The entrepreneur

Luca Pivato has a tech entrepreneurial background, but his passion is to support social causes in a novel way. He thought there must be a way to marry his expertise with his personal mission to help nonprofits and schools.

Pivato focused where he saw a huge void — a connection between businesses and nonprofits in a single online platform. His solution is an e-commerce site where people can shop for goods and services while supporting their favorite nonprofits. The nonprofits reap a portion of the sale and spread the word on the buying opportunities to their supporters. Pivato’s site is called Recoup.com — and he said his data suggests his model is working. Teaming with more than 270 causes that potentially reach millions of people, the site is growing quickly and Recoup’s team has to keep up.

The pitch

Pivato

“Recoup is the first e-commerce platform that brings consumers, businesses and nonprofits together.

“Businesses sell their products and services at great prices on their branded storefronts on Recoup.com. Every sale generates a donation to a nonprofit organization. Customers have the option at checkout to increase the initial donation resulting in a tax-deductible contribution.

“Nonprofit partners can promote Recoup storefronts to their members and supporters through their dedicated sales page hosted on Recoup, a Facebook store integrated with their pages or through social media channels using Recoup’s sharing tools.

“We provide an additional sales channel for businesses to promote their products, services and brand while aligning with the causes they want to support. Our model virtually guarantees that we reach valuable consumers and provide positive advertising.

“We are also able to match businesses with nonprofits according to their products and target demographics. Recoup’s products and offers are organized into channels: Travel, kids and family, entertainment, pets, jewelry and fashion, and home and lifestyle. Our model allows us to sell high-price luxury items as well as everyday products.

“Each sale results in a new customer, a donation, savings and a happy member.

“We have proven our business model and are already generating substantial revenue and funds for our nonprofit partners. We have a strong team and processes in place signing up businesses and nonprofits every day. While we already have a large and loyal user base, the user acquisition piece is the key to our continued growth and it’s where we want to push on the accelerator. We need funding to make this happen. How do we get in front of the right group of investors?

The advice

Melissa Carrier, assistant dean, Center for Social Value Creation, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“The fundraising process can take months to years, and companies need to be careful not to become too consumed by it. As a leadership team, think about the minimum input you need to achieve your fundraising goals. Take time to really plan out a strategy. If you don’t, you may find yourself chasing one meeting after another without productively moving forward. Map out your network and how you can leverage your existing contacts to meet your fundraising goals.

“Given your business model, one approach could be to study what other successful e-commerce platforms have done to raise money. Even though you have a social mission, your business model is similar to other well-funded e-commerce sites.

“In the social mission space, there is a growing community of ‘impact investors’ — I’d encourage you to get involved in that community. In the impact investing space, it’s all about who you know. Start networking. Get into the right Twitter conversations, network at conferences, engage on social media, get your brand out in the right circles.

“You also might consider crowdfunding. There are some very good successes of companies being funded this way. Because of your business model, with your large and invested user base, this strategy could work quite well. You could get your members to invest in the company because they feel so strongly about the mission. I think it’s something to really consider.”