Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, many of our partners are working hard to support the communities most affected by the crisis. Last month, for instance, Eastern Bank leveraged the relationship they formed with fintech company Pinkaloo in the 2019 MassChallenge FinTech program to serve as founding donors and administrators of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund. Launched by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker in partnership with the One8 Foundation, this fund utilizes Pinkaloo’s Modern Giving platform to deliver a secure and easy way for individuals to donate.
We sat down with Pinkaloo founder and CEO Gideon Taub (pictured above) to learn more about the company and their involvement with this relief effort.
Tell us about Pinkaloo. Why did you start the company?
I was working on my taxes (ugh so boring) in 2016 and I got to the section on donations and realized that I'd been far less generous the previous year than I'd thought. I didn't feel very good about myself. I started chatting with peers and lots of people had issues around their giving. Everything from budgeting, to discovery, to tracking tax receipts, to collaborating with friends and family.
I realized that we could build 'modern' fintech tools to address all of these pain points, and best of all, partner with Financial Institutions and Employers to allow them to build giving back into their culture, into their products, and into how they engage with employees, customers, and their communities.
How did you learn about MC FinTech? What were you expecting to get out of MCFT, and what has been the best part of working with MCFT?
A friend of mine had participated in a recent MassChallenge program and luckily, sent me the info about the FinTech program. I loved the concept of the 'Reverse Pitches' as a way to understand the problems that each Partner was looking to solve. I immediately saw the alignment with Eastern Bank, which is one of the most charitable organizations in Massachusetts and very open to using technology to create great experiences, and hoped they would, too!
At the time, we'd been partnering with Employers to power modern, engaging, workplace giving programs for a few years, and we were eager to understand how our Modern Giving accounts could be valuable to Financial Institutions -- retail banks specifically. MCFT offered a way to fast-track those learnings, taking what could easily have been an 18 month journey down to 6 months to get a live pilot that Eastern Bank customers could use to try out managing their donations. The framework of the MCFT program and the upfront prep work that the MCFT did with their partners enabled that to happen.
As you mentioned, you partnered with Eastern Bank last year and are still working with them today. What have you accomplished?
We set an aggressive goal of getting a customer-facing pilot program live within 6 months, including fully integrated into their digital banking apps. As a testament to their team, we achieved that goal, processing our first donations for their customers in June 2019.
Since then, we've learned a ton, improved the onboarding experience for new users, and they've continued to add more digital banking users into 2020 to the pilot...They have some awesome plans to further market the solution, Eastern Give for Good, a new charitable giving account that consumers can use to make fee-free donations directly through their Mobile and Online banking accounts this year, which we're really excited for.
That’s awesome! What has it been like working with their team?
Ashley Nagle Eknaian and Dahiana Duarte Pena (from the Eastern Labs team) are awesome. To this day, we have weekly meetings with them to make sure we are sharing the latest progress on our work and continuing to innovate. They've done a tremendous job creating bridges to all of the various teams that are required for a successful, customer-facing program, including Marketing, Retail Banking, Customer Service, Engineering, InfoSec, and the list goes on. No way we would have managed to be as successful as we have been without their leadership. Their Director of Consumer Banking, Barbara Heinemann, and the President and CEO of the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, Nancy Stager, have also been incredible executive partners throughout our relationship.
Most recently, you’ve worked with Eastern and others to help launch the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund. Can you speak to how that came together?
The Eastern Bank team knew that we had built a crowd-fundraising solution. When they were approached regarding the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund, they reached out to us to team up given our “demonstrated agility” and asked if we would leverage the tool we had built to power the public-facing donor portal for this new fund. Given our track record together and that we'd already been through the vendor diligence, compliance, and InfoSec processes, we were able to be live in the tight timelines required. The speed of the whole program coming together, the Fund launching, and the success in raising funds for communities across the state that are impacted has been inspiring to be a part of.
MassChallenge works to support startups, even in times of crisis like now. What is one piece of advice you would give to similar organizations or their corporate partners in working with startups right now?
For startups, ask yourself: what is the one or two core competencies you have that can add value right now? Certainly for the short-term, individuals and businesses are trying to figure out how to adapt and meet their most basic needs, and so how can you as a startup help meet that, even if only for a very small number of partners/clients? The goodwill and the learnings from that will be valuable.
For us, for example, we're fortunate that our core business is around driving engagement with communities and giving back. Even so, we made a decision to pour all of our resources into fast implementations. What previously took us 4-6 weeks, we're now getting live in 5 business days. That's allowed us to help getting clients live faster, and also helped us identify opportunities to improve our internal processes, tech, and communication.
As an entrepreneur, what gives you hope during this crisis?
Aside from communities coming together and giving back, I'm most amazed by how adaptable we are. So many aspects of life have changed in 4 weeks and we're adapting and making it work. As we all find our new 'equilibrium,' some super innovative new products and business models will emerge, and I'm so excited to see what those look like.