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GiveForward’s Journey To Excelerate


After a year of brainstorming, Desiree Vargas, founder of GiveForward, an internet host to thousands of fundraising pages, built up the courage to start her business.

During a six week trip visit to Costa Rica in November of 2007, Desiree spent her time thinking about her idea, dreaming of GiveForward’s possibilities. She already had a name and a domain, but no plan. Have you ever had something, for reasons unbeknownst to you, call to you in the middle of the night, draw you out of bed and begin working on a business plan? No? Well, at 1 AM on a cold December night, a little voice called to Desiree and, in the middle of the night, she sat down to get cracking on her business plan. Born out of a realization that people needed more help than they were getting, Desiree reached out to Northwestern University’s Small Business Opportunity Center for funding and guidance and got her first confidence boost. With her first $5,000 coming from her grandfather, Desiree set out to grow her business. But she knew she couldn’t do it by herself.

Meanwhile, in a land not-so-far away, Ethan Austin had ideas of his own. As a law school student, Ethan gained his inspiration for fundraising through a marathon that he ran. His idea focused more around raising money for your favorite charity, whereas Desiree envisioned a site where people could raise money for any cause.

So, they joined forces after meeting at a Super Bowl party and now, they’re rocking out at Excelerate Labs. For Desiree and Ethan, this experience has been life changing and completely invaluable. The mentors that they have met have given praise as well as constructive criticism. So far, GiveForward has helped thousands of users raise over $1.7 million, with $1 million raised since January of this year, for things like chemotherapy, organ transplants, and out of pocket expenses.

As for the future, Desiree and Ethan are working toward expanding their business to include the ability to create and donate to fundraising pages for anything be it a class trip, a sports team, or a specific charity. Keep a look out for GiveForward! They are determined and eager to be THE household name for online fundraising!

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