- February 24, 2024
Startup: Rayze, Tampa, social media app
Year founded: Company was founded in 2020; app was released in July.
Founder: Carl Nassib. Nassib’s day job is as a professional football player. He’s currently a linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is his second stint with the Bucs, and he also played for the Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders. Nassib made cultural headlines in June 2021, when he announced on an Instagram post he was gay, becoming the first-ever active NFL player to come out publicly.
Rayze is a social media app and platform designed with three core purposes: to match volunteers seeking opportunities with nonprofits; create a positive social media platform; and provide a simplified digital system for nonprofits to collect donations.
On the last point, Rayze’s goal is to use social media to “make it easy to find charitable giving options and to bridge the gap between like-minded people and organizations — eliminating friction and inspiring philanthropic action at scale,” according to its website. Those like-minded people Rayze targets are mostly Millennials and Gen Z, a largely untapped resource for nonprofits.
Nassib first thought of the idea for Rayze during his first stint with the Bucs, in 2018, when he and some teammates volunteered as mentors at a juvenile detention center near the team’s practice facility. Nassib noticed there were multiple barriers to get from wanting to volunteer to doing it, even for someone as well-connected as a pro athlete. “There had to be a way for everyone to have these opportunities,” Nassib says.
The idea blossomed from there, incorporating Nassib’s long-held belief that social media, for the most part, is littered with negativity and toxic posts designed to argue or bring people down. The goal is for Rayze to build people up and "'rayze’ the collective well-being,” according to the app’s website.
The company’s revenue model — it collects a 1% fee on all donations it handles on the platform, with a minimum fee of $0.25 per donation — comes from what Nassib says was one of his key startup lessons: follow the demand, not just what you set out to do.
Nassib says when he began talking to nonprofits about connecting volunteers with opportunities, he kept hearing about a disconnect somewhere else: in collecting donations. Turns out there wasn’t a leader in that space, of handling online donations in a wide variety of amounts.
So Nassib and his team ran with that. Now Rayze seeks a patent on a proprietary QR code-based technology, developed to enable users at fundraising events to donate seamlessly to charities. The innovation aims to render the practice of “pledging” donations and the subsequent collection process obsolete — bringing “conventional philanthropy into the digital era,” according to a statement from the company.
Through mid-November, Rayze had some 60 nonprofits using the system and about 3,000 users. Nonprofits on the system include the Trevor Project and United Way. (There’s no cost for users, both individuals and nonprofits, to connect and post on Rayze.)
A biology major at Penn State who considered going to med school, Nassib says he spent nearly every hour last offseason he wasn’t working out or sleeping doing something with Rayze. And during the season, he spends his off-days, Tuesdays most weeks, doing something Rayze-related. “The commitment to this reminds me of being back in college,” Nassib says. “Rayze keeps me up at night — in the best possible way. I’m often texting my CFO and (business partners) at 10 p.m. with all these ideas. I love it. The potential for this is very high.”
Nassib had been the main financial supporter of Rayze. Then, in mid November, El Segundo, California-based Financial Finesse Ventures, which bills itself as a “first-of-its-kind venture arm for socially responsible fintech,” announced Rayze would become its first portfolio company, with a Series A investment.
Officials from Financial Finesse declined to disclose the investment amount, saying it’s a minority stake and incubation support. Nassib also declined to disclose investment specifics. Rayze intends to use the investment “to scale its user base and find innovative ways to increase both donations and volunteering,” according to a statement.
Financial Finesse Ventures CEO and founder Liz Davidson and Nassib met several years ago, when Nassib was part of an externship program with the NFL Players Association. Davidson’s firm did some work for the NFLPA and the pair connected and stayed in touch. “He’s such a charismatic and engaging person,” Davidson says. “He’s the most giving and most genuine walk-the-walk individual I’ve ever met.”