Scott Shirley, co-founder and CEO of Pledge It, is passionate about sports philanthropy and using athletics to crowdfund for charity. Pledge It is a unique “performance-based” crowdfunding platform that allows sports fans to pledge their support based on a team’s performance. Then, every touchdown, goal or run turns these pledges into donations. Pledge It is now powering the charitable efforts of hundreds of professional athletes (like Larry Fitzgerald, Kevin Durant, and Mike Trout), major college sports teams (from Alabama to the Zags), over 1,000 high school/youth teams...and everyday heroes like you.
Scott and his team have also created national programs for the American Cancer Society (3pointchallenge.org) and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (touchdownsagainstcancer.com) with CBSi as their promotional partner.
They are consistently growing their impact nearly 300% year-over-year!
How did you become an entrepreneur?
Not by design. I actually had my dream job at the time I got the call (literally and figuratively) about 15 years ago. So for a little context: while playing football at Penn State, my teammates and I had started a charity fundraiser called "Lift For Life" that inspired by my father's experience with a rare cancer. I graduated with a Masters of Engineering and moved to D.C. to work for one of the best construction companies in America. About a month after my father passed away, I learned that the first new treatment was brought to market for his disease and we were credited with being the catalyst for this recent progress. So I quit my job and moved into the same bedroom where I grew up so that I could start "Uplifting Athletes" from my mom's basement. Over time, I learned that my love of building structures translated well into building companies, too. In 2014, I saw a need in the sports fundraising market that was not adequately addressed, so I recruited a couple of my former teammates, we raised some capital and launched pledgeit.org: a game-changing platform empowering people to raise more money for a cause through their performance.
What is your vision for the future of your company? Of your community?
We believe in the power of sport for social good. And the social influencers that use Pledge It are supporting incredible causes that I never imagined even existed before I started this journey. I personally underestimated how fulfilling it would be to create a tool that empowers other people to pursue their passion.We are proud of our community of athletes who are inspired to earn the change they want to see in the world.
What has been the biggest challenge to creating a new venture?
The biggest challenge is having the patience necessary to initiate behavioral changes. You read about companies who are overnight successes...but the reality is often that they had been working on the same concept for years before they claim the company started. So you can't worry about comparing yourself to anybody else's timeline, you just need to take care of the little things and let the bigs things take care of themselves.
What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?
It's all about the people you surround yourself with...so choose wisely! That ranges from employees to investors to vendors and even customers.
Tell me about your biggest surprise or lesson learned as an entrepreneur?
Coach Paterno used to tell us that we're never as good as we think we are when we win...and we're never as bad as we think we are when we lose. I've found that to be true in all aspects of life, especially life as an entrepreneur.
What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
Building a startup ecosystem takes teamwork. Harrisburg has a lot of the right ingredients and we're excited to be part of the solution in every way possible!
Entrepreneurship and Everyday Heroes
Scott Shirley, Tech Entrepreneur & Non-profit Executive
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