July 19, 2017

Working in Boston Tech: Gravyty

When an organization wants to start fundraising for any occasion, it can be difficult to figure out how to get the right amount of money, as well as finding the right donors for this particular fundraiser.

Rich Palmer, CTO of Gravyty
Rich Palmer, Co-Founder & CTO of Gravyty

Enter Gravyty, a startup based in Newton looking to change the way organizations fundraise. The company, founded by Babson College alumni, uses AI and machine learning to improve the whole fundraising process.

VentureFizz connected with Gravyty’s Co-Founder & CTO, Rich Palmer, about Gravyty’s mission, what kind of organizations use their services, and the company's culture.

Also, Gravyty is hiring! Check out their BIZZpage for the company’s openings!

Quick Hit Company Details

  • Year Founded: 2016Gravyty Logo

  • Number of employees: 9

  • Industry: Artificial Intelligence/ Nonprofit Fundraising Technology

Can you share the details on what Gravyty does?

We develop prescriptive and actionable artificial intelligence that leverages private, public, and behavioral data to empower nonprofit organizations to raise more money from their major and mid-level donors.

How did you come up with the idea behind the company and your product?

Adam (Martel) was working as a major gifts fundraiser and we were both getting our MBAs at Babson College. While Adam was working in the Development Office, he realized that the tools that were available to frontline fundraisers were inadequate, particularly as the revenue needs and expectations continued to grow.  

Adam and Rich at Babson.
Adam and Rich at Babson.

I had extensive experience building portfolio analytics and predictive technology on Wall Street and, as Adam was explaining the challenges that he was facing as a frontline fundraiser, I told him about the tools that I had built on Wall Street and we found several parallels.

It became obvious to both of us that there was an amazing opportunity to apply what I knew about building technology to help him and his colleagues solve the challenges that they were facing daily. As we explored this deeper, and talked with nonprofits across the world, we realized that, although nonprofit organizations have their own distinct tendencies, every fundraiser at every organization experienced the same exact challenge that Adam was facing: how to use technology to better manage relationships at scale with their donors.

Who are your customers and who is the end user of your products?  

We work with large and mid-sized nonprofit organizations. We have customers in higher education, K-12, hospital, and cures & causes spaces. We value every customer and have some notable partners include Yale School of Management, Yeshiva, Lahey Hospital, and Cure Alzheimers. The end users of our technology are the frontline fundraisers and the researchers, as we are specifically focused on building tools powered by artificial intelligence that solve specific problems for end-users.

We just released a case study that describes our relationship with one of our early customers who has seen a 43% increase in giving over the past year using Gravyty!

What are your plans for growth in terms of hiring in 2017 and for what positions?

Because of the early success that we’ve seen, we are going through an extension round of funding right now in order to accelerate our growth. We are constantly finding ways to innovate within our technology solutions, but are also innovating in both sales and marketing because showing customers the power of AI for their needs is an exciting challenge.

In 2017, we are primarily focusing our recruitment efforts on:

  • A marketing specialist who can help us articulate the benefits of AI to a nonprofit audience in a role that has the ability to execute across all our channels and mediums

  • A data scientist who is focused more on the mathematical/statistical elements of data science in order to continue to improve on our core technology as well as help us envision mobilizing the vast amounts of data we are collecting to bring solutions to nonprofits. Past examples of this include using ML/NLP to learn from user text to prescribe outreach to donors, graph theory to optimize trips when meeting with non-local donors, and probabilistic modeling to determine how long someone should be “cultivated” before asking for a contribution to the organization.

  • A software engineer to join our highly-skilled team to focus on collaborating with our data scientists to bring projects to life and create products that will be used on the front lines of nonprofits to bring about change for millions of people.

What are your company’s core values or how would you best describe the culture and working environment at Gravyty?

We are inspired by the missions of our customers and work creatively and proactively to provide them with the best solutions and services. Gravyty is the epitome of a work-hard, play-hard team. We come to work every day to make fundraisers’ jobs easier and have a blast doing it!

On our wall is the message: “Win every day” which is intended, not as a outward nod to competition, but an inward assessment of whether we are helping our customers and learning more today than we did yesterday.

From a big picture point of view, what experience or traits do you typically look for when interviewing and hiring new employees into Gravyty?

When we are hiring, we spend a lot time looking for candidates who display coachability, self-awareness, humility and adaptability. We are always in search of great talent with these characteristics, combined with an attitude that is constructively opinionated. We believe that empowering our employees to have autonomy over their responsibilities is the best way to build a strong and results-driven culture, and is necessary for the success of an early stage company that has a big grand vision.

What’s the best way to get a job at Gravyty?

At the end of the day, a resume is a chronological history of a person with amplified positives and no narrative for failure. The startup mantra of “fail fast and smart” is something we live by and will actively talk about with potential candidates. Within our development efforts we often say “push, or perish” referring to getting code and improvements out to users in a safe, but expedient, manner to improve their lives and learn from them quickly.

Adam and I constantly strive to discover candidates that have a healthy appetite for this kind of rapid environment and experimentation, with the humility and intelligence to know what is in - and out - of their control as they help their teammates build things and ask for help when they need it.

What can someone expect during the interview process?

We spend time diving into the how and why behind decisions you’ve made in the past. “What was your thinking?” “How did you react?” “Tell me more” are all phrases you will hear us say often. They are meant to give us full context into your motivations and skills in our limited time together during the interview process.

Typically, we start with a phone interview, followed by a detailed in-person interview. We like to see some proof of past accomplishments and acumen. If you are a marketing person - we’d love to see a portfolio. If you are a software engineer - we’ll ask some engineering questions but nothing weird or overtly tricky. If you are a data scientist - we may try to understand your ability to convert complex mathematics into use cases. In all cases, we will have conversations with some of your references to help get a holistic sense of you.

What makes Gravyty’s culture unique?

Adam was a collegiate and olympic volleyball coach for many years and has spent a lot of time developing great team cultures. I have been everywhere from Fortune 500s to bootstrapped startups to raising $120M for a company. We overachieve everyday and, as mentioned before, we ask ourselves - and each other - if we won or lost each day.

Further, success is only repeatable and sustainable if there is balance. Adam and I highly stress the need for balance and do what we can to ensure our team is finding balance. Health and financial well-being come first. Then we can do business together.

What types of activities are employees involved in at or outside the office?

We have a few quirks. First, we bang “the gong” for company victories (big and small).  We have two members of our team pursuing their MBAs, a few of our folks do yoga, I rock climb every morning and Adam rides vintage european motorcycles. We are definitely an eclectic bunch and believe that a company is an extension of the personalities that people bring to the office.

Share One or More Random Fun Facts:

Adam was a professional magician and, at one point in my life, I had a green mohawk and multiple piercings.

We have come a long way since those days, but have stayed true to ourselves. We are currently on the Innovation Economy Leadership Council at the Boston Foundation, the first members of Pledge 1% (pledging our personal equity to charity), and Alumni in Residence for MassChallenge. We find great pride in keeping our uniqueness and bringing that energy to opportunities that allow us to amplify our impact.

Rapid Fire Questions

What’s on tap? Yerba Mate

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars (but we are highly excited for Rick & Morty later this month)

iPhone or Android? Too close to call (Developers have Android vs Sales/Marketing have iPhone)

Favorite employee perk? The free fruit snacks at the Newton Innovation Center!

Coffee - hot or iced? Hot (double espresso both for Adam and me)

Type of office Pizza? Buffalo Chicken (I prefer gluten free from Max and Leo’s in Newton…)

Wake up before the alarm or hit the snooze button? Before the alarm

What super hero could you see working at Gravyty? Captain Planet

What music is playing in your office? Limp Bizkit or the song “Gravity” by John Mayer

View from your office: We work in an old victorian house in Newton right next to a beautiful park.  

What did you do when you closed your first customer? We celebrated by getting lobster tails at Mike’s Pastries (of course!!)

Employee Testimonials

Lindsey Athanasiou"I recently left a career in higher education fundraising to join Gravyty and couldn’t be happier with my decision. We work hard, fast, and always with a healthy dose of weird humor. Artificial intelligence is a really exciting and evolving space to be in; every day, we learn and improve our products. I love having the opportunity to help non-profits achieve new fundraising heights with Gravyty."

Lindsey Athanasiou, Director of Sales



"Working at Gravyty gives me a large degree of control over product and technology decisions, as well as influence on the direction of the company, that I would not have at a large corporation. At Gravyty,Jonathan Michaels we don't believe that product decisions should only come from the top; making product decisions truly is a collaborative effort between the technology side of the company and the business side. The team at Gravyty is highly motivated, willing to speak their minds, and willing to hear what everyone has to say. That is exactly the work environment that I believe helps us succeed."

Jonathan Michaels, Head of Software Development


Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.  
Images courtesy of Gravyty.