Today everyone knows about crowdfunding websites, but how was GoFundMe built? It was one of the first of its kind and today you’ll hear the story of its inception, formation and reformulation and its tremendous growth.
Joining us for this edition of CTO Studio is Andy Ballester, one of the co-founders of GoFundMe. Today Andy and his co-founder Brad Damphousse sit on the board of GoFundMe, but our discussion will take you back to the beginning when it was just Andy and Brad and an idea. Listen in for their fascinating journey, and lessons you can learn from their experiences.
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- Why is there always a reason to rewrite?
- Why was it so important for Andy and his co-founder to answer phones and speak with their customers early on?
- How did Kickstarter help them in their early stages?
- How the social aspect influenced the creation of GoFundMe.
- Why did they switch to WePay and how did it explode their growth?
- And so much more!
When Andy and Brad started GoFundMe they had met in San Diego when they worked at the same start-up. They found they worked well together and built a lot of products as a team. So when the idea of GoFundMe came about it didn’t matter that Brad was in LA and Andy was in San Diego. They had always known if they came up with the right idea they could build something interesting together, and they thought they had it with GoFundMe.
As with most things, GoFundMe started off as another idea. Initially they were going to create something that would help people save money for items they wanted, they called that original product Coin Piggy. As they built it out on paper they found that if they had people saving on online merchant accounts (like PayPal) it would be like a savings account with a negative 3% interest!
So out of the gate it was not a good product, but they had a lot of use cases to explore. They could see the social aspect was interesting, and that sparked something. They thought forget about people saving up for what they wanted individually, and instead considered what could people save up for socially?
Andy says it was like they backed into this idea of personal fundraising. They built out a product over the next six months called CreateAFund, which was the predecessor of GoFundMe. For two years they took that product and tried to find a fit for it, and tried to explain and educate people about it.
At the time Kickstarter was out there but their project was different. Kickstarter was product-based and was built around the idea that you could help start-ups in a non-equity way.
He says they have tremendous respect for Kickstarter and what they were doing and have done. Andy believes they owe a lot of the initial easing of their use case into society because of Kickstarter’s early viral campaigns.
Before they could rebrand and relaunch, Andy and Brad had to find ways to bootstrap their company. Often they would take consulting gigs and Andy got to build on a lot of different platforms as a result, he saw interesting features from some along with the drawbacks of others.
But it helped him and Brad, his co-founder, to know they wanted something that was lightweight in terms of the engineering. Symfony’s blank skeleton at the time was 11,000 files and that just seemed like too much code and too complex for the use case they wanted to solve. As a result they started off with a mixture of open source and some custom code, in total it was only about 6 files to manage.