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UAlbany Alum Gives Back with GivDapps

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Adam MacDonald has long been interested in charity and mobile technology — separately. And now both are part of his business.

For years, MacDonald volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a non-profit child mentor program. Two summers ago, during a Wal-Mart run to buy his “little brother” shoes, he pondered: Why aren’t more people donating on cell phones?

MacDonald, then a University at Albany student, set out to start an app that would allow users to support specific community members through select charities. In pursuit of transparency, he envisioned the app to keep donors connected with donees.

“If I just gave $100 to a homeless person and they now have their own apartment and are doing well, that’s the kind of information I think is valuable to a donor,” he said.

This wasn’t his first dream app. Fascinated with mobile technology after Yik Yak launched two years prior, MacDonald was initially interested in developing an anonymous photo sharing app, Razly.

However, MacDonald faced two barriers with GivDapps: he knew little about nonprofits and marketing. Looking to build GivDapps, he would spend much of his time working to fill learning gaps.

At the time, GivDapps was failing to attract nonprofit partnerships. Nonprofits were hostile towards the app at first, fearing that they would lose money off of donations, MacDonald said. As a result, GivDapps’ rebranded their nonprofit outreach to highlight marketing and data collecting incentives.

“I was thinking in my head, ‘Of course nonprofits would be interested,’” he said. “And it turns out that I had to market myself very differently because they thought of me almost as competition.”

GivDapps began to make headway in January of last year, a result of the Blackstone Launchpad’s opening, MacDonald recalled. Prior to Blackstone, he mostly worked on GivDapps alone.

“The Blackstone thing kind of changed everything,” he said. “They brought together all of these minds that were just focused on what might be a good idea and what could be a bad idea.”

After Blackstone, MacDonald started running GivDapps out of a Troy office. At the time, GivDapps started to build its current list of partnerships (General Albany Fund, Four Mile Smile, and Joseph’s House).

Further ahead, MacDonald anticipates GivDapps to eventually expand to Schenectady and Saratoga Springs. With a greater reach, he plans to start marketing the app to fraternities and sororities across the Capital Region.

MacDonald has yet to profit off GivDapps. In an effort to make ends meet, he works for Ripe, a New York City-based restaurant app. Looking to meet goals, MacDonald works shifts back and forth between both start-ups as long as 12 hours.

“My intention is to really get this going,” he said. “Like I tell everybody on the team: I won’t get paid until everybody else gets paid.”

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