Nobody likes a bad gift. Receiving bad gifts can be a very uncomfortable experience. As you’re looking at that sweater that went out of style in 1990 you’ve got to smile and say thank you. Then you’re tasked with having to decide whether to hold onto that sweater for the next time your auntie comes over, return it, regift it or throw it away.
The other problem with gifting is that even though you know darn well what you want for your gifts most people just say they don’t. No one wants to feel like they’re asking for anything.
Enter NoBadGift. As the name suggests, this Baltimore startup insures you give a great gift. Why, because the recipient crowdfunds the gift that they really want from friends and family members. The Mike Washington, one of the co-founders of NoBadGift, came up with the idea for the startup when his father wanted an iPad for Christmas one year. After pooling the money for the iPad from his siblings he had an epiphany “why not do this online”.
We got a chance to talk with the team from NoBadGift in the interview below. They tell us about their gift funding system an Baltimore’s explosive startup scene. Of course being from Baltimore we love reporting about Baltimore startups.
What is NoBadGift?
NoBadGift is a crowd gifting platform that allows people to create wish lists for any day or event. This way their friends and family always know what they want. NoBadGift also gives people the opportunity to make contributions to gifts as small as $1 or pay for a gift in full. Then on the day of the event all the money raised for gifts is put into the users paypal account or if the full amount of a gift is received it can also be shipped as well. Now people can give and receive gifts using the power of the crowd and their own social networks. For retailers and brands, every wish list containing one of their products is a brand advocacy channel through which the wish list creator personally expresses their interest in a product and shares that interest with their inner circle.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Mckeever E. Conwell,2nd has 9 years of professional web development and database administration experience. He has been a webmaster at Morgan State University and has 6 years of experience as a government consultant. Along with 3 years experience as a tech lead and hiring manager for both large and small companies working on large government contracts and creating tool to help with national security.
Michael Washington has a B.S. in Computer Science from Morgan State University and 9 years of professional development experience. He founded a website design company in college, consulting clients on web technology. He later went on to obtain a top secret clearance after college and became the tech lead on a major project. Michael also has significant mobile app development experience.
Sam Henry is a self-taught developer who also founded a web design and development company in prior years. He has 6 years of web development experience. Having earned his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Morgan State University in 2010, Sam has also consulted and designed large-scale systems for various Fortune 500 companies as a Business Analyst with leading management and technology consulting firm, Accenture
Where are you based?
We are based out of Baltimore, MD. Baltimore is the home of two of our founder Sam Henry and McKeever Conwell and all three of us went to Morgan State University in Baltimore City.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Baltimore’s startup scene is BOOMING. There are startups popping up all over the place and there are a lot of well respected and successful entrepreneurs and investors acting as mentors to those in the community. There are people like Jason Hardebeck, Owner of Who Glue which was acquired by Facebook, Greg Cangialosi, Co-Founder of Blue Sky Factory which was acquired last year, or Ronald Schmelzer a serial entrepreneur who has exited several tech companies and is a Tech Star mentor just to name a few. There are groups like the Baltimore angels, an angel investment group, who are becoming more active in the community as well. There are companies like Parking Panda, Woofound, and Unbound concepts getting funded and creating game changers. There are several incubators that are supporting the community like The Emerging Technology Centers (ETC), an award winning incubator with award winning companies, that offers more than just cheap work space but very helpful advice and resources from a very experienced and well connect staff like Deb Tillett who has been named one of the 100 most influential women in the video game industry (http://www.edge-online.com/
features/game-industrys-100- most-influential-women?page=11 ). Then on top of all that The ETC started the first accelerator program in the state of Maryland called Accelerate Baltimore whose first class just graduate on 7/25/2012. The 4 companies were Unbound Concepts, Kithly, Newsup, and NoBadGift.com and of the 4 companies 2 (NoBadGift and Kithly) have black founders and CEO and 1(Unbound concepts) has a female founder and CEO. Not to mention all of the events and meetups that happen daily. If that doesn’t sound like a booming startup community I don’t know what is
How did you come up with the idea for NoBadGift?
Michael was the one who came up with the idea. One Christmas Mike’s father wanted an Ipad so he got together with his brothers and sister to pool their money together to buy the expensive Ipad. Then the light bulb went off and Mike thought to himself “OMG this is great why didn’t we just do this online?” Now with NoBadGift.com you can
What problem does NoBadGift solve?
Gift giving can be stressful and expensive. People generally want to give meaningful, useful gifts to their family and friends but want to do so without breaking the bank. The most common solution is to buy a gift card. However, gift cards can limit the recipient to a specific store and come with hidden fees. Furthermore, more than $4.4billion in gift cards goes unused each year.
Beyond gift giving everyone is looking for ways to raise funds for whatever cause/need. NoBadGift gives them another option. Since you can make a wish list for anything it’s possible for a college student to raise money for their books or a startup to make a list of supplies they may need like servers and have their networks help fund them.
What’s your secret sauce?
We make it easy for users to leverage their social connection to raise funds and giving others the ability to make contributions to a gift as oppose to paying for the gift in full.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
As a team of developers we can build cool products all day long but had no clue about marketing and user acquisition. That has defiantly been a challenge for us but with the help of some great mentors we are getting a lot better at it.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The lack of understanding what it takes to run a startup. In the beginning we thought we just had to sit in our basements and code but we slowly realized there was a lot more to it. Once we started networking and gaining mentors we were able to get beyond being just hackers. In a startup you can’t be just one dimensional. You have to be able to perform a lot of different task depending on what your companies needs are. Once we figured that out things started to move a lot faster for us
What’s next for NoBadGift?
Next is on to our second accelerator, but this time on the west coast in San Fran as a part of the NewMe Accelerator. During that time we will be releasing a mobile app that allows users to scan items in barcodes and add it to their wish list along with some design changes to our website and facebook app. With that said a lot of people have been wondering if we would stay in SF but Baltimore is home and we want to see the startup scene here grow before our eyes.
Check out NoBadGift here
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