In 2011, my cofounder Max Volsky and I were discussing the Great Recession’s devastating impact on many of our colleagues, many of who continued to struggle years after the crisis. We realized that the real economy had some fundamental problems that affected people’s economic situations. Perhaps the biggest problem that limits people’s prosperity is that money is scarce in the real economy. People simply do not have enough money to get the things they need. The second problem is that people also had no efficient means of monetizing their idle assets and skills. We were convinced that technology could bridge this gap and, so, we decided to create an online marketplace that provides immediate spending power to members, while allowing them to easily sell goods and services for social currency, which they can use to get the things they need.
Already, we have thousands of members in all 50 states, and the level of engagement has been phenomenal. Since our public launch in May, we have facilitated hundreds of trades, all across the country. Additionally, members are actively connecting and communicating about products and features. Furthermore, we are seeing more and more virility as an increasing number of members invite their friends to join. One unique feature of igobono is the ability to post a need, which allows other members to fulfill the need by selling or donating an item to the requesting member. Immediately, people have been embracing this feature to get basic necessities that they otherwise would be unable to find. Recent examples include single parents who have received free laundry detergent, children’s clothes, and toys. Since igobono makes it easy to donate to others in need, we believe we will have tremendous engagement in this area.
Because the concept of a marketplace with a social currency is something new, the hardest thing we have had to overcome is educating people on what we do and how they can benefit. We provide a platform where people can buy, sell, and donate using a social currency called “bonos” instead of money. I always get asked, “Well how does it work? What do you mean you do not need money?” I explain that everyone in igobono agrees to accept a social currency called bonos for all transactions. Upon joining, one receives free bonos right away that can be spent in the marketplace. The next question I am asked is, “How do I get more bonos?” I explain that more bonos can be earned by selling stuff to other members or by leveling up, meaning, members receive more free bonos as they advance user levels.
Unfortunately, nearly half of all Americans are a paycheck away from poverty. Many families simply lack money to get the basic necessities of life. igobono provides immediate spending power, a simple way to earn more spending power, and a diverse marketplace in which to spend it to get vital products and services. Who doesn’t want extra spending power or a place where they are insulated from economic downturns? During our research, we learned that the average U.S. household has over $7,000 worth of unused stuff lying around. Also, many have skills and talents that they are not able to monetize. The igobono marketplace makes it easy to generate value for those things, while helping people at the same time. We believe igobono’s value proposition is clear.
I have learned that it is much harder than one can possibly imagine. It really takes complete dedication, focus, and extraordinary sacrifice. Over the past 20 years, I have worked in many industries that have provided me with the necessary experience to build igobono, but this is by far the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done professionally. Building a company requires a great team that is able to collaborate through both good and bad times. Luckily for us, Max and I have completely different skill sets, which is critical to a startup’s success. Another important factor is passion. If you are going to work 14-hour days, seven days a week, you really need to love what you are doing. About Mike: Mike Dolan is a seasoned technology, operations, and finance executive with entrepreneurial experience spanning more than 20 years. A self-proclaimed “geek-at-heart,” Mike Dolan has been fascinated with computers since the age of six and has been custom-building them ever since. As an early adopter and technology enthusiast, he is constantly researching and discovering new ways to innovate, help others, fix things, and satisfy his appetite for learning.