Local startup pledges 1% of equity to United Way

While startups are often cash poor, the one thing they have in spades, note the founders of Cardigan, is equity.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

A new Madison startup may not have much yet in the way of profits, but it’s making a bold commitment to supporting local charities that could pay off in a big way.

Cardigan is a new digital business card app, and the brainchild of Adorable IO founder Jim Remsik and Matt Younkle, one of the inventors of TurboTap and a co-founder of online music marketplace Murfie. The company announced in early June that it has pledged 1% of its equity to United Way of Dane County.

“The primary currency of startups is equity,” notes Younkle. “A few years ago, the UWDC approached me for ideas about getting the startup community more involved with their organization, and the general idea for doing something equity-based came from that discussion. Fast forward to earlier this year, where Jim and I wanted to put this idea into action with Cardigan.”

In researching things, Younkle discovered a Colorado-based organization called Pledge 1% that’s been at this since 2014. So, while the concept is relatively new to Madison, it’s something that’s been in practice for a few years in other parts of the country. For now, the value of the equity Younkle and Remsik have pledged to UWDC is modest, but it will grow in value to the extent they are successful in growing Cardigan.

That growth potential and what it could mean for UWDC is not lost on its President and CEO Renee Moe. “United Way of Dane County recognizes that the tech community is evolving quickly, and we are thrilled that Cardigan has chosen to contribute to our organization in this unique way,” she says. “The co-founders of Cardigan have a proven track record of creating successful startups. If and when they choose to go public, United Way will receive 1% of their equity, which could mean a game-changing donation to our community in the next five to 10 years, or whenever they move on to their next venture.”

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Receiving a pledge of 1% of Cardigan’s equity could mean big things for United Way of Dane County and the community programs it supports over the next several years, notes UWDC President and CEO Renee Moe.

“We’re excited to bring Pledge 1% to greater Madison because it strengthens the ties between Madison startups and the Madison community,” Younkle says. “I’m looking forward to seeing Dane County build a broad portfolio of startup equity in the coming years so that we’re all invested in each others’ success.”

Pledge 1% is yet another example of how businesses of all stages are finding ways to give back, notes Kevin Little, vice president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. “We are fortunate to have a collaborative entrepreneurial community that roots for one another and for our region,” Little says. “It is quite the statement for startups — many of whom are focused on attracting investment to run their business — to then also prioritize making financial investments of their own in our community.”

According to Younkle, Cardigan is an app that allows for fast, intelligent exchange of contact information with the people you meet. Cardigan can be used in place of paper business cards or alongside them. “We are very respectful of the 400-year tradition of paper cards. Our approach is unique in that we’re tightly focused on the exchange that happens when you meet someone face-to-face, not as an all-purpose card scanner or new address book.”

Entrepreneurs and other business leaders interested in the Pledge 1% program can contact UWDC Development Director Zach Beaver at zach.beaver@uwdc.org.

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