Startup Spotlight: Doni
Startup Spotlight: Doni
Meet Elizabeth Gazda, Co-Founder of Doni, a FinTech app engaging Gen Z to achieve their goals faster.
GH: What is Doni?
Doni is a FinTech app engaging Gen Z to achieve their goals faster. Doni users can set up goals and wish lists to alert family and friends to help them crowdfund their goals. Goal planning now becomes a fun, social activity, replacing or enhancing static savings accounts offered by traditional banks. Consumers can also share their goals with retailers and receive a portion of the advertising revenue for permitting Doni to share it.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Doni get started?
Doni’s vision is really the brainchild of my Co-Founder, Ronald Verbrugge. Ronald has been building Fintech solutions for major banks long before the term FinTech was ever dubbed. His long term view enabled him to anticipate major shifts and vulnerabilities in the financial industry that laid the groundwork for Doni. There are four major trends that will accelerate consumer needs that Doni fulfills: Generation Z coming into their economic prime, the explosion of the production of data, banks struggling to move off of aging technologies and the failure of digital advertising.
GH: How did you build / are you thinking about building your team?
Because we had an existing team in Romania that had been building our B to B solutions, we had a head start building a high performance development team. Now, as we shift to a formal launch in the USA, we’ve rounded out our business team with part time COO, Shereen Shermak and PR expert, Nancy Morrisroe.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Our company culture is really about challenging the status quo: Why do you have to be 18 to have a bank account? Should it be that Google makes 97% of its revenue off of your personal data? Rather than searching for products online, shouldn’t they come to me based on what I am saving for?
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
When we pivoted to the US market from Europe, we engaged with a US payment provider that was essential for a successful launch. Unfortunately, they oversold their services to us which meant we had to start from scratch. Fortunately our talented team was able to quickly integrate a new partner and how we are working on deeper banking and payment partnerships.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
Our first customers taught us how important design and user experience are. The initial feedback we received forced us to rethink the look and feel of the application and find new ways to onboard customers with less friction.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Under the leadership of David Arujo and Vassilios Roussos, the DCU FinTech innovation center has been critical to Doni’s success. The connections, mentorship and support has been a tremendous help. It was at DCU that we met Shereen Shermak, who has accelerated our success with her deep fintech experience and Boston network. Boston has also given us access to forward-looking investors like Peter Wernau as well as FinTech experts like Michael Whalen of Goodwin Procter. Boston’s financial history and innovation capability have positioned the city to become to FinTech innovation hub.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
I would love to see more risk taking on the part of investors. There’s never been more capital in the system, but some investors are still so conservative in their thinking. I am not sure why Boston investors still want to give some of the best startups to Silicon Valley.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to “be yourself”. Everyone has an opinion about how to tackle a problem or see the future. You waste a lot less energy by trusting your instincts.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
There were two things that happened last year: First, we were accepted into the Digital Credit Union Fintech Incubator, which has been a great place to build the company. Secondly, Shereen Shermak joined us as an advisor and part-time COO. Shereen’s contribution to building the business has been invaluable.
GH: What does the future hold for Doni?
Doni has plans to significantly shake up the status quo: our vision is to empower younger consumers to take charge of their financial well-being, but we are also going to turn the tables when it comes to advertising and data ownership. Doni users will be able to own and monetize their personal data and opt into receive competitive offers from retailers – essentially inverting the web marketing funnel.
Learn more about Doni!