I scour the globe for stories worth reading about ventures that are a true force for good for humanity and our planet.
That’s why I’m THRILLED to introduce Jake Wood, Founder & CEO of Groundswell.io.
Jake and Groundswell’s mission is to democratize philanthropy for the masses.
Groundswell has raised $5 million in venture funding and pulled together a world-class founding team. Jake is joined by cofounders Joe Marchese and Adam Miller, two serial entrepreneurs who have founded, built, and exited numerous technology companies valued at billions of dollars. The collective experience of Groundswell’s technical team, led by Tammy Hahn and Karan Keswani, leave little doubt that Groundswell’s technology will be world-class.
Let’s dive into the deep end.
Diana Tsai: What’s the problem you’re solving?
Jake Wood: Charitable giving in the US is a half-trillion dollar a year industry, driven mostly by the 99%. Unfortunately, the philanthropic tools used by the 1% – private foundations, philanthropic advisors, tax-advantaged accounts, and other tools – are inaccessible to regular people. We are going to fix that.
Tsai: How are you solving it?
Wood: We have built a platform that allows companies to provide a donor-advised fund (effectively a personal foundation) to each of their employees, which companies can then gift money into for those employees to give away — effectively creating a new pillar of compensation. For the user, our Groundswell app provides machine learning driven nonprofit recommendations, tax-advantaged investment vehicles, a universal dashboard of all the user’s philanthropy, and the ability to share publicly their portfolio of causes. Basically, we let everyone give like Gates, get taxed like Buffett, and get recognized like Rockefeller.
Tsai: How will Groundswell measure impact?
Wood: Let’s be honest, the world is facing an accelerating rate of challenges. We have deeply entrenched issues like racial inequity, some parts of the world are seeing a decline in democractic values, the planet is warming, and things like access to clean water might spark the next world war.
However, I don’t think humans are apathetic. America remains the most charitable country on the planet, and it’s not even a close competition. I believe that we can challenge our desire for change and help fund outcomes that can scale and generate impact. That’s why Groundswell feels it is so important to unlock the philanthropic potential of everyone – because this is an all-hands-on-deck moment.
Ten years from now we hope to have helped unlock a trillion dollars of philanthropy globally. That won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it will be a good start.
Tsai: What does the world look like once you’ve solved this problem?
Wood: We talk about our vision being “every solution is funded, and every problem is solved.” Do we think we’ll solve all the world’s problems? No, but we’re foolish enough to try; and in doing so, we might just inspire a generation of philanthropists who will also refuse to stand idly by while the world suffers. That’s a transformative change that is worth pursuing.
Tsai: What motivated you personally to start Groundswell?
Wood: I’m an entrepreneur at heart who is always in search of problems that need solving. But last year my second daughter was born with a significant heart defect. Fortunately we had great insurance and access to some of the best surgeons in the world, and today she is fine. However, the episode prompted me to think beyond the problems I was already solving at Team Rubicon (disasters and humanitarian crises) and toward the broader challenges facing society. Looking at my two young girls I knew I needed to do more to ensure that their future could be as bright as possible. Soon after I set in motion my succession at Team Rubicon and created the idea for Groundswell.
Tsai: What’s been your history with building ventures in service of humanity?
Wood: Prior to founding Groundswell, I founded and led a nonprofit organization called Team Rubicon that recruits, trains, and deploys military veterans for disaster responses. Over the last 11 years, Team Rubicon has recruited over 150,000 volunteers and conducted nearly 1,000 disaster and humanitarian operations. I have watched our volunteers save lives and piece livelihoods back together time and again. There’s perhaps no better example than the work we did in Navajo Nation during COVID. While the rest of America was seemingly ready to let that native population get decimated by the virus, we deployed hundreds of medical providers over the course of the year, treating thousands of patients and saving countless lives.
Tsai: A little vulnerability – how do you take care of you so that you can show up as the best version of you to serve others?
Wood: I immerse myself entirely in my work and my family. When I’m not with my family I’m working and when I’m not working I’m with my family. I don’t need any other motivation or wellbeing maintenance, because, frankly, our mission is too important to show up with anything less than my A-game.
Tsai: How can readers get involved / support / help?
Wood: Groundswell will be in Beta in November. Users looking to be better philanthropists or companies looking to implement a new employee benefit that actually makes a difference can sign up for our beta at www.groundswell.io.
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