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Hellofriend is Encouraging Friends to Stay Connected with Social Ordering

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to talk about entrepreneurship, learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and understand how they’re rethinking growth strategy in 2020. This interview is with Salman Habib, CEO & Co-Founder of Hellofriend. Hellofriend is a social ordering app that encourages individuals to enjoy their favorite restaurants and businesses while getting rewarded for bringing along their friends.

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here.

How did Hellofriend get started?

Hellofriend grew out of intellectual curiosity. Salman and his brother, Shaban, noticed how the college experience became devoid of in-person interactions as more things shifted online. The brothers didn’t expect to go down the entrepreneurship path when they first discussed the concept for Hellofriend in 2017. Their focus was more on the problem of in-person social interaction itself. When discussing how to address that issue area, some professors suggested that they consider starting a company. This led to the first iteration of Hellofriend.

Salman and Shaban’s initial concept was for a digital events planning platform. It quickly gained traction on-campus, and the brothers were accepted into Harvard Innovation Labs. Around this time, they decided they wanted to look beyond on-campus events to more effectively address their initial problem space.

Co-Founders Shaban Habib (left) and Salman Habib (right)

How has the company evolved?

In normal years, college students go out to movie theatres, beauty salons, fitness studios, and restaurants at least every week, and sometimes every day. Focusing on those interactions gave Hellofriend more to work with than on-campus events, which students typically don’t attend as frequently. The team pivoted into this space by putting forward a dynamic group discount model. Individuals received discounted orders at local restaurants and businesses by inviting their friends to join them. Hellofriend began calling their service “social ordering.”

Hellofriend onboarded Drybar early on in the Boston market, which gave the company a huge boost. They then expanded to Richmond- the brothers’ hometown and a city with one of the highest concentrations of local restaurants from Boston. The move presented the opportunity to advance their product further with the help of Lighthouse Labs. Currently, their development team is based in Boston, while their sales operation is out of Richmond.

How has COVID-19 impacted Hellofriend?

In their first month after launching at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), 15 new restaurants and 4,000 individuals joined Hellofriend. This huge momentum coincided with COVID, which created significant challenges for their team and their local partners. Many restaurants and vendors had to close their doors due to COVID concerns.

Hellofriend recognized this as an opportunity to not only help their local partners but to grow alongside them. Within a few weeks, their team built a contactless ordering platform using QR codes, recognizing that this was the ideal time to move into that space. Many of their local business partners were able to re-open because they had access to Hellofriend’s contactless ordering platform. The majority of those early customers were given access for free.

Hellofriend seeks to help people stay connected with social ordering
Key Features on the Hellofriend App

What’s next?

Hellofriend was planning to do a bigger launch in Chicago and LA over the Summer but has had to push back their timeline due to COVID. When identifying cities for expansion, some of the key considerations include what college campus Hellofriend can grow out of, whether there are similar products in that area already, and whether the social ordering concept is one that locals will engage with.

Though the foodservice industry is highly saturated already, its size and potential for innovation make it a promising focus for Hellofriend moving forward. COVID-related uncertainty poses the greatest challenge to companies in the space because it’s so unclear how consumer behavior will continue to shift. The Hellofriend team, which now numbers nine full-time employees, will have to continue its vigilance in tracking emerging trends to keep up with the market. As is the case for many industries, individuals’ safety on all sides will be a top priority as Hellofriend expands its operations.

Hellofriend is in its third seed round. The company’s first and second seed rounds were led by Counterpoint Ventures and Right Side Capital Management, respectively.

To read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs, click here.

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Five Deals of the New Year

Who’s ready to move on from 2020? We know we are. This year has presented an array of incredible challenges to businesses- the transition to working from home, quarantine, PPP loans, and more. 

2021 brings hope of better days. It appears we are moving into the end stages of the pandemic. Many people took their newfound free time and applied it to start their own brand or business. The 2020 personal start-up revolution will bear fruit in 2021.

To that end, we’re excited to announce our Five Deals of the New Year to support your brand or business so that you can start 2021 with a bang. Each of these deals is specially designed to help penetrate the digital market to build your online presence. 

We are committed to the long-term success of our clients and their businesses- our goal is to continue to be a reliable and trustworthy partner to which you can turn should any digital needs arise. Your business’s prosperity is always our main goal; we are here to do the digital work, so you can focus on what you do best!


The DataDay Design Five Deals of the New Year:


1- Website Build + One Month of Social Media Management – $1,000

Perfect for the established company making their way into the online marketplace.

(Regular $1,900 Value)


2- Logo + Website Design – $1,400

For those early-stage start-ups and side hustles that are developing their brands and don’t have technical or design staff.

(Regular $2,000 Value)


3- Three Month Digital Strategy Consultation + Social Media Management – $1,800

If you are an established company looking to refresh your digital presence and better engage with your customers, this deal is for you. 

(Regular $3,300 Value)


4- Alternative Revenue Consultation + Three Month Digital Strategy Consultation – $1,800

The pandemic has hit many businesses hard. If you’re looking for new ways to bring in revenue, this package will ensure you have cash flow in the coming months.

(Regular $3,000 Value) 


5- Logo + eCommerce Website Design + Three Month Social Media Management – $1,800

The full suite: you’re looking to take your business’ online presence to the next level! We’ll help you with a full re-brand, plus help market your new image with three months of social media management.

(Regular $3,000 Value)


If you’d like to view a selection of our previous work you can do so here.

If you’re ready to go, click the button below to get started on your digital journey!


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Guest Feature: Five Easy Ways to Transform Your Branded Videos

This guest feature was written by Lorenzo Benitez. He is a producer of content featured by Fortune 500 brands, broadcasted on national television and viewed by millions online. He believes in the power of images to change the world.

There is the signal, and the noise.

The goal is to cut through the noise to offer your video, the signal.

How do you do it?

It’s about being precise and concise with your messaging.

Knowing what you want to say.

And how to say it as efficiently as possible.

Because the reality of today

…Is that yesterday‘s content…

…Just won’t cut it for tomorrow‘s audiences.

As someone with years of experience producing viral video for Fortune 500 media brands to documentaries for national public broadcast, I can assure you that significant transformation is afoot in the ways that brands communicate throughout all forms of media.

However, video will continue to remain a prominent and primary medium for brands. 

This bodes well for those who can remember the important fundamentals of storytelling, adapted for a digital audience.

For brands wondering what some of these fundamentals are, looking to keep their consumer-facing video fresh, relevant and engaging in the post-pandemic future, I have distilled five of the most important below.

Lesson 1: The Promise of the Premise

What is it that your video has to offer?

Are you merely throttling your audience’s attention for money, or do you at least provide compensation (give) in exchange for your monetization (take)?

This is the truth that most brands overlook when communicating through video.

It’s important that our videos either convey new facts, or conjure familiar or rewarding emotions.

This stems from a fundamental, though not mutually-exclusive, distinction between directors of intellect and directors of emotion.

Either way, since the best directors, called auteurs, are either one, we should aspire toward at least on of the two ideals.

Start strong. Photo Credit: Jonathan Parker.

Lesson 2: Start Strong

In this day and age, it’s important that we start our video content with the most compelling images possible.

This is because audiences are incredibly starved for attention, and this becomes increasingly the case the younger you go along the generations.

In order to maximize the audience you speak to, capturing as large a cross-section of the populace as possible, start with your strongest image.

Lesson 3: End Strong

As they say, last impressions are lasting impressions.

This is the same with video, as the frame on which one ends can be the background image to other videos audiences can click through on.Also, if audiences actually stay until the end of the video, it will be the image that “summarizes” the video before they possibly share it on after having finished it.

Stay strong. Photo Credit: Declan Scott.

Lesson 4: Stay Strong

The internet is the Wild West of content, that’s for sure.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that oftentimes, even perfectly awesome content like your own can get lost in the vast ocean of data that is created, transmitted and stored each and every day.

That’s where reliable, affordable companies like DataDay Design come in.

Its co-founder and CEO, TJ Ball, produced a promotional video I directed announcing that Bill Nye would be Cornell’s celebrated graduation speaker.

His digital distribution know-how can help you cut through the noise to earn your videos the recognition they deserve.

Either way, it’s important to not forget that sometimes, not everything will be a home run.

Not every video will earn you thousands of views.

Instead keep a stiff upper lip, because if video was easy, it wouldn’t also be so rewarding when your content hits home.

Lesson 5: Remember Your Audience

There are many variables you have to consider when producing video content for consumers.

Demographics are key.

For example, despite social advancements in body positivity and the like, it’s important to remember that a significant minority of the population still doesn’t like to see nudity. 

If you were making a video about body positivity, it would be unwise to include images that could be interpreted as sexualized. However, perhaps a video about sex positivity would warrant such images. That both videos have different, despite overlapping, demographics, reveals the extent to which precisely identifying the target audience ought to inform the content of your video.

And that’s just one of the many variables you’ve got to consider when producing video content for consumers.

Because demographics are key.


Remember, if you keep it simple: have some clear reward to offer audiences, start with a compelling image, end with another compelling image, don’t be afraid to be bold or push the limits, you’ll go far with your video content.

With video, it’s about speaking to what people want.

As in life, it’s about giving as much as taking.

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EdTech VC Edovate Capital Is Investing in K-12 Education

EdTech VC Firm Edovate

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to discuss entrepreneurship and learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to have the opportunity to interview Graham Forman, Founder and Managing Director of Edovate Capital. Edovate is an EdTech VC firm that invests in impact-oriented seed-stage start-ups serving the K-12 ecosystem. They help companies accelerate their growth and expand the reach of their empowerment efforts.

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here.

How did Edovate Capital get started?

Graham Forman started Edovate Capital after selling his third business, Netchemia, to Vista Equity Partners. With a wealth of experience working in EdTech entrepreneurship, education policy, and angel investing, Edovate Capital brought together the unique skillset he had developed. Graham focused on investing and advising when he realized he could impact more companies as an investor than an operator. Edovate targets seed-stage EdTech start-ups, with a focus on companies serving the K-12 B2B market.

One of Graham’s priorities when evaluating an EdTech start-up is to predict its ability to democratize access to education resources. Often, companies focusing on empowering key stakeholders in the education ecosystem are the ones solving easily overlooked problems.

To date, Edovate has made 16 investments through its micro fund. In 2020, it’s expected that six to seven of its portfolio companies will grow from 2x to 7x due to the increase in virtual learning demand. 

EdTech VC Firm Edovate Capital Founder Graham Forman
Edovate Capital Founder Graham Forman

How has COVID-19 impacted Edovate?

While uncertainty is typically unfriendly towards investing, Graham says the pandemic has brought forward demand for EdTech infrastructure by 5+ years. Edovate invested in two areas experiencing elevated need due to COVID-19, including solutions to address chronic absenteeism and digitizing curriculums. Attendance is a key metric for school boards and provides a clear ROI from an impact perspective. Because attendance is tied to school districts receiving state funding, and since COVID-19 has made consistent attendance a bigger issue, investing in this space made perfect sense for Edovate.

While there’s less investment at the seed-stage now than pre-pandemic, Edovate began to see a return to normalcy in May. From an industry standpoint, this has been the largest fundraising year in the history of EdTech globally. The heightened focus on virtual learning has propelled the industry to witness its first decacorns ($10B valuations from investment).

Pre-COVID, K-12 parents in the U.S. spent, on average, just 3% of their income on education resources outside of school. To put that in perspective, in both China and India, that number ranges from 30-35%. However, COVID-19 has enabled parents to be more informed stewards of their children’s’ education. This is especially true as the gaps in existing EdTech infrastructure become clearer. As a result, U.S. parents are increasingly spending on tutoring resources, supplemental learning tools, and other educational technology.

Graham notes that this is likely the most disruptive moment in anyone’s lifetime for education. The industry will not likely return to the way it was.

How do you think about the metrics for impact as a Social Impact EdTech VC?

Impact is usually very context-specific and isn’t always obvious. At the seed level, “it is rare to find companies that have done randomized trials to prove the efficacy of their product.” 

Since that’s the gold standard for demonstrating impact, VCs often must turn to anecdotal evidence for seed-stage start-ups. In the instance of BookNook, one of Edovate’s portfolio companies, their early results demonstrated small group reading instruction’s power in closing literacy gaps among young children. For other EdTech companies, their impact is often based on empowering teachers or local communities. Though not as statistically significant, survey results are often crucial for demonstrating the impact of such solutions.

As seed start-ups begin to grow, randomized trials quickly become a priority. Another of Edovate’s portfolio companies, Everyday Labs, has completed multiple RCTs (randomized control trials) and demonstrated that their platform can reduce chronic absenteeism by 10-15%. 

When children attend school, there’s a clear positive impact on engagement and learning outcomes. Other factors that Edovate considers (more specifically as an EdTech VC) when making investments are reach and whether or not platforms support underserved populations. Based on the proportion of students in a district on free and reduced lunch, Edovate can get a sense of underserved communities or those that provide education to socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

To read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs click here.

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Equality Rewards is Enabling Consumers to Discover LGBTQ-Friendly Brands

LGBTQ-friendly brands identifier Equality Rewards

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to talk about entrepreneurship, learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and understand how they’re rethinking growth strategy in 2020. This interview is with Justin Ayars, Founder of Equality Rewards, and EqualityMD. Equality Rewards is empowering consumers to discover LGBTQ-friendly brands. Their latest focus is on a Chrome plug-in which suggests how LGBTQ-inclusive a company is based on synthesized data. EqualityMD is Justin’s latest project, which we’ll do a deeper dive into in 2021.

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here.

How did Equality Rewards get started?

Equality Rewards wasn’t always the company that it is today. While taking part in Richmond’s Lighthouse Labs accelerator, the business pivoted from a consumer-focused app to a data-driven, consumer insights web extension. Making a major pivot like this is highly unusual during an accelerator, says Justin Ayars, their Founder.

Justin started as an attorney. When a mentor encouraged him to take his creative spirit and merge it with the logical frameworks of law. He turned to entrepreneurship. After starting a successful coffee company in Williamsburg, Justin opened a restaurant and nightclub in Richmond. Not long after the move to Richmond, he helped start Richmond’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

For six years Justin ran Q Media, a platform for people to share their journeys and promote equality through storytelling. This non-partisan digital media company brought together a range of diverse perspectives. It also gave companies an opportunity to engage with those consumers in a new way.

As companies became more exposed to the LGBTQ market, they began asking for metrics on consumer purchasing behaviors. Justin realized that there wasn’t much data out there other than community surveys so he started Equality Rewards to highlight LGBTQ-friendly brands.

Justin Ayars, Founder of Equality Rewards, a web plugin that highlights LGBTQ-friendly brands
Equality Rewards Founder Justin Ayars

What inspired you to launch a product for LGBTQ-friendly brands?

The LGBTQ+ community’s economic decisions and leverage aren’t given proper credit. People delegate talking about the LGBTQ community to June every year and then move on to other things:

“Let’s look at a self-identifying person not as someone on a pride parade float once a year and then go back to them 364 days later, but as a living, breathing, human being with wants, needs, and desires of their own. They are actual consumers and a market businesses would like to target”

The LGBTQ community is extremely cross-sectional and provides a $1 trillion niche market. Focusing on this one community and recognizing that it’s not monolithic allows companies to connect with a lot of different market segments.

One of Justin’s main motivations has been to get companies to move beyond “rainbow-washing” and contrived attempts to attract the LGBTQ community. His goal is to get them to engage with the community authentically. Members of the community want to vote with their wallets for values they believe in. Increasingly, a number of companies also want to understand and be a part of the LGBTQ communities’ stories.

Why did you pivot to focusing on the Chrome extension? How does it work?

“Surveys don’t justify marketing spending based on opinions that are collected once a year. Companies change and peoples’ preferences change frequently.” 

The information yet to be collected are the consumer choices individuals that self-identify as queer actually make – not just who they say they’re going to buy from. In reality people that value inclusivity may buy the cheaper option, regardless of which brand is more inclusive. Equality Rewards makes it easier for both individuals and companies to better understand LGBTQ consumer behavior and engage with more inclusive brands. 

The web extension allows users to see LGBTQ-friendly brands and those that aren’t. The plug-in synthesizes data from the human rights campaign, and the national LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce to give companies a green, yellow, or red inclusivity rating. Equality Rewards’ prototype is already live but the company is planning to roll out a new version before the holiday shopping season as they make additional UX improvements.

One thing that sets Equality Rewards apart is that they recognize having access to users’ data is a privilege. The company plans to reward users for granting access to their data, something which Justin is confident will be an emerging trend in the years to come. Recognizing and rewarding that data is acting in this way also allows Equality Rewards to develop stronger trust with their users.

How has COVID-19 impacted Equality Rewards?

While COVID didn’t hurt Equality Rewards in the sense of losing customers as the economy took a hit, the uncertainty that came with the first few months of COVID did keep some investors from writing checks. Because of coronavirus, consumers will be doing more shopping online than they would in typical years. This has presented a huge opportunity for Equality Rewards to capture more data than ever before going into the holiday shopping season. 

How do you think about Equality Rewards’ brand?

“Equality Rewards is focused on coalescing a broader community and understanding the LGBTQ network better in order to empower the community.” 

The company needs to listen to what their consumers want in order to create the most effective product and brand possible, says Justin.

“From a brand perspective it’s really all about trust” 

Equality Rewards is being very deliberate about how they listen, and their bringing in people from many different backgrounds to ensure they’re getting a full picture of their user base. Justin says he is constantly learning as a result of this process and looks forward to Equality Rewards’ continued product improvement, and community empowerment.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey in entrepreneurship or Equality Rewards?

Justin attributes the company’s success so far to his 10 years of professionally engaging with and being a part of the LGBTQ community through speaking tours and other engagements.

“I had been building this company for ten years without even knowing it”

The hope is that Equality Rewards’ extension will encourage consumers to buy from more inclusive companies, and over time push companies to be more inclusive so they don’t lose market share. 

Finally, Justin believes the most important thing you can do as a founder is to listen to your potential users. If you listen all the time you can continue to iterate and improve your product to give it the features that they want.

A Note About EqualityMD

In the last few months, Equality Rewards has pivoted some of its resources towards a new idea: EqualityMD. EqualityMD is a mobile LGBTQ telehealth platform that connects members of the LGBTQ community with medical professionals and resources relevant to their needs. It will launch in America’s 4 most populous states (CA, FL, TX & NY) by the end of the year and go national in the next year.

This major pivot was decided on in the last two months. Equality Rewards is indefinitely on pause.

Justin’s team interviewed over 1000 users and community members, all of whom said that healthcare was top of mind. After an intensive study of data, user interviews, and evaluating the ever-changing market forces, they believe this pivot is not only good for business, but it has the potential to save lives.

“Entrepreneurs have to move at the speed of life, have a pulse on the needs of the communities they are serving as well as the market in general, all while learning how to dance on quicksand like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. We believe we can do a lot of good for a lot of people across the country with our new product and can’t wait to launch it!”

Stay tuned for DataDay’s 2021 update on EqualityMD.

To read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs, click here.

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Automatic Irrigation System SEED Controls Water Distribution On the Farm and in the Kitchen

Grow Your Own Food with SEED

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to chat about entrepreneurship and learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. This interview is with Sabrina Williams, co-founder, and CEO of SEED, a Bluetooth-operated automatic irrigation system that both gives farmers the ability to control water distribution for outdoor farming and provides people the power to grow food from the comfort of their kitchen.

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here

What is SEED?

SEED, or Sustainable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development, is a Bluetooth-operated automatic irrigation system that uses precision moisture sensors to allow people to combat one of the major challenges of growing food: watering. There are two ways to use the system. Indoors to grow herbs in the company’s Seedbox, or the individual sensors can be placed outside and controlled via smartphone to manage watering on larger plots of land.

Traditionally, water distribution is dictated by historical data or a simple timer. The Bluetooth-controlled sensors, however, distribute water based on soil needs, determined by the moisture sensors. As such, plants are watered to their exact specifications, including local environment and soil conditions.

SEED co-founders Ruby Rios and Sabrina Williams

How Did SEED Start?

SEED grew out of a non-profit organization that Sabrina ran for twenty years which helped people from low-income backgrounds grow their own food. There she developed the automatic irrigation system to help farmers engender more productive yields. Towards the end of her non-profit work, Sabrina and her travel partner, SEED co-founder Ruby Rios, traveled to Cuba to introduce the irrigation system to local farmers. 

The farmers there combined organic and regenerative farming processes with the automatic irrigation system to increase their yields three-fold. Sabrina and Ruby incorporated these changes and branched out to start SEED. 

Does SEED Participate in CSR?

SEED is incorporated as a benefit corporation to confirm its commitment to sustainability and agricultural technologies that support food security. It is part of the company’s mandate to provide its systems to small-hold farmers globally. Accordingly, for every SEED kit sold, one is given to a farmer around the world to help improve food security. 

SEED's automatic irrigation system
An in-home SEED kit

How Has COVID-19 Affected SEED’s Approach to Growth?

At the beginning of the pandemic, SEED was working at the prototyping center of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). The company had created and installed its MVP in the field for testing. The testing process was going well until March hit and put a halt to the company’s plan. SEED had a month’s worth of data but was hoping to gather data over a four-month period. 

Sabrina and Ruby realized, with the large model on hold, farmers were craning for the smaller version. They’d used it in Cuba and in South Los Angeles, so switching models was an easy pivot. SEED quickly partnered with the Los Angeles Community Garden Council to provide a portion of proceeds to underserved farmers. According to Sabrina, when SEED offered the “starter kits” online, they immediately started selling. 

The success was a bittersweet feeling though. The smaller kits were popular, but the larger model, which they’d poured time and energy into was indefinitely paused. 

What was SEED’s Experience as a Part of LACI?

SEED was working out of LACI’s advanced prototyping center when the company learned about the local incubator’s Founder’s Business Accelerator. They applied for the program and were accepted; the company’s development was quickly catalyzed, in part by some of the fantastic mentors there. 

After its experience in the accelerator, SEED applied for and was accepted to LACI’s two-year incubator program. Joining the incubator helped SEED to narrow down its business strategy and to procure helpful resources to develop the company. For example, many startups don’t have the cash outlay for legal help, but SEED had access to LACI’s legal services.

SEED co-founder Sabrina Williams interacts at LACI

How Has SEED Approached Fundraising?

As a hardware company, a lot of early work must prove consumer traction. In the beginning, the company struggled with fundraising without having an actual product in-market. However, with the launch of SEED’s starter kits, that has now changed, allowing the company to better illustrate consumer interest. 

Still, instead of pursuing VC firms and cash-rich grant competitions, SEED has focused on smaller pilot programs and pitch competitions. SEED seeks to prove its value while continuing to practice and hone its investment pitch. 

Climate Change Has Accelerated a Trend Towards Small-Hold Farming; How Has That Contributed to SEED’s Development?

It is a primary piece of the company story. Agriculture utilizes a large portion of the world’s resources and has a heavy impact on climate change, whether via water consumption, carbon and methane release, or other forms of pollution. With an efficient system like SEED, farmers not only save water but also have an opportunity to learn practices that enable them to capture more carbon. 

In keeping with the trend towards small-hold farming, SEED is dedicating resources to education. Specifically, the company is educating farmers on how to be more regenerative in their farming practices with the SEED system. 

Currently, the company is also developing a sensor to include in its larger SEED system that will allow small-hold farmers to measure their carbon output. Small-hold farmer’s supply about 70% of the world’s food, but often lack the tracking tools and resources that large-hold farms have. That’s why SEED is developing the carbon sensor to help farmer’s measure their output and subsequently, reduce their carbon footprint so that they can enter into carbon marketplaces. 

Automatic Irrigation System SEED's logo

How Does SEED Approach Digital Strategy and Branding?

SEED’s Chief Operating Officer, Ruby Rios, has a strong background in digital strategy as a former web developer and marketing consultant to non-profit organizations. With her guidance, the company has utilized multiple channels to develop its brand essence, especially email marketing and social media content production. In addition, SEED also runs PPC campaigns and delivers a monthly newsletter. 

It is a lot for just two people to manage, but thankfully, once again, LACI has proven its worth. The incubator has helped SEED to develop a content strategy which has streamlined its marketing efforts, making it easier for two people to manage. 

Is SEED’s Focus Domestic or Global?

Because of the pandemic, SEED is primarily focused on domestic consumers. However, the company has partners in multiple foreign countries, including Cuba, Mexico, and Kenya. Those partners are waiting for SEED systems to be delivered. If not for COVID-19, the business would already be in these markets and expanding further globally. 

Where Do You See SEED in 2-3 Years?

For the smaller system- in every gardener in America’s hands (42 million to be exact). In addition, Sabrina hopes the larger systems will be implemented in those countries of SEED’s global network. 

The goal is to work with international organizations like USAID to help solve the global food crisis so that the world can feed 10 billion people by 2050.

To read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs click here

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Fundraising CRM Humanitru is Changing How Nonprofits Raise Money

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to chat about entrepreneurship and learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. This interview is with Alan Wei, CEO, and co-founder of Humanitru, a custom fundraising CRM, uniquely designed for the needs of non-profit organizations, helping them to develop and streamline the process of raising funds! 

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here.  

What is Humanitru?

Humanitru (est. 2016) is a software company that provides non-profits (NPOs) with CRM and fundraising solutions. It helps NPOs to source, manage, and engage with supporters, such as donors and volunteers. This allows NPOs to better oversee their stakeholders from one place and helps improve their understanding as to why and how they engage with them. 

In 2019 alone, charitable giving by individuals was over $300 billion, making up nearly 70% of total giving. Despite that, 8/10 first-time donors will never donate to the same non-profit. In practice, that means that, on average, an NPO will churn 55% of its donor base each year. As such, NPOs constantly face the issue of finding and attracting donors. This is where Humanitru fits in; helping non-profit organizations maintain their donor base.

Fundraising CRM Humanitru

How Did Humanitru Get Its Start?

The company began as the brainchild of two University of Virginia students. While an undergraduate student, Alan met PJ Harris, who was studying law, and together they started a social media app called Totem. The app was designed to engage local college students to fundraise on behalf of local NPOs. For example, they’d get student groups to fundraise in competitions for which the winning groups would receive a prize like free pizza or lessons at a local yoga studio. 

However, as Alan and PJ built the platform, they realized that NPOs didn’t have the tools to engage their audience effectively; their social media app meant little for non-profits if they couldn’t retain their donors. That’s where the inspiration for Humanitru began (though the name did not change from Totem until October 2020).

How is Building a CRM Different for NPOs vs. For-Profit Organizations (FPOs)?

NPOs interact with their customers (donors), very differently than do FPOs. Humanitru’s chief consideration is the breadth of how these organizations engage with their audience. 

FPOs, for example, are typically divided into sales and marketing teams. Alan notes that marketing teams communicate through all different types of media channels. Though they have target markets, they don’t usually know, down to the individual, who needs to receive their message. For Sales, FPO’s are driven by the intent to get consumers in the door to buy the product, and less focus is placed on a multi-year relationship timeline. 

NPOs, on the other hand, often have uniquely personal relationships with their customers which allows them to focus on strengthening that tie.Furthermore, the timeline of the relationship with customers is often much longer than for FPOs. 

For instance, a relationship might begin with a high school student volunteering with an organization; as they enter college, that might turn into seeking a small donation through a fun event, let’s say a charity cornhole tournament. Then, as that student graduates college and begins to earn income, NPOs might seek larger monetary donations. Finally, as a mature workforce member, these organizations might receive stock and eventually benefit from estate bequeathment. Clearly, this is a long-tail timeline that FPOs strive for, but is more often typical for non-profits. 

Traditional CRM’s aren’t built to handle such lengthy relationships; Humanitru, on the other hand, is designed specifically with this type of relationship in mind. 

Fundraising CRM Humanitru

As a Fundraising CRM, How Has Humanitru Approached Raising Capital Itself?

Humanitru has raised two rounds of capital. The first was in July 2018, the second, in early 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial capital fundraising was for the purpose of proving out the business model. 

Thanks to these first rounds raising capital, Humanitru currently serves about 65 NPOs in the United States with a team of 8 people, including part-time employees. 

How Was Humanitru’s Experience With Lighthouse Labs?

Humanitru participated in Lighthouse Labs during the summer of 2019. The timing was extremely beneficial because it gave the company an opportunity to gain feedback and practice their pitching skills right before their successful second round of fundraising. 

What Has Been the Greatest Challenge to Winning Over Investors?

Unfamiliarity with the non-profit space. Many investors think NPOs are not run like businesses but like charities. There’s also a general misconception that these organizations do not have strong cash flow or that it’s not a serious market. That’s why the development of tech in the non-profit industry has been so underfunded. 

However, NPOs do have strong cash flow. Including corporations, Americans donated $450 billion in 2019, which is about five times the size of the US coffee market. Furthermore, NPOs will, on average, spend $3 million annually on CRM, analytics, and digital marketing software. As such, it’s certainly not a small market and the challenge is changing investor’s preconceptions. 

One way Humanitru has done that is by introducing the market, but removing the word “non-profit” and replacing it with “small-to-medium sized companies”. According to Alan, investor’s ears perk up when the industry is illustrated this way; that’s when they know they’ve created an opportunity. 

The tide may be turning though. In just the last month, the company has begun to receive more interest from the VC space as investors have begun to realize the opportunity in the non-profit sector. Even if NPOs have a social-focused mission, money can be made. 

What Challenges Has COVID-19 Presented to Humanitru and Its Growth?

Like many other industries, the uncertainty that the pandemic has engendered in the non-profit space has been the greatest challenge. For Humanitru, that has hit home with fundraising. This year, the company’s fundraising round was cut short by half. Their outbound strategy was proving extremely successful, but the global crisis required a re-evaluation and shifting of focus. 

On the positive side of things, Alan feels that the forced transition to remote work has actually helped to develop a stronger company culture. Many businesses struggle with culture and process when dealing with remote workers, so Humanitru made an intentional effort to focus on these areas when the pandemic began. 

Perhaps most importantly, the state of the world has strengthened Humanitru’s mission. Non-profits continue to need help fundraising in the face of declining economic growth and Humanitru continues to ensure that they achieve their goals. 

How is COVID-19 Affecting Humanitru’s Approach to Digital Strategy?

At the time of our interview, the company was in the process of rebranding from Totem to Humanitru. In combination with the pandemic, the rebrand required a greater shift of focus to digital and inbound marketing. Prior to the global crisis, Humanitru had a more outbound approach, but that has changed to a content-focused perspective. 

In practice, that has meant running case studies, connecting with fundraising consultants, and building networks of thought leaders in the space to develop and share content that will attract consumers to the business. 

How Would You Describe Humanitru’s Brand?

Humanitru revolves around the idea of serving humanity. The business serves an under-resourced and over-burdened sector. As such, the company slogan has been “helping the helpers”. 

Everything Humanitru does, from its business model to its pricing and product is designed with its users in mind. While Alan recognizes that may sound trite, he notes that the company’s focus is on listening, and testimonials on Humanitru’s behalf recognize that fact. As such, the business brand upholds values of empathy and humanity. 

In keeping with their values, the company recently chose to change its name from Totem to Humanitru out of respect for Native American people. You can learn about the company’s decision to change its name here



To read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs click here

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Water Management System Wellntel Grows as America Notices Its Resources

Water management system Wellntel

DataDay Design is interviewing CEOs and Founders of start-ups and early-stage companies to chat about entrepreneurship and learn how these businesses are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. This interview is with Marian Singer, CEO, and co-founder of Wellntel, a cloud-based water management and information system that helps customers quantify and sustainably control their water resources. 

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here

What is Wellntel?

Wellntel is a patented monitoring technology, data management, and decision support platform that helps customers get the insight they need to understand and dynamically manage their water consumption and use. 

Why and How Did You Start a Water Management Company?

The idea came to Marian and her co-founder, Nick Hayes, during a project at their boutique consulting firm in Milwaukee.

Together, they spent a year on a groundwater project for a global client and realized that the measurement system for groundwater was lacking. They decided to change the system for how water is measured by bringing in new technology to make monitoring ubiquitous. 

Pictured: Nick Hayes and Marian Singer

In the past, academics or the government measured water. They’d typically send an individual out a few times a year to a monitoring well where they’d use a special tape measure to determine the groundwater level.

Six months later, they’d measure again, knowing nothing about the changes or trends in between. 

That approach created more questions than answers. Were the changes naturally variable, or was it a trend to be concerned about? This sparsity of data was fine when groundwater was relatively stable, but with growing populations, industrial agriculture, and climate change, groundwater has become much more dynamic. 

A lack of rich datasets and insight make it increasingly difficult for communities, businesses, and farmers to know that they have sufficient water resources to stay in the places they are and ensure sustainable development, production and harvest and safeguard real estate value.

This is how Wellntel was born. Marian and Nick decided to take advantage of the advances in remote sensing to create a non-invasive, battery-powered sensor that could be installed at the top of any well and connected to a cloud information system, measuring constantly. This creates a greater understanding of the ebbs and flows in ground and surface water levels. Additionally, it helps provide detailed information to make better decisions. 

How Has Wellntel Grown From Its Earliest Stages?

Wellntel commercially launched in 2015 with private well owners as their customer target. The business pivoted to public agencies and private business well owners, including beverage manufacturers and farmers in 2017. The company began to sell in “networks” (multiple sensors) to help businesses and communities track groundwater levels over large areas. 

In 2018, Wellntel broadened its scope to include the entire water cycle. That meant not only focusing on groundwater supply, but also on surface water supply, precipitation, recharge, and total water use. The company brought third-party data feeds into their cloud platform. Specifically, the USGS online monitoring network, NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) weather monitoring station data, and other manufacturer’s sensors. Now, Wellntel is an all-encompassing water management system. 

Water management system Wellntel
Wellntel’s water management system

How Is Climate Change Affecting Water Management and WellnTel’s Growth?

The climate change conversation has typically focused on the carbon cycle. However, in the last few years, companies have begun to answer a larger range of questions from their investors. Businesses have realized that their access to capital is increasingly impacted by their ability to be sustainable and prove sustainability. 

Water, for many industries, is either a key input to their product, or it’s a key part of their production process. At the same time, consumers have begun to say, “I want to buy things that are sustainable”. In addition, communities are refusing to let corporations pilfer their resources (in the US, water is one of the main resources communities fight over).

 A perfect storm has developed in which businesses have a vested interest in improving their sustainability, especially around water use. This transition in corporate America is accelerating interest and action around water management, a decidedly positive trend for Wellntel. 

 How has COVID-19 Impacted WellnTel and Its Digital Strategy?

Similar to most other businesses, during the first three months of COVID-19, things really slowed down. Luckily, there were no cancellations, just a few postponements. Wellntel took advantage of that pause to better orient themselves towards the future via strategic planning, a website relaunch, and a renewed focus on marketing. 

In the past, the company would typically speak at eight conferences a year. Since those conferences are all virtual now, the one-on-one conversations they’d usually have are much harder to come by. This change forced Wellntel to think about how to utilize digital marketing to better market its value.

For example, the company has focused on improving its SEO presence and invested in email marketing to pinpoint customers. Overall, they’ve placed a greater emphasis on raising their digital presence.

In the last couple of months, things have begun to speed back up. Since Wellntel’s sensor work is outdoors, and its cloud-based system is ideal for remote collaboration, the company has weathered some of the harsher impacts of COVID-19.

You can read more of our interviews with America’s brightest entrepreneurs here

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The Craft of Brewing: Subtle yet Simple

Brewery beer list

The craft of brewing to ferment beer is widely regarded as the oldest known recipe in the world. Ancient Egyptians were the first to document the brewing process on papyrus scrolls. But what exactly is craft brewing?

Specifically, it refers to a brewery that focuses on producing a few quality beers rather than mass-producing a large number of assorted beers. Many craft brewers in the US do indeed produce large volumes of their beer for consumers, just with limited selection.


Behind-the-scenes of a brewery


Understanding The Craft Of Brewing  

The physical process of craft brewing first requires converting grain starches to sugar. The next step is to extract the sugar with water, and then ferment it with yeast. It is this step of extraction and fermentation that produces the alcohol present in beer.

Beyond the physical process of craft brewing, it’s important to understand that the industry is tight-knit and community-oriented

The Brewers Association, an American trade group consisting of more than 5,400 breweries nationwide is dedicated to the promotion and protection of small and independent brewers. The group seeks to advance the interest of craft brewing and its enthusiasts across the country. For example, in 2017, the Brewers Association helped negotiate legislation lowering the federal excise tax for breweries for a period of two years. This ruling was later extended by Congress through the end of 2020. 


The Consumer Craze Over Craft Brewing

Taste is the primary concern of beer consumers, according to multiple surveys. Because craft beer provides consumers with a plethora of choice as compared to mega-breweries, it has developed a strong following.

Additionally, craft beer drinkers tend to be fiercely loyal and care about where their beer is sourced from and how it is made. Since craft beer is typically produced locally, it is even more attractive because it can help stimulate a regional economy. The less corporate nature of craft breweries is thus, often appealing. 

Furthermore, craft beer can even provide small health benefits in comparison with mass-produced beer such as the inclusion of antioxidants and an increase in lipoprotein levels which helps lower cholesterol. Finally, craft beer tends to be comparatively cheaper and can be consumed while burning less of a hole in consumer’s wallets. 


A group enjoying craft beer


Marketing Your Craft Brewery

Now that you understanding the love consumers have for craft breweries, the key is to figure out how to make your brewery stand out. These are some good first steps:


Engage with your customers on social media

Interacting with consumers is the first step towards building a loyal following of beer drinkers. Social media platforms are the greatest, most cost-effective way to build a relationship with customers. 

The best approach to relationship-building on social media requires a detailed content schedule and strategy. Determining when and where to post, what type of content to release, and how to engage with people interested in the industry is key. It’s common for breweries to post and discuss new beer releases or community events, or even detail brewing processes.

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, craft beer drinkers tend to be fiercely loyal. Engaging them on social media is a great way to develop faithful followers that will continue to buy beer and spread word about the brewery.


Website Strategy And SEO

Just as craft beer drinkers tend to be fiercely loyal, they also tend to be passionate followers of the breweries they purchase from

Provide them opportunities to explore behind-the-scenes and learn more about the culture of your brewery. It is a great way to continue to build a devoted following.  

The best, most efficient way to provide this type of access is often by creating an interactive website. There you can post more written content, in addition to the visual content that plays well on social media. 

Furthermore, you can use SEO techniques to ensure your brewery attracts interested beer drinkers seeking craft beer in your area. Finally, breweries can utilize Google Ads to target traffic in a specific locale to create a buzz in a particular area.


Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective way to market your brewery. It can be used in two distinct, but very important ways. Utilize email marketing to provide interesting stories and insights, but also to understand what topics your subscribers are most interested in. 

People subscribing to a mailing list clearly have some level of interest in the product. You can use this to your advantage by surveying what would make them most likely to enter your brewery. For example, when developing a new flavor of beer, a brewery can poll a number of choices to see which most interests its subscribers. It’s like a free focus group!


Developing Your Own Craft Brewing Brand

If you’re starting your own craft brewery, the aforementioned strategies will provide a strong basis to begin developing your brand. You can learn even more about brewery branding in our in-depth article on the topic here.

If you’re interested in learning how to develop a strong brand and robust online presence that stands out in the brewery industry, DataDay Design can help you. We specialize in web design and digital marketing. Whether you need help with strategy or developing content, DataDay is your one-stop-shop for branding and digital marketing!

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Understanding the Hourglass Marketing Funnel

Marketing Funnel

One of the quintessential parts of the sales journey is the marketing funnel.

A marketing funnel breaks down and describes your customer’s journey with you from the early moments when they first learn about your business, through the purchasing stage and beyond.

It is designed to improve both your ability to attract and to convert consumers to your business.

In order to create a proper marketing funnel, it is essential to break down the customer journey. This allows you to understand and better optimize your customer experience. In doing so, you will ensure that credible leads turn into actual clients for your business.


What is the Hourglass?

A visual representation of the marketing funnel

Instead of thinking of the marketing funnel in the traditional cone shape, wherein the ingredients are squeezed towards the bottom, you should think of it more like an hourglass.

This means that, once you reach conversion your marketing work is not finished. You should then re-open the funnel to build customer loyalty. 

If you can identify what the customer journey is after conversion, you will not only deepen your relationship with your consumers but also create advocates for your business.

In addition, according to the Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits 25% to 95%.


Stages of the Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel can be broken down into the following five stages:



The first action item is ensuring consumers understand your brand; who you are, what you offer, and what you stand for. This is where content marketing plays in.

To create awareness, you need to develop strategic branded content that will attract your target market and break the ice with them so that they are more amenable to future correspondence.

Building a strong social media presence and blogging are each strong options. Both provide you the opportunity to market your industry expertise.

Remember, awareness works best when consumers don’t feel like they are being marketed to. Develop great content that people actually care to read, see, and watch. Doing so will bring a more subconscious awareness of your business and improve the likelihood of your content getting shared.

In previous posts, we have discussed SEO and PPC advertising. Both strategies are fantastic ways to attract eyes to your business through the power of search engine results pages. Of course, there is always the more traditional route: fliers, commercials, marketing events, and mailers.



This is the make or break point, the key to the marketing funnel. When a consumer is in the consideration stage, you must figure out how to convert them.

There are a few different strategies to sway people stuck on the fence.

The most powerful is often social proof; that might mean utilizing testimonials and customer reviews, or brand advocates. It’s up to you but when consumers know other people trust you, they’re more likely to trust you too.

Lead magnets are also extremely beneficial. For example, make sure you have a clear landing page on your website with a persuasive call to action. Think Spotify’s, “Try Premium free for 30 days”.

Developing a monthly newsletter that consumers opt into can also support the conversion process over time.



Time to bread the butter! Now that your lead is set to be converted, you can largely rely on your product or service to do the work for you. Largely, but not entirely. You need to walk the consumer through to conversion.

First, that means guaranteeing a simple check-out process, so consumers do not feel risk when buying. By verifying that your purchasing process is as streamlined as possible, you’ll stave off consumer anxiety.

But wait! They committed to our service, but never signed the contract! They put items in their cart, but never hit submit!

Now you must entice them back in. If you have their contact information, you can offer a discount or free shipping through email. If not, you can utilize remarketing ads and target consumers who’ve browsed your site with a discount offer.

Simplicity and persuasion will ensure you convert your leads.



How do you build consumer loyalty? A rewards program is a perfect place to start. You can offer discounts or exclusive member access. Don’t forget to offer rewards for a referral to your company.

Remarketing products through email that your customer enjoyed is another smart tactic. Most consumers will re-purchase an item they were satisfied with when reminded.

Without a doubt, the most important step in the loyalty stage is to send an appreciation email after a purchase is made. Communicating your gratitude is a sure-fire way to blossom a long-term customer relationship. Plus, in the future, they will be more receptive to emails from you.



You achieve advocacy when your customers evolve from your clients into your fans. At this point, they’ve probably purchased from your business multiple times and are likely to continue doing so. You’ve built a connection with them and now they love your brand and want to rave about you.

Leading consumers to the advocacy stage is the most invaluable output of the marketing funnel. That’s because no type of marketing is more effective or inexpensive than referral marketing.

Be sure to continue to show your appreciation to your advocates, they are like employees working on your marketing team for free!

Reach out to people who mention your business or leave positive feedback on third-party sites and social media to thank them. Consider offering them another incentive to continue to use your business.

Other people online or on social media will notice your generosity and appreciate your grateful and thankful brand persona.


Benefits of the Marketing Funnel

Not only do marketing funnels describe your customer journey, they also simplify it. By doing a deep-dive into the customer acquisition, conversion, and loyalty process you’ll ensure you notice any roadblocks to a smooth purchasing journey.

In addition, marketing funnels also make business simpler for you. Because they are measurable, you can identify where in the funnel you are failing to engage consumers and change your approach. 

If returning consumers don’t wax lyrical about you on social media, you should re-evaluate how you encourage and show thanks for customer advocacy.

Now that you understand the ins and outs of the hourglass marketing funnel, you are well on your way to improving your customer journey.


Executing Your Hourglass

If you’re looking for help implementing your marketing funnel you’re in the right place. Whether you want to build greater awareness of your business, identify strategies to convert consumers, or develop a custom CRM for a loyalty program, DataDay can help you.

We specialize in helping businesses improve their online presence from the awareness stage all the way through advocacy. If you’d like to learn more about how DataDay can help you attract and retain more customers, you can schedule a free consultation below.