In November 2010 my friend Shana Fisher sent me an email suggesting I meet Edward Norton about his crowdfunding site for charities, called CrowdRise. I was pretty dismissive in my response to Shana. I told her that USV was “all in” on Kickstarter and we did not want to invest in anything that was too close to them. And though I did not mention it to Shana, I was also wondering how someone like Edward could manage being an entrepreneur in combination with all of the other things he does. But Shana is persistent. I took the breakfast which was at Pain Quotidien on 5th Avenue and 8th Street.
I walked into that breakfast a skeptic and came out a believer. Edward impressed me with his commitment to making it easier to raise funds for charities and causes. And he impressed me with his knowledge of startups and technology.
In the three+ years since, I have recommended CrowdRise to everyone who asks me where to crowdfund for charities. Each time I send them to Edward, he and his co-founders Shauna, Robert, and Jeffrey have treated them well and helped them run successful campaigns on CrowdRise.
Last fall, we met again for breakfast. This time at Maialino. And Edward told me they had an incredible year in 2013 and had recently been approached by a buyer who wanted to acquire CrowdRise. I told him “absolutely not”. So Edward said “what would you do if you were me?” and I replied “I would raise a big round from top notch VCs and grow CrowdRise into the crowdfunding platform for charities”.
And, as all of you must realize as you read this, that is exactly what Edward, Shauna, Robert, and Jeffrey did. Today CrowdRise is announcing a large investment by USV, Index, Spark, RatPac Entertainment , Bezos Expeditions, and the talent agencies CAA and UTA.
At USV, we believe that the best crowdfunding services are domain specific. Kickstarter for project funding, Lending Club for consumer debt, CircleUp for equity investments in consumer products, Funding Circle for small business debt, and so on and so forth. And so our investment strategy is to find the very best platform for the important categories and back them. We’ve done that a lot but we did not have the premier crowdfunding platform for charitable giving in our portfolio.
Now we do and we are super excited about it. And we are super excited to be working with Robert, Jeffrey, Edward, and Shauna. They are a great founding team and have built something truly special at CrowdRise.
If you want to give CrowdRise a spin, you might consider backing CSNYC, a non-profit that is funding CS Education in NYC public schools. Their CrowdRise is here.