Giverrang. A Passionate Start-Up With Big Dreams.
At Growth Rocket, there’s nothing we love more than discovering new business ideas. So it made our day when we came across Giverrang, a start-up that rewards its community for giving each other discounts for goods and services. We thought the concept was really innovative, so we reached out to Giverrang’s CEO, Mark Walerysiak, to learn more about their company and his plans for the future. From our initial conversation, it became clear that Mark is very passionate about his company, and has put an incredible amount of time and effort into getting Giverrang off the ground. We're really grateful to him for taking part and the amount of thought he put into his responses. Please, when you get a chance, follow the links at the bottom of this article and help spread the word about Giverrang. We'd love to see them grow!
Giverrang is an online community that rewards users for giving one another cash discounts on the sale of goods and services. It’s certainly an original idea. How did you come up with the concept?
Actually, at first our idea did not involve discounts. Discounts were where we ended up only after pivoting. We were actually building something more based on straight trade credit, when we came to realize that the slow adoption of economic products whether it was barter, LETS, or even crypto, was due in part, in our opinion, because these systems require people to completely depart the money world — which every human on earth is familiar with — to join something completely new. To some, that’s too scary a jump, and the result is skepticism or not giving it a try.
So we thought, OK, there has to be a point of entry that can bridge the money world, and work with it, and also introduce these wonderful “cashless” concepts, essentially how people can extend credit to each other — and how it can help facilitate business and value creation and community wealth. On a whim one day my dad pitched, “What about discounts?” and the light bulbs went off.
Your logo and the name Giverrang are clever because they immediately invoke thoughts of giving away something that returns to you. How long did it take you to come up with the name and logo? Did you have any help from a branding agency?
We’re still pretty early so we appreciate your feedback that our logo and brand are resonating!
Nope, no branding agency. Part of my work background is actually in branding and marketing / communications so perhaps that’s cheating : p
I took it upon myself to find a name that could condense a complex system into a general thought — and you nailed exactly what we want people to think — give something and get something back. Give discounts get points. That’s the setup. If we can get a potential user to that point, before even reading about our business, we’re one step ahead because now you have an idea of who we are and the reciprocity of it all.
So how did we get there? Lots of ink and crumbled paper, haha. I think it took a month or two after we had the concept fleshed out. We knew what our idea did, so we tried to break it down into its simplest form — give and get — and think of what symbols exist out there that we can leverage that demonstrate the action of giving and receiving. A Boomerang came to mind, and of course the inclusion of the word “give” makes it seem all too obvious now, but we married the two together and voila, Giverrang was born!
You’re a father and son team, I don’t believe that’s common in tech start-ups. You obviously work well together. How do you decide who is responsible for which parts of the business?
I’ll have to make a slight correction here, as my father was more heavily involved the first couple years as co-founder in the ideation stage, but in the past year he has shifted into an advisory role for the company. This occurred for a few reasons, he’s at retirement age and not going to want to work 40, 60 (or whatever) hour weeks, and really to take care of important matters at home and in family life — which is invaluable — so he is attached to the project, and of course rooting it on and offering his ideas and perspectives whenever needed. And if it all works out, I hope to repay him for everything he’s done. However, at the moment I am a solo founder operating the company as CEO.
But you are right that it is not common to see a father-son partnership, so I am proud of that. What made our previous and current arrangement successful, and for us to dream up a system like this together, was because we’re a bit of opposites. He’s logical, scientific, mathematical, and paced, and I’m more of the artsy and driven visionary, community builder who has his hair on fire, ha. Our personalities complement each other, and where the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and we overlap, is we are both big thinkers and were able to meet in the middle on a lot of particulars. We recognize when the other has great points, and play devils advocate a whole lot to sharpen our thinking.
Not to get sappy, but I think this business really allowed our relationship to grow and appreciate the other in new ways. But I will say, it’s probably a good thing that things naturally evolved the way it did, as I hear too many horror stories of people going into business with family and friends and then they end up resenting each other. I never wanted that for us, so I’m thankful for his past involvement and our current setup.
Have you both come from technical or start up backgrounds?
Not at all. We’re just two guys with big dreams for this world.
Giverrang only went live very recently, but there must have been a lot of work prior to this point. Can you tell us about the development of Giverrang?
It’s been a long time in the making. Our early conversations on these topics we never would have thought would lead here, so I guess you can say it was in the making even before we knew it was.
I give my father, Mark Sr., the credit for the idea. About 10 years ago he became very interested in alternative and complementary currencies, as well as LETS (local exchange trading systems) networks, and cashless exchange, among other economic concepts, and how they helped small businesses and encouraged the exchange of goods and services, which resulted in more individual and communal wealth / resources, and quite importantly, built stronger local (and global) economies. In some cases these innovative systems (look up Switzerland’s WIR), helped reverse depressions. So interest was stoked and we chatted about these topics casually over the years, and considering the “money plight” of recent history — the US’s depression in 2009, and some struggles with the Euro and national debts worldwide — real questions started to be emerge as to whether there were other ways to help create economic movement and equality.
At the time, it was the early part of the decade (2010-2014), and I was helping run a downtown program and then a community and economic development initiative in Bristol, CT, USA (2014-2016), and was interested in starting a local currency for my hometown to promote local spending. One thing led to another and our conversations about starting a local currency grew and evolved into something more serious, something bigger, and something we felt we could apply to more than just our home town.
Finally, in latter 2016/2017 we got serious about it. We spent much of that time vetting legalities. For example, getting an opinion from the corporate counsel of our state. That ate a lot of time, about 9 months. During that time we tried to look into out of the box ‘exchange’ software, but the products out there did not make it easy to bend to our use. It was very clunky, and I don’t think users would have gotten it, so we ended up abandoning that route.
Then late in 2017 we found our lightbulb moment with discounts. We spent some time fleshing out the concept. We tried to research developers to build it but the cost of development was too prohibitive for us.
Then in early 2018, I stumbled across bubble.is, a no-code app-building platform that blew my mind. It allowed a nontechnical person like me to learn how to put together an online app. I was hooked, and dedicated myself to learning bubble. Many hours, headaches, forum visits later, I fell in love with developing, and ended up building the first version of Giverrang. That’s where we are today.
What were some of the most challenging aspects of getting Giveerrang to this point?
The biggest challenge by far is time. People need to work to eat, but they also need time to build something valuable for the world. Many times these situations oppose one another. I was able to solve this by chipping away during the early hours (before going to work, say 5:45/6:00 am - 8:15 am), and dabbling on nights and weekends. Then when my passion became too strong to ignore, I negotiated with the non-profit I consult at to allow me to reduce my hours from 40 to 32.5. This freed up my mornings enough for more development and meetings, and to me, symbolically, put my passion project first — which I think is a good thing in case God is an investor. I always picture him asking, “Why aren’t you putting your dream first?”. Now I was. That allowed me to put more time in the last 6 months or so, working from 6 am to 10:15 am on my project, before heading into work for 11 am, and finishing at 5:30/6:00 pm, and of course the commute home. Long days, but a necessary sacrifice if you truly believe in what you are doing.
We weren’t technical, so there was a bit of a research and then learning curve there. I will still need a CTO-type shortly as I build out a team, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.
Funding is challenging because it’s self-funded currently. I am open to seed investment but want to be smart about it, and admire those who bootstrap and make it work. I am touch and go here.
I think as an entrepreneur, you are supposed to be curious and resourceful. So if you can create enough space, i.e. time, for you to pursue your dreams, that’s all you need to figure out the rest. But be smart about it. Scale down as necessary. Don’t force yourself to live in a car or anything to pursue a start-up. You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t. Pay your bills and pursue your dreams. It is possible.
What are your growth plans for Givverang?
All SMB’s and SME’s on earth using Giverrang within 10 years. Is that too ambitious?
Our goals looks something like this, at least according to our pitch deck.
1000 users after year 1
4000 users after year 2
16,000 users after year 3
64,000 users after year 4
256,000 users after year 5
It’s always so hard to lay out as many times this question asks for the pipe dream, but if everything went perfectly it might look something like that. We’re realistic and know dreams and reality can be two different things. So we remain humble, keeping our heads down, and just trying to spread the word.
Of course, we would love national and global recognition, as that would mean people are using Giverrang and finding it useful, but that will come if it is proven to add value to businesses and the world.
Mostly we want to be known as a solution for small businesses, to help increase individual and community wealth and richness without full reliance on money, and educate people on there being other ways, besides money, to accomplish things — and it can have a kindness factor that is mutually beneficial.
Getting a tech start-up from concept to launch must be incredibly challenging. What do you think are some of the qualities required to achieve it?
Discipline. Without question. You have to put yourself in the mindset that this is your job. You need to create a structure. Set a time that you are working on it and stick to it. You wake up each morning to work for other people, so you have to be able to do that for yourself. But the only reason you wake up and do that is because there is an expected structure for your day — say it’s 9-5 — that’s why you go and are motivated to show up because that time is “set aside” for you to go to work and people expect to see you there. Do that same thing for yourself and test it out, that’s how you get things going, and once you get going you get addicted and you need to feed even more time into it because you see progress, you see that it enlivens your spirit, you see it has the potential to help others, and suddenly motivation is there.
Can you tell us more about some ways you will raise awareness of Giverrang? (I.e. social media, business expos, collaborations with other businesses.)
The short answer is all of the above. You have to tap into many channels if you want to be successful. Right now I’m concentrating on things that don’t scale — to steal a phrase from Y Combinator. I’m having one-on-one discussions with small businesses, I’ve done some market research surveys, I’m reaching out to leaders in communities and asking their thoughts on if my product might be useful to businesses in their area. This is a slower rode to hoe, but it’s important to build these genuine relationships to get valuable feedback, and find champions that will be the first pioneers of the product. We’re right at the beginning, so it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s exciting too.
Also, I have social media channels that are active, but one counter-intuitive thing I learned is that you want to be somewhat measured in your approach there and elsewhere. Don’t do paid ads when you start. You think you know your product because you built it, but customers are going to define it and shape where it will eventually end up. It will never be as you planned it out. You don’t want to race out of the gates and then find out that you are going to have to significantly alter your product, and then you wasted all that time, money, and especially precious first impressions. Get out there, but use the trickle and not fire hydrant approach. Once you are getting the feedback you want, turn on the hose. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you were prudent at the start.
Can you give us a rundown of a typical day as CEO of Givverrang?
My typical day is not what my ideal would be by virtue of my still being part time, but for the time being it’s wake up, shower, get lunch and things ready. Sit at my computer around 6:10 am - 6:15 am. Work until 10:20 am, then change quickly and drive to paid work. When I get back around 6:15-6:30, start setting dinner, then do a few Giverrang items while I can, then eat with my wife and try to spend the rest of the evening with her and family. Sometimes you get pulled back to it, but I believe it is important to draw the line in order to establish a work-life balance. It’s important especially if you care to stay married, ha.
My typical future day, come October 1, will be spending full-time on Giverrang, and freelancing in my “spare time” just to have some money rolling in. I’ll be flipping the script completely, and I cannot be more excited.
What’s your best piece of advice for anyone thinking about starting a tech company?
Stop thinking and just do it. You don’t need to know any answers right now. Once you start legitimizing it and pretending it’s a thing and just working on it, it will take on a life of its own. Carve out time to work on it, that structure is important. Then keep showing up. You will be amazing at how this simple advice will quickly result in progress that will get you excited and motivated to tackle the next day's work.
Is there anyone who inspires you as an entrepreneur?
I’m not particularly influenced by any one person, I sort of pull from a lot of wisdom out there and do what feels right while compiling a lot of learned and experienced knowledge to help navigate the world. If I had to pick, I think some more common known guys I admire would be Elon Musk. He’s unapologetically himself, and is a big thinker. He is trying hard to advance civilization, and sacrificing a lot of himself to do it. I find that honorable, but I hope he doesn’t go crazy trying to do it and finds moments to breathe. Another guy would be Peter Thiel. He’s polarizing to some, but I believe in his philosophy of zero to one — in trying to create start-ups that are carving their own unique paths, and to avoid competition however you can.
Finally, what do you like to do to relax when you’re not working on Giverrang?
Well, I have friends, so they are always fun to loosen up on occasions, ha. I mostly like to relax at home on our big red couch with my wife and cats — Meowcho Man and Miss Purrlizabeth — and enjoy silly reality TV and my nerd passion, professional wrestling, to unwind the mind. I enjoy cooking, watching sports like American football, drinking wine and fine cocktails, taking weekend trips, and constantly learning — about health, cool start-ups, innovations. I enjoy contributing to my community and society — currently I’m a commissioner on our city’s arts and cultural commission, and I volunteer as a board member at a local museum. I think it's important to unleash however you feel you could help your local community and society; it feeds the soul. I guess I enjoy a lot!