By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – When Guy Madison started up his own startup accelerator, Blueprint for Business, he didn’t expect to draw anyone away from their academic studies in Alabama.
Michael Isaacs and Kyle DeTullio did just that, leaving undergraduate studies at Auburn University for a semester to start building Get Charitable in Oklahoma City.
Isaacs and DeTullio were among the first class of entrepreneurs to pass through Madison’s BP4B program; he’s now preparing for a second group while keeping an eye on the accomplishments of Get Charitable and their startup peers. Although Madison wants to see the local economy grow with successful businesses, he’s not running BP4B without supporting financial interests of his own.
“The purpose of the program is to foster community entrepreneurship,” he said. “But in doing this, as the managing director and co-founder, I have to go out into the investor market and raise money. … And for that we take about 6 percent of their company. So I have a financial incentive, as sort of a partnership, to ensure they’re as successful as possible.”
Isaacs said he and DeTullio had discussed the possibility of starting up a business or social support system since they met in 2008 as fraternity pledge brothers. Their best ideas focused on leveraging smartphone consumerism and funneling donations to nonprofit organizations. Modern advertising campaigns have evolved to a high level of interaction, Isaacs said, which seemed synergistic with the proactive nature of nonprofits.
The example target was simple to conceptualize but a challenge to realize: click to feed a child. The system they created involves downloading the Get Charitable application from Google and sharing through the Facebook social network. The app delivers sponsored wallpapers and hyperlinks to the user each day and prompts the user for revenue support via related advertisements.
Get Charitable is officially based in Oklahoma City even though the men are now back in school in Alabama. Isaacs said that Auburn is brimming with energy each semester but the environment is still very much that of a small town otherwise, not conducive to fostering the kind of community entrepreneurship they and Madison envision.
“For a social tech startup, it just seemed to make sense to look outside the box, and then we heard about Blueprint for Business,” he said. “The timing was perfect. We’re glad we pursued that path and we really enjoyed our time in Oklahoma.”
Get Charitable, like other participants, received a seed investment of $25,000 as part of the Blueprint for Business entry package. That was followed by a round of angel investors in November.
The BP4P program runs for 13 weeks every nine months with a class of six to 10 startups. Those entrepreneurs receive coaching and office support to refine business plans. Madison said participants benefit from the shared experience and feedback among themselves.