Only those who dare truly live.
-Ruth Freedman


Austin, TX



Karen Bantuveris, VolunteerSpot


  • Karen Bantuveris, a management consultant working-mom, became a Girl Scout leader and PTA board member once her daughter entered school.
  • Shocked at all the ‘little things’ that made volunteering a hassle and fueled by frustration with reply-all emails, clipboards, Online! Groups, and late night reminder messages... she decided to do something about it.
  • VolunteerSpot launched in Spring, 2009 with the mission of enabling ANYONE to quickly mobilize and coordinate volunteers in their community, congregation and social network. VolunteerSpot's simple sign up application makes it easy for community members to participate and say YES to volunteering. No waiting for approvals and passwords, no software to install, just easy, free scheduling and sign up tools for everyday heroes making a difference.
  • [Photo by René Lego Photography]
  • I was the accidental entrepreneur and so I didn't exactly choose to locate my company in Austin, I was in Austin when I chose to become an entrepreneur. And VolunteerSpot was started out of my personal frustration of reply-all email  flooding my Blackberry as a working mom.
  • And so I decided to fix that problem bycreating this this online coordination tool and in doing so um... I ended up becoming, um... the CEO of a tech company.
  • Now, I don't think I could have done that in any city other than Austin, because what's phenomenal about Austin is how accessible mentors are, how accessible resources are... I was able to  learn how to launch a tech company in Austin because I  was located here.
  • With more than two million users and growing we are the leading online coordination tool, making it easy for people everywhere to join together and make a difference in their local communities and schools.
  • And what's so fun about VolunteerSpot is we've grown almost entirely organically,because what we do is we help people, um... whether it's a room mom or PTA parent or a teen parent or someone working for s non-profit or working for their faith group, organize together and make it easy to sign up, schedule, and fundraise with  the people that are trying to do their good work.
  • So we quickly pollinate, once we get into a community, we quickly spread because it's the most influential people in those communities who are doing all the organizing and that's how we've been growing and growing.
  • In our peak season, we add about fifty thousand users a week on which is really exciting and we've done it on a really minuscule marking  spend.
  • What makes VolunteerSpot successful and very interesting is  our ability to collect the most affluent, influential women in every community in  America and they come to VolunteerSpot, and they come back year after year and they bring their friends.
  • So we are intensely viral and that's what brands are interested in that want to reach this community and so if we like to say we're a sheep in sheep's clothing: not only do we reach these women, we make their lives easier, and we're able brands to the table um... that that wanna connect with these women in a very high engaged manner.
  • I think the biggest advice I have for up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs is to ask lots of questions. Every start-up is different, every community is different, every customer base is different. So um... get out there and talk to as many people who have either worked in like industries, uh... with similar products or unlike industries with similar products and find out what you can learn from them, what mistakes did they encounter, talk to people who are on the boards of various companies and see what you can learn that can help you be successful, and to try to find advisors and partners that can bring insights and perspectives to your business that's different than um... what you bring to the table.
  • As an entrepreneur, if you're getting ready to raise money i would highly encourage you to talk to other entrepreneurs who have raised money. Find out how they did it, look at their decks, look at the kinds of questions they were asked and I would start talking and having informal conversations with investors, letting them know you're going to be raising money soon.
  • And start your pitch. Start the conversation and understand what kinds of questions do they have, because the more informal conversations you can have the more you can start preparing for your formal pitch and your formal deck and you'll be able to overcome some of the objections they have or you'll be able to tell them that special sauce makes your company, that, in those conversations, you're gonna see what's interesting to them.
  • And so I can't think encourage entrepreneurs enough to go early, go often, just let them know: I'm not fund raising yet, but I'm going to be soon, let me get some feedback from you.
  • The fun thing  about that is several people that we had those early conversations with came nto our deal because they got to see we did everything we said we were going to do and we were able to take their feedback and wrap it into the company uh...and build out the pieces we needed to set up for success.
  • One of the benefits of Austin is people here will answer questions for you, they're very forthcoming in uh... in what's working for them, what best practices work for them. Lots people are willing to participate with you on um... an early stage basis so um... and that's again I don't think i could've started VolunteerSpot in another place.The magic of Austin is the magic of people's willingness to partner and try and mentor each other.