a million dollars, and it was really just a friends, family and fools, they call it, angel investors, not fools at all, very smart angel investors. We have some really big name angel investors at Goodworld, Katharine Weymouth was the CEO of the Washington Post for a long time, Tom Pouliot, who exited Vantiv, which is the big payments company, are amongst some of the names.
But yeah, so we raised half a million dollars literally in between Christmas and New Year’s, and then faces just started kind of knocking on our door. And that was what it was that really convinced John that he wanted to come on board full time as my co-founder. So it was putting myself in the right place, but then there was this courting period, really, of him to get him to come over and say yes full time to Goodworld.
Melinda Wittstock: You have this amazing mission. You need that. Your timing is impeccable in terms of the opportunity. But you really persevered in … actually, it’s like the motto of my daughter’s school. She goes to an all-girls school and the motto is, “Find a way, or make one.” And you have done that, and I’ve seen you. For a while, Verifeed, my company, was at 1776. You always had a smile on your face. You were always just getting on with it. And it’s really inspiring to see.
So when you look at other women, as we start to wrap up the interview, what are your pieces of advice for them, first of all in the context of where do women sometimes go wrong? Because entrepreneurship is hard for anybody, male, men or women, but what are the particular challenges for women and what is some of your best advice?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: I think one piece of advice that I think … I used to get stuck here, and I don’t know if other women do but certainly was a big thing for me, was just really owning my own problems. I think back in the early days when I was starting to try and get Goodworld up and running, I used to tell somebody about something, somebody was close to me or a friend or a romantic partner, whatever it was, I’d tell them about what I was working on. I remember a boyfriend at the time, he was [inaudible 00:49:20 and many things that were close to the business model of the company, and I used to just sit here and there and tell him about this and what I was working on and everything and just kind of expect something to happen.
And I was wanting him to kind of take the problem and solve it for me, because I think quite often the men in our lives often do that. They’re big problem solvers. But what I was doing by that was kind of giving him the problem and taking away the power of control from me and putting it on somebody else. And how I really regained power and control, by realizing that if I took back that problem that I could work on it, rather than just kind of feeling helpless or grumpy that something wasn’t happening.
Instead of going out and talking to somebody that you know about PR and expecting something to happen, write your own press release. It may not be the press release in the world, but you can write a press release. Don’t wait till you raise money to do it. Just do it yourself.
Pretty much apart from the technology, for me, I went out and worked on every aspect of my business, and I learned not to wait for other people, because if you wait for other people, it can take a really, really long time to get things done. And at the end of the day, until you can hire a professional and really kind of immerse them in your mission and your company culture, all of that sort of thing, you’re probably, in many ways, the best-placed person to kind of really start moving those things forward.
Other advice that I would have that is related to that is just don’t wait. Don’t wait. I think many times in business there’s a little bit of this idea around kind of going and building in isolation, and I hear particularly with women, and I was very much like this in the early days, I was scared to talk to people about my idea, because I was worried that people would steal it from me, and I knew that it was a really big idea. But I think that beginning where I was waiting until I had something built and had something to show for it and had some head start on the market, if you want, then you’re going to miss out on the opportunity to get the support and advice of some of those people.
So obviously be judicious, but go out and seek the advice that you need. And then when you get the information that you need to go out and do something, don’t wait. Just start. Just begin. Put it out there. Create. I always call it “thinking in action.” And obviously there is times when you need to sit back and think about things and strategize about thing, but I really believe in thinking in action and creating [inaudible 00:52:31 so you’ve got something to show for it, because as an entrepreneur at the beginning there is to do everything for the company, I think you can’t afford not to be actively producing things on a daily basis, because you’ll just get nowhere.
And I guess the last thing is really around having that … we’ve already talked about this, is just really become self-aware, become aware of ways that you are holding yourself back. Quite often you hear a lot women in business conversations, “I find it hard to get my voice heard at the table,” or “I’m not appreciated for what I bring.” Just really take responsibility for that yourself and make sure that you are not holding yourself back. And if you hear yourself repeating whatever messages it is that you hear, generally if that’s on alert, that’s a good sign that that’s place where you need to do some work. So figuring out what it is that’s holding you back and then figuring out practical ways in which you can address those things I think is also a really powerful lesson for women entrepreneurs, or any entrepreneurs.
Melinda Wittstock: That is fantastic. So Dale, I was going to ask how people can find you, and also to thank you for this very generous offer for all new signups that mention WINGS. They can get one month free on Goodworld. And thank you, first of all, so much for that. Certainly I’m signing up. And Sheros out there, with your businesses, you should do the same.
And how can people do that? Do they just email you or do they just go on your platform and use a coupon “WINGS,” or how does that work?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Yeah. People just email me. I’m email@example.com, dot “me.” We’ll figure out, yeah, and I’ll send it through our system, but I’d love to connect with anybody, as well. I also love connecting with other entrepreneurs, so if I can be of help with anybody, to anybody, please let me know.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s wonderful. And where can people find you on … so first of all … I’m going to pick up there. So it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, right? That’s where they should email you, and just say “WINGS?”
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: And then how can they find and follow you on social media?
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: It’s Goodworld Dale on Twitter, and just search my name, my full name, is Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, so you can search for that on Instagram. And then the blog is the Goodworld Medium Blog.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Dale, so inspiring talking to you. Congratulations on all your success. I know you’ve got big things ahead and you’ve already done big things, and such wonderful advice for everybody. Thank you so much for putting on your WINGS and flying with us today.
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Thank you so much for having me, Melinda. Take care.