One day over a cold draft I’ll tell you the great story behind Michael Isaacs and Kyle DeTullio, their Auburn startup Get Charitable and just how they got into the BluePrint For Business Startup Accelerator in Oklahoma City at the last possible second. Once they made it in though, this duo is looking more like the 2010 Auburn Tigers rather than the Auburn Tigers of today (what a difference a little time makes).
Isaacs and DeTullio met at Auburn University as pledge brothers in 2008 at Sig EP.
Isaacs and DeTullio had been thinking about socially conscious startups last fall. Over Thanksgiving break last year, Michael thought that if they could leverage smartphone markets, they might be able to make a little difference with a startup. If they could use advertising revenue, Michael realized, they could possibly feed one child per day for every person that would download their app. But to make sure they could get this revenue to feed the child daily, the advertisement would have to be outside of an app that the user would have to open. That’s when Michael knew they had to bring the advertisement to the user, so everyone could work together to make a difference for each child. The wallpaper and notification menu were the perfect place.
Auburn is a college town built on steadfast traditions. Auburn is a nice town, with a huge swell when class is in session. When it’s not it shrinks down to a small town atmosphere. It’s very old school when it comes to business. If you were going to open a new restaurant you could easily get the townspeople on board. A startup, not so much. A tech startup, even more not so much. A social startup, fuggedabout it.
That’s why the duo started looking for an accelerator outside of Alabama and landed on Blue Print for Business. BP4B is a member of the Techstars/Global Accelerator Network and their first class is graduating on Thursday.
Check out our interview with Isaacs below.
What is Get Charitable?
GetCharitable is a startup that aims to help people make a difference in the world around them, every day. GetCharitable gives users a free Android app, that when downloaded, will feed a child every day around the world.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
We try to make GetCharitable as easy as possible, with a “set it and forget it” philosophy. Our users download the GetCharitable app from Google Play, login through Facebook and know that they are feeding an underprivileged child every day they keep the app. The app then delivers the users a fresh sponsored wallpaper and link in their notification menu every day. GetCharitable takes the revenue from the advertisements to work with our non-profit partners to feed a child for each user, each day. We think it’s pretty simple to change someone’s life and get cool wallpapers daily!
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Co-founders Michael Isaacs and Kyle DeTullio have been friends since becoming pledge brothers fall of 2008 at Sig Ep at Auburn University.
Michael is originally from Atlanta, GA and studied Entrepreneurship during his time at Auburn. He has worked with three startups in the past and has seen his family start a few businesses as well. He has always been big on technology, mobile devices and trying to invent things.
Growing up in New Canaan CT, Kyle has always had a passion for service. It was while studying engineering at Auburn that this passion evolved into one for leveraging technology to make a social impact.
Michael and Kyle had always wanted to found a socially entrepreneurial startup, so after Michael dreamed up GetCharitable, they decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Kyle and Michael dropped all of their classes the night before the semester at Auburn started and left for the Blueprint for Business accelerator in Oklahoma City.
Where are you based?
GetCharitable is currently at the Blueprint for Business accelerator in Oklahoma City, but we started in Auburn, AL.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It’s growing! There is a great pool of mentors and I think investors are excited about all of the new tech companies around Oklahoma City. Blueprint for Business had a great audience to hear Brad Feld speak about startup communities a few weeks ago and I think OKC has the community to implement the Boulder thesis. In addition, the University of Oklahoma has the number one ranked Entrepreneurship program in the country and a great club, CEO, for young entrepreneurs.
Back in Auburn, there is a very strong and growing group of entrepreneurs. Everyone is starting to meet up and they are organizing new events and competitions with the Auburn Startup Initiative and other groups. With so many great engineers coming to Auburn each year and an entrepreneurship program that is constantly growing, I think there will be some great startups coming in the future.
What problem does Get Charitable solve?
GetCharitable solves the classic mobile advertising problem, that users must open your app or mobile webpage to see your advertisements. With sponsored wallpaper and notification menu links, advertisers are able to truly become a part of a mobile user’s life.
For the users, GetCharitable offers the ability to make a difference in the world every day. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t have the time and the money to help out, but with GetCharitable, users know that no matter what they do that day, the world is a better place because of them.
What’s your secret sauce?
GetCharitable is the first app to enable people to make a difference with just their phone every day. Users do not have to donate any of their money, or even click any links to make a difference. We believe GetCharitable is simply the easiest possible way to help others.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
GetCharitable received a seed investment of $25,000 as part of joining Blueprint for Business and will be raising an angel round after demo day on November 15th.
What is your goto market strategy?
Due to the social nature of the app, GetCharitable is looking to foster a strong grassroots movement among users. The usual social media outlets are big for us as proud users want to share their impact with friends. We have also been building relationships with other socially conscious companies and bloggers in that community. We believe that these relationships will offer opportunity for cross promotion and will help build our brand. GetCharitable also has some creative guerrilla marketing campaigns planned, so you’ll have to watch out for those in the near future.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
We think one of the biggest challenges for startups is finding great talent, especially programming wise. Luckily, GetCharitable has been working with the Verge Pipe Media team in Auburn, who have made everything possible. We’ve learned that the best way to meet the best team members is through fellow startups.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
All of our mentors at Blueprint for Business have been great, including Roger Cude, Jerry and Cindy Hunter, Guy Madison along with many others. Also, Greg Starling from fellow startup, Buzzam, has taught us a lot, probably without knowing it.
In Auburn, Kyle and Michael learned huge lessons from their Professor Jim Corman. Sam Solomon is also one of our best friends that is always up for an extremely stimulating conversation on startups and our educational system.
In a broad sense Michael and Kyle both think Bill Gates and Scott Harrison are amazing. Bill Gates will have improved millions of lives by the time he is done and his 2007 Harvard commencement address is something that Michael looks at as a social entrepreneurship manifesto to improve our world. Scott Harrison has completely revolutionized non-profit work with Charity:Water and we urge you to hear his story on Kevin Rose’s YouTube series, Foundation.
Finally, in addition to the startup heros like Steve Blank and Eric Ries, Brad Feld has been someone we follow devoutly. In addition to possibly being one of the most easy-going and encouraging people we have ever met; his book, Venture Deals, is a must read for anyone raising money.
What’s next for Get Charitable ?
GetCharitable’s goal is to keep growing our user base to make the biggest impact in the world we can! The more users, the bigger this can be, so we definitely need all of our users to share with their friends.
Long term, GetCharitable will grow onto other major platforms to reach the biggest audience possible and someday go worldwide.