Leena Patidar brings strategic, innovative, and financial expertise through her extensive entrepreneurial and consulting background. Leena has established leading edge strategies, pioneered new concepts into viable business ventures, and conducted in-depth financial analysis for Fortune 500 and privately held businesses. She has leveraged her experience at Citibank, Ernst & Young, Battery Ventures and SoftBank Ventures to co-found and manage several entities.
Leena currently serves as a Board Member/Advisor to various nonprofits and start-ups. She obtained her MBA in finance entrepreneurship from MIT/Sloan School of Management and her degree in Public Accounting/CPA from Loyola University Chicago.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I have been an entrepreneur for 15 years after graduating from MIT/Sloan with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship. Being creative and innovative have always been a part of who I am and I feel so fortunate to be involved in a business that can help nonprofits accomplish their mission to empower, nourish, educate, and save lives. Coin Up is a culmination of the innovation, passion, financial skills, risks, compliance, and vision that I have accumulated over the years.
Tell us about your business.
With Coin Up, users can register their credit or debit card to “round up” their transactions to the nearest dollar and send this “spare change” to a charity of their choice. Users set a monthly limit and receive a tax donation receipt to control and monitor their giving.
Coin Up allows donors to learn about new charities based on their interests and receive a monthly snapshot that reflects the impact of their giving. Our app offers Millennials, Gen Z, and others a simpler and more relevant way to give (@coinupapp).
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways(Partnerships) that you would like our readers to know about?
We have over 200 nonprofits to choose from and you can change the charity every month if you like (or not)!
We currently have promotions with a couple of e-commerce retailers, like STS Blue, that is giving a 20% discount to anyone that uses the “COINUP20” code and STS Blue will give back a percentage of proceeds to our partner charity – EmpowHer Institute, based in LA, empowering teen girls to find their voice and make positive life choices.
We are also partnering with an iconic Del Mar restaurant – Pacifica Del Mar, that will give back a percentage of proceeds every Sunday night in February to Project Concern International (PCI), empowering people to enhance health, end hunger, and overcome hardship.
- Coin Up won “2017 Tech Startup of the Year” by Athena (May, 2017).
- Coin Up was also selected as part of an esteemed group of startups for the Impact Without Borders Lab (April, 2017).
Where is your business based?
San Diego, CA, although we have a national presence with our nonprofit partners.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I consulted several advisors, as well as relied upon my own expertise as an entrepreneur to build out the operations, team, compliance, nonprofit expertise, and mobile app insights. We outsourced several projects, including SEO, graphic design, marketing, social media, etc. and that led us to find some great new talent that ultimately ended up joining our team.
We were also lucky to find passionate individuals who are experts within the nonprofit space, who really see the vision for Coin Up, and were willing to take a leap of faith to develop our business from concept to execution.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
We are really still learning the best way to build awareness of Coin Up for end users, but our nonprofits do a FANTASTIC job of spreading awareness to their donors and contacts to sign up with our app. We have also been involved in various events where Coin Up is presented and that has been quite remarkable for us as well.
Nonprofits have been signing up with us everyday from all across the country as they hear more about Coin Up and our simple, novel platform to “Round Up and Donate” on a monthly basis. They really value our compliance and transparency when they hear more about how our process works.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Nonprofits and donors are still learning how the “round up and donate” technology works. In addition, there are quite a few platforms out there that allow donors to give in various ways, so some of this can be confusing and overwhelming. Finally, many donors are worried about donating to charities that are legitimate and efficiently run.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Coin Up provides a great deal of information on our website and we hope that we communicate well throughout the app as to how our platform works. It is really quite simple – users select a charity of choice, select a monthly limit, and register their debit or credit card. Once they complete this short process, they are on their way to effortlessly donating their spare change on a monthly basis!
Donors will receive a monthly impact snapshot that shows the results of their charitable giving and feel amazing about the positive energy they have put out in the universe!
In terms of charitable organizations, we do our best to qualify all of our nonprofits to ensure they meet some basic criteria, so donors can feel confident about the nonprofits they select within Coin Up. Although it is ultimately up to the charity to be in compliance and up to the donor to do their own due diligence, we want to provide the most qualified group of nonprofits that we can for our donors to choose from.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Advisors, friends, and peers are incredibly supportive in tough times. Sometimes, one also just has to take a clean break from it all and get away. It can be seriously intense to run your own business, because it is difficult to turn yourself “off” with so many angles of the business that need to be managed.
I am again fortunate to have an incredible team that works together really well and supports each other at any given time.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
The best part about what Coin Up and our competitors are doing is that we are all looking to create social impact. We are excited about the good that everyone in this sector is creating and hope that collectively we can all make a significant impact at a global level.
As far as distinguishing ourselves, we have been on the App Store as one of the first mobile donation apps since Aug, 2016. This has given us some time to refine and evolve our app so we can provide the best experience possible. We also feel good about the tax donation receipts we create with our nonprofit partners that are sent out to every single donor individually.
Finally, we hope users see that Coin Up creates a seamless and rewarding experience by giving through their everyday purchases effortlessly.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I just attended Startup Grind’s Global Conference in San Francisco, where I met Guy Kawasaki, Professor Mihir Desai (HBS), and other incredible experts who were very inspiring! Here are some of the takeaways that stuck with me:
- There is too much noise out there, rise above it.
- The people that are the toughest on you are the people you learn the most from.
- Steve Jobs hired competence, creating some of the most talented teams.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
- Try to develop the best product that you can possibly put on the market.
- You are probably not engaging your audiences enough, it is almost never too much.
- Get personal with your core, initial audience – listen to them!
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Upwork, Catchafire, Slack, Skype – these resources have been crucial for us to build our business at lowest possible costs. We were able to tap into a variety of skills and talents, meet amazing people that have joined our team in one capacity or another, and allowed us to communicate in the most efficient ways possible.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Reading the “Wisdom of Finance” that was given to us at the conference by Prof Mihir Desai of HBS. An incredibly interesting read that puts finance in terms of everyday life and the arts.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We are looking to escalate our social media and digital marketing presence, so we can really build awareness about Coin Up. We are also seeking funding to make all of this happen over the next few months.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
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