Finding love while you do good through an APP.
WHO are you?
Brooke Waupsh, CEO and Co-Founder of Swoovy.
I am an award-winning marketer with experience breathing life into stablished brands such as Coors, Clorox, and Charles Schwab, as well as successfully introducing a new financial technology consumer brand, Kasasa, to the market that is now nationwide and supported by the 4th largest network of financial institutions behind Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo. I was nominated for “Change Maker of 2019” by the Austin Young Chamber as well as a finalist for the Austin Under 40 awards the past 2 years for “Start-Up and Innovation”. My industry awards include a Bronze Los Angeles Addy Award (Regional/National Television category), 5 MarCom Awards and 2 Honorable Mentions. I also have numerous industry certifications including Graphic Design (UCBerkeley) and Agile software development.
WHAT did you do?
After being a key member in launching a new FinTech brand in 2009 that helped community banks and credit unions compete against megabanks in 11 markets and growing it nationwide, I realized I had the tick for innovation and building game changing brands.
In 2018 I brought together two seemingly unrelated worlds—volunteering and online dating. It was an opportunity, that when I took a step back, made a ton of sense and could help non-profits tap into a mainstream audience of people to get them involved, and it could help this mass market of online daters get through their frustrations of not meeting genuine people, having anything worthwhile to do as a date to really get to know someone, and ultimately connect through something meaningful—while still using technology. As it turned out, dating experts recommend volunteering as one of the best ways to meet someone and develop a strong relationship.
The most successful brands weave services and products in to the way people live, work and play. There has been an on-going challenge for non-profits to get more volunteer help, and while 90% of people say they want to volunteer, only 1 in 4 do. Life happens, you get busy, and ultimately when you do have time you don’t know where to start with finding an opportunity to volunteer. Meanwhile, millennials alone happen to have over 500 hours a year to spend on dating apps, but are frustrated with the connections they are making. It made a ton of sense to introduce the two worlds, and single people and non-profits agreed when I presented the initial idea. Partnership has always been a motivator, why not use it for good? The health and wellness industry has seen success with accountability partners, and everyone knows of the wingman who gets you to do that little extra something. People want to find a relationship and will dedicate the time to doing so. And one of the top reasons researched showed people don’t volunteer is because they don’t have anyone to go with. Swoovy would be that partnership platform solving the pains on both sides.
HOW did you do it?
The first thing I did is vet the idea with single people, and start calling nonprofits. Every single person I talked to LOVED the idea, even those who said they swore off dating apps said they would try Swoovy. When I called the nonprofits, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, and they loved it too! This was exactly what they needed to get more awareness outside of their efforts, in a modern and edgy way to tap into a mainstream market. We did focus groups, quantitative studies (fancy for surveys), and started prototyping what the app would be like. And then I started begging people for money The fun part. My first investor was the CFO at my previous company I worked at, Kasasa—he believed in me and the concept. When you’re just getting started, your earliest investors are the ones that know you can do it. I also scrapped some of my own change together to make it happen.
WHEN did you start your company?
I began the doing research and developing business plans early in 2018, and then we did a soft launch of a pilot app in November 2019.
WHY are you innovating with this product or service?
Non-profits desperately need a modern way to activate more volunteers. And in the online dating market DESPERATLEY needs to infuse a little “good” into the intentions of the market. It’s a world that has grown tremendously, with almost every single person having (or have tried at some point) an online profile. It makes sense to use technology to make things easier and to have more access.
I saw an opportunity to give online daters hope, and an even bigger opportunity for social impact. Volunteering can offset some of the depression people feel in the dating space with all of the swiping, it’s actually proven to have positive effects on mental and physical health. And, each hour of volunteer time is worth $25 to a non-profit. When I started crunching the numbers of those 500 hours a year spent on dating apps, shifting over to volunteering for even 1 date a month, I was looking at what could be a billion dollars of value into the non-profit sector. That had me hooked.
While the dating market made the most sense as an initial segment, partnership is still the hook and the foundation of Swoovy to increase volunteerism. We received feedback after our launch people would love to use the app to volunteer with friends, significant others, as well as groups. It makes it easy to get involved in the community, and strengthen those relationships as well. That validated my vision for Swoovy and is our current roadmap as we expand. We just released a couple’s experience, where, for less than going out to grab coffee together you can set up a joint account to view daily opportunities, invite each other, and book something that works for both of you—a new kind of date for couples to strengthen their relationship, stimulate conversation, and allow you to bond and grow through giving back. With COVID-19 we rolled out virtual ways to connect, and tested virtual-volunteering group events as well that were very positively received.
WHERE are you from?
I’m an Austin-native. I graduated high school early, went to the business school at Colorado State University, worked internships through college and graduated early as well, then took the big leap and moved to San Francisco. I came back to Austin end of 2007.
Non-profit Management / SAAS