Finding appropriate ways to support the people you care about should not be as frustrating as calling your creditors after someone steals your identity. Your aunt in rural Washington shouldn’t have to call three different Whole Foods only to be directed to an app that she has never heard of to find someone to deliver you cookies after a tragedy.
Laura Malcolm, CEO of Give InKind, and her husband James Kocsis founded their company with this basic premise. The site functions as a one-stop destination for individual in-kind giving with search capabilities based on need, situation, and location. Although you can donate monetary gifts through PayPal, money isn’t the point. Gifts of all kinds are available, from parenting books to Lego Sets. Users can set up accounts for themselves or for others with carefully selected partners who provide services and meals from sites like Cleanify and Blue Apron. Give InKind is also starting to work directly with nonprofits to build wish lists in order to streamline in-kind donations. Malcom’s inspiration for this additional functionality came from a Facebook post asking for support for the midwives at Standing Rock. Although she and Kocsis built the platform to help individuals, its benefits to non-profits are obvious.
Malcolm and Kocsis faced a devastating loss of their own—their daughter was stillborn. They experienced first hand the difficulties faced by their friends and family (it was Malcolm’s aunt who wanted to order cookies), who had to provide them with the items they wanted or needed as they were moving through their grief. “We saw our loved ones struggling and hurting because they couldn’t help us,” Malcolm says.
After sitting on the idea for three years, Malcolm and Kocsis left LA behind for three months and moved to Thailand with their toddler son to work with developers. The move allowed them to get the site up and running at a fraction of the cost, a major consideration since they were doing everything themselves.
In addition to the technical complications of bringing together affiliate partners, building the curated content of the site was vital to its success. Malcolm had become the face of pregnancy and child loss to her friends. People continuously sought her advice on what to do, say, or send to others dealing with similar grief. As a result, Give InKind’s answer is a robust library of articles written by people sharing their experiences, as well as a plethora of experts who understand the support people need. For example, a Newtown mom talks about communities coming together in times of crisis. Another mother writes about the documentary she made after losing her son to suicide.
However, the library isn’t all about grief, loss, and crisis. “I Want To Help But Babies Freak Me Out: A Guide For Visiting New Parents,” is a personal favorite. Each article comes with actionable links, which is crucial since action is at the core of Give InKind’s vision. “That’s why we say, “And if you want to take action here are the things that you can order, send, do, say—right now,” Malcolm explains.
The launch of Give InKind is a personal mission for both of the founders, while also being a culmination of Malcolm’s years of experience. She is proud to be part of a growing community of women in tech. Leaning in is one thing, but for Malcolm it is more about connecting with other women. “I’m my most empowered when I’m listening to a bunch of other women talking about this stuff,” she says.
Malcolm recently met with a male friend from the San Francisco VC world to talk about funding strategy for Give InKind. He warned her that she would face the so-called “Pinterest Problem.” When Pinterest made the rounds in Silicon Valley, the men with the money kept saying, “Is this a thing? I’ll have to ask my wife.” Sure enough, Malcolm has had more than one man say something along the line of “our secretary handles these things. I wouldn’t use this.” She has found herself saying, literally to her horror, “Go and ask your wife.”
By contrast, when Malcolm meets with female founders and female VCs the response is overwhelmingly positive. They understand the pain points. There is always a mom’s club, PTA group, or a soccer team that is supporting a family because of a new baby or a broken leg or a parent’s surgery.
The loss of their daughter will always be with Malcolm and Kocsis. Even so, their enthusiasm for Give InKind is undeniable. In Malcolm’s own words, they’re “a couple who’s building this out of our basement and we really think that we have the ability to change the world.”