Carolyn Driscoll launched UncommonGood after a 20-year career in both small businesses and scaling startups. She is an unapologetic non-conformist dedicated to paving the way for women founders of startups. Carolyn is a rarity, combining big picture, conceptual vision with pragmatism and grassroots, detail-oriented hard work. She rolls up her sleeves to solve problems that are often overlooked. Every task is approached with optimism grounded in the belief in humanity’s inherent goodness. Carolyn brings a global perspective and strong convictions to the tech-for-good landscape with a thoughtful and curious spirit.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I have a diverse background and unique perspective from growing up as an American in the Middle East. Travel has always been foundational to my education. I know that life can be challenging and painful – I lost my brother unexpectedly a little over ten years ago, and my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s soon after. It took some time, but I wanted to channel all the pain into something to help the world. And, despite all the losses that I’ve experienced, I have also had great luck. When you’ve experienced tragedy, you see how important it is to make the most of opportunities that come your way and use them to make a positive impact.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
My father lives with Alzheimer’s disease, and the local nonprofit where he lives helps our whole family manage the challenges of the disease in the day-to-day, human aspect – from respite care to helping family members navigate the medical system and find other caregivers. This nonprofit is relatively small but makes a huge impact, despite limited operational resources.
Many tech solutions are not appropriate for the acute needs of 80% of nonprofits that operate on budgets of less than $5mm a year. I wanted to build an adaptable solution that is appropriate and affordable for all of these change-making organizations. Our software package understands and anticipates the modern nonprofit needs such as marketing and storytelling as well as traditional fundraising-style endeavors and operations.
How did you achieve awareness?
As we move out of beta and into full-market launch, we are ramping up our marketing efforts to do just that – gain brand awareness.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit – I started my first business in 2007. But, to build a more prominent company, I knew I would have to raise capital. I was fortunate to have met a mentor through my first business, who offered me an opportunity to prove myself by taking an active role in early-stage startups. Eventually, when I had built up enough skills and trust, I approached him and one of his associates about raising money for an idea I had for a tech startup. They helped me raise a small pre-seed round to prove out my idea. From there, I built an MVP that allowed me to secure additional funding to publicly launch and scale, which is where we are now.
What are the key successes?
I believe that the platform we’ve built will be a gamechanger for nonprofits of all sizes. We’ve had an incredible beta testing group of 100 small nonprofits and have seen how much impact the platform can make. We’ve built a robust internal team of seasoned professionals from varied backgrounds and have had lead roles at companies such as Udemy, Google, and Groupon. The team’s strength is sure to carry us through a successful public launch and scaling period.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
To scale and achieve product-market fit, we must reach nonprofits who can benefit most from our software. This is difficult in the age of digital noise. However, we are in the process of overcoming this through a creative and nuanced approach to storytelling and community-building. We initially built the MVP with a third-party vendor, so the process of transferring the tech in-house has been a bit complex but worthwhile. Overcoming this challenge is thanks to our team of seasoned internal developers who are poised to continue improving and growing the platform as we evolve.
What are your plans now/for the future?
As we continue to build out UncommonGood, feedback from beta users and others has shown us how valuable our platform could be for other businesses and individuals beyond nonprofits – from schools to gig workers to small businesses. Our near-term plan is to adapt our solutions for those markets.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
It’s easy to be paralyzed and not know where to start, but you have to take the first step no matter how small because each step adds up.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
You’re going to face more challenges than you can count. But, resourcefulness, curiosity, tenacity, and resilience are going to carry you a lot further than you realize.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Molly Purdue and Melanie Braverman who started the Alzheimer’s Family Center and have brought care and relief to thousands of families coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Greg Gilbert was the mentor I mentioned above, who recognized my capabilities that many others could have overlooked and gave me an opportunity. Mr. Fred Rogers who was my childhood hero. My brother who showed me how important it is to make the most of every opportunity. Constantine P. Cavafy, for his poem “Ithaca,” that has guided my philosophy of life.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
- “Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has- or ever will have- something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” -Mr. Rogers
- “Even the greatest was once a beginner. Don’t be afraid to take that first step.” – Unknown
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
- UncommonGood website – https://www.douncommongood.com/learn/about
- Instagram – UncommonGood – https://www.instagram.com/douncommongood/
- Facebook – UncommonGood – https://www.facebook.com/douncommongood
- LinkedIn- UncommonGood – https://www.linkedin.com/company/douncommongood/
- LinkedIn – Carolyn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolyn-driscoll/