Kathy Terry was fed up with frivolous gift-giving…so she decided to change the game.
She launched inLieu, a social giving app that allows you to give a gift to charity in honor of someone, instead of bringing a bottle of wine, sending a small token as a thank-you, or giving a birthday gift your friend doesn’t need. It’s a welcome addition to the social space, making it easy to directly support your favorite charities (the app lists more than 1.8 million verified nonprofits) and make your friends feel good, too.
We love what Kathy has created and can’t wait to watch inLieu grow and thrive—and in turn, see how it changes the world one donation at a time.
Tell us about your company, inLieu. What did you see missing from the charity market and what did you seek to build?
inLieu was created to fill a gap between material gift giving and donating to the causes we love. I felt a push to show up differently to my friends especially in the way I expressed my love, appreciation and gratitude. I was tired of the obligatory gift giving — the hostess gifts, thank you gifts, birthday gifts — we are all just checking the box. We are gifting things to friends, family, co-workers, and others that 1) they don’t really need or want 2) worse, aren’t fulfilling our desire to show appreciation and gratitude, and 3) are leaving billions unspent and misspent in a world that could use those billions to be a part of the solution to many of society’s ills. So I asked myself, what if we decided to skip the obligatory or last minute gift and instead give the gift of giving back, replacing material gifts with donations? This intentional giving is what I saw missing in the gift and charity markets There was no platform that allowed me to donate in honor of a friend with a personal message via text or email at anytime from anywhere. inLieu gives us the opportunity to participate in changing the world, one gift at a time.
Your app is social-first. How has social media changed the giving game?
Social media has changed the world! Frankly, I’m not sure I have embraced it fully yet, but it’s here to stay. In fact, my initial vision of inLieu did not include the social feed and it wasn’t until I committed to building it, that I decide it needed to be social. At the time, I had no social presence. No Facebook, no Twitter account, and only an old abandoned Instagram account. But, I started using Venmo and found myself scrolling through the feed and realized if I wanted to build an app to encourage others to give, it would have to be social. If people (including me) were spending time seeing who was spending money on pizza or paying their babysitters then it only made sense to use it to help people learn about the causes their friends are passionate about, and encourage others to donate and make an impact too. I guess you could say, I was slow to catching on. I realized social media is where we connect, get inspiration, find our tribe, find our passions and share our thoughts and beliefs with the world. It only makes sense to use social media to not just change the world, but to make it better!
What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?
Every month I send checks out to nonprofits all over the US that have received donations in the app. Knowing that the majority of these donations represent money that would have normally been spent on material gifts but was instead turned into impact puts a little smile on my face. In fact, every dollar we raise goes towards decreasing the amount of money that will sit on unused gift cards, regifted candles and unwanted gifts. Did you know that there is currently $45B (yes that is a B for billion) sitting on unused gift cards and $14B is spent on greeting cards every year. Together we can all make a difference.
What tech announcement or new release are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m very excited about our redesign that will be fully released in the next few months. We have spent a lot of time listening to users and making updates to the app that will make inLieu even more social, engaging and easy to use!
What is one app (other than yours!) you can’t live without and why?
It would either be Venmo or my Podcast app. I wouldn’t be able to pay my babysitters without Venmo and I am a fanatic about listening to podcasts. I’m a big runner…it’s my stress reliever, where I do my most creative thinking (I actually thought of inLieu while out on a long run!) and it’s when I listen to my podcasts. My favorite is How I Built This. I may have a secret crush on Guy Raz because I also love Ted Radio Hour (not that you asked and now it’s not a secret).
Who are some women you look up to in your field?
Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, founders of Finery, are definitely on the top of my list. They are both from Austin and could not have been more encouraging and helpful while I was building inLieu. In fact, as soon as I launched Whitney downloaded the app and sent me a google doc with screenshots that included UX/UI recommendations. These two women launched a technology business with no technology experience, which gave me the confidence to do the same.
Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice are the visionaries behind SoulCycle and I love how they took an already existing model and turned it on it’s head. That’s how you disrupt shit!
I love the drive and passion of Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, founders of Rent the Runway. Their “dream big and go after it” mentality is exactly what you need when you start a business. They have changed the way we think about shopping and have created a market that didn’t exist before. I’m definitely on Team JJ, and a big fan!
I would be remiss to not include Whitney Wolfe Herd, another Austinite who is definitely empowering women to make the first move through Bumble. I think Whitney has set an amazing example for other women to take control of their life, follow their passion and not let anyone else define the person you should be.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?
I tell my girls all the time (ages 8 & 10) that the only thing between them and success is hard work and passion, but most importantly passion. Passion does not always equate to skill or experience, but it will carry you further. But you have to make sure that even when you are driven by passion, you are also nimble. Without flexibility, you can end up off course. You can get stuck in one direction, ultimately missing the curve in the road.f you are too rigid, you won’t be able to pivot and that can lead to disaster! inLieu is the fourth business I’ve started, and there are always bumps and hurdles. In fact, there are more hard days then easy ones, and you have to always remind yourself to find the joy in as many moments as you can. LIke they say, the joy has to be in the journey (not sure if anyone actually said those exact words, but it does sound good!).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Surround yourself with people smarter than you and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
My biggest surprise? How hard it is to change a behavior! When I launched inLieu I was naive thinking that everyone was already in the same mindset I was about giving differently. Boy, was I surprised when I realized that not only did I build a high-touch consumer product, but I also had to change people’s behavior and their mindset around giving. Holy Hell, where is the exit?
My biggest highlight? When I saw people who were initially skeptical about the entire idea of inLieu and the idea of giving a donation unsolicited in lieu of a gift, turn into inLieu super-users. I have actually witnessed people’s behaviour change firsthand, and it’s moved me to keep pushing.We have users who have donated over 20, 40, 60 times since we launched in March 2018. I LOVE IT!
What are you most excited about in 2019?
I am excited to see what change we can ignite in the world by changing the way we give!