Vance Roush (ODF2) and Kyle Woumn (ODF3) are two On Deck Fellows who joined forces for one audacious goal: to inspire the world to give by making generosity more frictionless.
Most nonprofits deal with cash donations, but an increasing number of potential donors hold much of their wealth in stocks. The fallout is that countless potential donations go untapped, because the infrastructure just isn’t there to process the value of these assets.
But humans are wired to give. United by their spirit of generosity, Vance and Kyle, whose paths crossed at church, built Overflow to make giving easy—by making it possible to donate stocks directly to nonprofits.
A background in generosity and gratitude
When Vance Roush got into the University of Washington, he was excited. Until he found out that as hard as his parents worked, it wasn’t enough to cover expensive college tuition.
For Vance, this was a make-or-break moment; that sinking feeling of “What do I do?”
Too late in applying for student loans, he had only the summer to figure out how he was going to afford college. This fork-in-the-road experience is largely what shaped the rest of his life’s journey: he could get discouraged and give up—or he could use it as an opportunity to overcome an obstacle. He chose the latter.
Vance ended up getting three jobs and figured out innovative ways to pay for college. In addition to turning him into a habitual problem-solver, the experience gave Vance a different perspective on his education and a deep sense of gratitude.
When, after countless applications, Vance finally received his first scholarship at the end of Sophomore year, he initially didn’t feel like he deserved it. As extravagant as it seemed at first, he realized that this life-changing opportunity was ultimately a result of generosity.
“You can’t have generosity without gratitude. You can train your perspective to be thankful and grateful. Naturally, the byproduct of that will be wanting to be generous.”
As someone who had been attracted to generosity in its simplest forms since childhood, he knew he would strive to live a generous life and embrace the value of living open-handed.
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The idea for Overflow
After graduation, Vance moved to Silicon Valley in 2011 to start his career at Google, where he experienced over-the-top abundance and became increasingly appreciative of the opportunities that had been unlocked for him. Convinced that everyone should have the chance to experience generosity like he had, he began to envision how he could inspire more people to give.
“I feel like it's our responsibility and privilege to be in a position to be generous.”
What really solidified Vance’s mission and made generosity a true guiding principle, rather than just another cool thing to talk about, was a verse in the Bible: “The world of the generous gets larger and larger, the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” (Proverbs 11:24 MSG)
With his deep understanding of the power of generosity and being the CFO of VIVE, the church he and his wife were on the founding team of since 2012, Vance saw a gaping white space in the online donation space.
There was essentially one main channel for donations: ACH, debit/credit. But the question of how to donate stock kept coming up in conversation with church members. At the time, he didn’t know how to facilitate the process, so he started a brokerage account and gave donors instructions for transferring their stocks as a gift.
After setting this up, he was surprised at the radio-silence in return, but a friend with the experience of donating stocks illuminated him:
The only way to donate stocks was to download a form, fill it out physically, and fax it in.
Vance knew that if you tell a millennial to fax anything, it’s never going to happen. And there was his epiphany: If that little bit of friction was the only thing stopping somebody from making a significant stock donation, there was an incredible opportunity to unlock a lot of generosity.
From church to On Deck
The idea of Overflow manifested in Vance’s mind, and by late 2019 he’d started building a prototype. He even had customers lining up around the block. What he didn’t have was a network.
Enter On Deck Founder Fellowship.
Being located in Palo Alto, Vance’s church had a lot of tech people as members. But that didn’t translate to him belonging to the startup ecosystem by default. Brandon Hill, founder of Vori—a startup transforming the grocery replenishment process—was one of those church members. It was Brandon, who had been part of ODF1, who referred Vance to ODF2. At On Deck, the tech ecosystem opened up to Vance, forging the connections needed to take Overflow to the next level.
“On Deck really exposed me to that cool subculture of ambitious builders that I wasn't yet a part of. After doing the program I felt like I had a few key connections in that space that really unlocked catalytic doors to be able to do what we're doing.”
Vance also didn’t have a technical lead to execute Overflow’s mission. He had his sights set on someone he had known a while in his community.
Kyle Woumn was a member of Vance’s church in their San Francisco location. As a kid, Kyle had dreamed of working at Apple. But by the time that job offer from the tech giant came his way, Kyle’s journey had taken him down a different path. He’d taken a job at cloud communications company Twilio, then tried his hand as a co-founder, launching Shopr, a startup that set out to change the way people shop online.
Every now and again, Vance would touch base with Kyle and talk about how Overflow was growing and all the cool things they were doing—to plant the seed in his head of potentially joining the cause. Kyle, however, was focused on his work with Shopr.
Having gained exposure to the startup tech ecosystem, Vance referred Kyle to the next cohort of the Founders Fellowship, ODF3, and he decided to take the leap. Like Vance, Kyle was struck by the community of amazingly talented people that On Deck gave him access to.
"I think the big thing is the spirit of service. Everyone at On Deck has that. Just being able to be around world-class people that are the best in the industry, and to be able to share knowledge—that was huge."
When it looked like Kyle was going to be transitioning from Shopr, the time was right for Vance to go all in and invite him to join Overflow before diving back into big tech. Kyle decided that building a startup was still what he wanted to do—but it needed to be for a worthy cause.
It was, in part, Vance’s leadership ability (“He’s the type of person that makes things happen,” he says) that drew Kyle to Overflow. He also knew the pain point of donating stock the old-fashioned way—filling in form after form—so he knew what they could achieve in the donations space.
Kyle had never envisioned himself working at a startup focused on giving, but in hindsight, his move makes sense:
“I would say I've always had the spirit of generosity and the way I grew up in my family, we always give. But I never thought I'd be working on it from a structural standpoint as a startup.”
Giving back through On Deck
Overflow’s overarching spirit of giving has found a powerful partner in On Deck itself. The two have partnered up to process online donations to the On Deck Access Fund, which grants scholarship awards to high-potential leaders, distributed globally, so they don’t get locked out of the opportunity to participate in an On Deck Fellowship due to lack of funds.
The On Deck Access Fund is powered by a “win and help win” model of existing Fellows that lift up other ambitious builders — who want to solve the world’s biggest problems — and pave over the barriers that would stand in their way. Overflow immediately recognized the shared principles at work: gratitude and generosity. Vance points out that for the Access Fund, the virtuous cycle regenerates to create more and more value.
“Fellows get such value from the program. Then they go on to be successful because either they raise a round of funding or they get a big tech job. They're grateful for the value and are in a place where they can help others. So they go to the Access Fund and think, who can I bring up through this now?”
The Future of Overflow
According to Vance, around $450 billion are donated to nonprofit organizations every year. Of that, $39 billion is through stock donations, virtually none of which is private stock. Making stock donations frictionless and unlocking private stock donations can turn that $450 billion into a trillion.
Having recently announced $10 million in Series A funding, Overflow is off to a great start on that mission.
Far beyond stock-based giving, there's an untapped channel of value exchange they’re looking to unleash powered by this round of funding, aiming to unlock every major asset class until anyone anywhere can give anything to any cause they care about.
The focus today is on facilitating donations of publicly-traded stocks, but Overflow is poised to bring nonprofits to the 21st century, with eyes on other appreciated securities such as those being traded on Robinhood, Coinbase, and the like.
In essence, what Vance and Kyle are betting on for Overflow to succeed is something quite radical—the goodness of human nature.
“Our big thesis is that people will want to be more and more generous in the future. If that thesis is not true, we won't exist in a few years. But if our bet is correct—that when people are generous, they're going to want to continue to be generous and they're gonna want to continue to give more—we become a really important and cool company.”
Through their Series A, led by R7 and joined by Uncork Capital, Craft Ventures, Village Global, and others, Overflow is ready to scale across talent acquisition and product innovation towards frictionless generosity. Ultimately, the goal is to move the needle for some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Food insecurity and a lack of drinking water, for example, are not problems because of an actual shortage. Vance notes that the amount of food America throws away in a year could feed the whole world twice. The only thing stopping food and clean water from reaching everyone is an uneven distribution of resources.
Getting those $450 billion donated up to a trillion can help bridge that gap. That’s where Overflow wants to get to through frictionless giving. As Vance says:
“When you give beyond yourself, you connect yourself to something beyond yourself.”