Student startup receives half a million in seed funding
January 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—What began as a project between two high school friends has grown into a popular app with seed funding and national media attention. Gagan Dhillon, a senior at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, was interning at a software startup downtown when he came up with an idea for a new mobile app called Cause.it.
“It’s a mobile app that lets volunteers connect with brands and non-profits,” says the San Francisco native and Brownsburg High graduate. “It’s more like a subtle volunteering tool. We received some really good feedback on our test versions, so we took that to a new version of the app.”
Used by 100 not-for-profits, Cause.it recently completed a $500,000 round of funding from investors, which included the Innovate Indiana Fund.
“It's a huge milestone for our company, and something we're very proud of,” said Dhillon. “Cause.it continues to expand into collegiate campuses and partner with brands as we look to take our efforts into multiple new markets this year.”
Dhillon co-created Cause.it with his best friend, Andrew Blejde, a senior studying computer science at Purdue University.
“The concept really resonated because I’m part of the Greek system at Purdue. One of the deficiencies is meaningful metrics on your involvement in the community, philanthropy, etc.,” says Blejde. “Dhillon and I work well together because we have different perspectives and expertise working in our favor.”
To explore the app’s viability, Dhillon and Blejde leveraged a relationship with the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, which introduced them to several local organizations such as Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. From there, Cause.it took off. There is interest in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, and the two business partners have been interviewed on Fox News.
“I think something we learned early is it’s possible to get in touch with the right people,” said Dhillon, a finance major. “We’ve had conversations with some of the most successful investors on the West Coast, just by emailing them or being persistent in contacting them. You have to be willing to contact people, without the fear of being told ‘no,’ and be grateful for their time.”
While it is difficult to balance 60-hour work weeks with his studies, Dhillon says Kelley courses helped prepare him for structuring his business.
“An honors law class really helped me be vigilant about law,” says Dhillon. “There’s a lot of paperwork involved in funding; there’s a lot of paperwork involved in businesses. I’ve been vigilant because of that.”