How Twitter's IPO hatched this dad's start-up

Left to right: Patrick Stewart, Vivienne Harr, Cheryl Fiandaca and Evan Williams at the New York Stock Exchange for Twitter’s IPO.
Source: Stand

On the day of Twitter's IPO in 2013, a 9-year-old girl helped ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange while company founders and top executives stood on the floor below.

The girl—Vivienne Harr—was there because a philanthropic endeavor she started as a lemonade stand had gone viral on the microblogging service and turned into a vocal movement to end child slavery.

Less than two years later, Harr's movement has evolved into an Internet start-up called Stand Technologies. Led by her dad Eric, the San Francisco-based company has opened its mobile app for early sign-ups and just raised its first $2.25 million of funding.

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Given Stand's roots, It's only natural that a good chunk of that money came from some of Twitter's most influential names.

"I said way early on, count me in for whatever you're doing," said Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who invested in Stand and is serving as chairman.

What Stand is doing is trying to create an easy way for anyone to donate money or raise awareness for the cause of their choice, with just a few taps on their mobile phone.

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Whether it's raising $100 toward treatments for breast cancer, $500 to fight hunger in Malawi or $1,000 to support victims of the latest earthquake, Stand wants giving to be as effortless as updating your Facebook status or sending a tweet. (Tweet This)

"We inspire you to connect with great people so you can put compassion into action," said Eric Harr, who started Stand last year and previously ran a social media agency. "If I see something or hear about something, I should be able to do something in seconds from my phone."

Stand is now soliciting early testers for the app and will soon open the service to them, with plans for a broader rollout this year.

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In addition to Stone, Twitter co-founder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey is a Stand investor, and Katie Jacobs Stanton, Twitter's vice president of global media, is an advisor.

Former Twitter bigwigs involved in an investing or advising capacity include Josh Elman of Greylock Partners, Mike Abbott, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Anamitra Banerji of Foundation Capital and Twitter's former creative director, Doug Bowman.

Stand is in talks with venture firms about bringing in additional cash.

The new kind of philanthropy

But creating a company on the back of philanthropy requires donors to get comfortable sending a portion of their money to a for-profit business.

With Stand's model, 92 cents on the dollar goes directly to the nonprofit of choice. Of the remaining 8 cents, 4.91 cents goes to a group called Network for Good, which handles all the payment, administration and tax-related issues. Stand collects 3.09 cents.

Harr said that setting Stand up as a for-profit gives it the best chance of hiring top talent, attracting a powerful roster of advisors and investors, and becoming the go-to place for people to manage their philanthropy.

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"We came down strongly in favor of building a big global brand to impact these issues at scale," Harr said.

Not that any of this was expected.

Vivienne (now 11) created a lemonade stand in 2012 to raise money to fight child slavery, an issue she became passionate about after seeing a photo of two boys in Nepal living in such conditions.

Her dad told her about Twitter, where she could broadcast her message and instead of just her street corner, she could reach "every street corner in the world." Thanks in part to an August 2012 retweet from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Vivienne picked up an audience.


In 2013, Vivienne and her dad launched Make a Stand, bottling and selling the lemonade. Make a Stand is now sold in 152 grocery stores across the West Coast and in Texas, and can be found in the halls of Google, Twitter and Square. Five percent of revenue goes to seven select organizations that fight child slavery.

The beverage business is doing well, but bottling, distribution and drink sales require consumer retail expertise that Eric admits he doesn't possess.

"I would've run that company into the ground," he said. So he brought in professional management to operate the business.

All of a sudden, they were right in my wheelhouse
Biz Stone
Stand chairman and investor

It was the Twitter IPO that got him thinking bigger. At the NYSE, the Harrs met Stone, and they talked about Vivienne's journey and the impact of such a small lemonade stand amplified by social media.

When the Harrs returned to the Bay Area, the idea quickly began forming to create an Internet business. This past April, Eric met with Stone at a local Starbucks, and by the end of the meeting, the Twitter co-founder was Stand's chairman and an investor.

"All of a sudden, they were right in my wheelhouse," Stone said.

Vivienne Harr took her charitable movement with a lemonade stand to end child slavery into an empire.
Source: Make a Stand | Facebook

While Stone contributed to the funding round, it was led by a small Bay Area firm called Resolute Ventures.

Raanan Bar-Cohen, a general partner at Resolute, said in addition to the founder's story, he was attracted to the idea of an online hub for people to broadcast and raise awareness for causes, the same way they use LinkedIn for their professional profile and Facebook for their personal life.

That's what differentiates Stand from other sites for nonprofit crowdfunding, like GoFundMe, which just sold a majority of its business to an investor group, and Fundly.

"There's definitely a wide open gap around identity in that space," Bar-Cohen said. "There's no outlet where you go to define who you are based on causes and things you believe strongly in."

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Vivienne, who just finished fifth grade, has the title of chief inspiration officer. The new product is now in the hands of her dad and a small team of developers.

But Eric attributes the genesis of the company to the day Vivienne stood on stage at the NYSE with the actor Patrick Stewart and Cheryl Fiandaca, who was the spokesperson for the Boston Police Department during the marathon bombings seven months earlier.

They all had their own unique experiences with Twitter, a message the company wanted on display the day of its IPO. From Twitter's earliest days, it celebrated inspiring use cases, Stone said, and what could be more charming than a young girl and a lemonade stand?

"Chalk that up to another great example of how Twitter is not about technology," Stone said. "It's about out how people use the technology."