The NFL’s first openly gay player just raised Series A funding for a social media app dedicated to positivity and community – Fortune

November 16, 2022
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Carl Nassib dreamed of a different kind of social media app for years — one that celebrates positivity and community.
With Rayze, a new app that links people to each other and to nonprofits that appeal to their interests or are based where they live, he may have created it.
Now, it’s just a matter of getting people and nonprofits to use it. “When we scale, if we’re hanging around on a Saturday afternoon and we’ve got time to kill, we can get on our phones and within 10 seconds, we can find something in our neighborhood to do to give back,” Nassib said. “There’s gonna be opportunities galore.”
And after an investment of Series A funding and incubation support from Financial Finesse Ventures announced Monday, Rayze will launch programs to add users and nonprofits. Details of the investment were not released, though Financial Finesse Ventures said their typical investment ranges from $500,0000 to $1.5 million for a minority stake.
Liz Davidson, Financial Finesse Ventures CEO and founder, said Rayze ticked all the boxes the venture arm of her firm was looking for in an investment — positive social impact, strong business model and a CEO who can inspire people to work together.
“Carl is a force of nature,” Davidson said. “It’s gonna be really hard honestly to find other investments that can match this.”
Nassib, who made headlines last year when he became the first active NFL player to come out as gay, said the idea for Rayze has been with him since he volunteered with the Buccaneers at a juvenile delinquent center in Tampa in 2018.
“We visited with kids who were as young as 13 or 14 years old who were in jail cells — a lot of them were there because they were just running away from a violent home environment,” he said. “These kids were in really, really desperate need and the most moving part about it was they were half a mile from where we went to work every day,” he added. “And none of us knew they were there.”
Though many nonprofits say they are having trouble finding enough volunteers, Nassib says it is because of a lack of connection, not a lack of compassion.
“Everybody wants to give back,” he said. “It’s just a little difficult right now, but we’re going to make it as efficient as possible.”
Nassib hopes to help smaller nonprofits by offering them a way to receive donations through Rayze, so that they don’t have to build their own online collection sites. He said part of the investment from Financial Finesse Ventures would allow Rayze to match a volunteer’s skills with a nonprofit’s needs in order to address a shortage of volunteers who can help nonprofits with technology or marketing.
Social media platforms are going through a rough patch, between Elon Musk’s struggles with Twitter and Facebook parent company Meta laying off 11,000 workers. However, Nassib and his backers think they can find an audience.
Rayze’s new funding will support a series of new, in-person events, called “SatuRayze,” where people can meet nonprofit representatives in their own communities.
“I want to get people out and giving back to their communities — making it a popular thing to do,” Nassib said. “We really just want to encourage grassroots movements. And we want to make it cultural, where it’s part of society to get up and do something.”
The first SatuRayze will be Thursday in New York City’s McCarren Park, featuring nonprofits that include the New York Police Department Foundation, The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention and mental health services for LGBTQ youth, and Sow Good Now, which supports philanthropic athletes.
Kevin Wong, The Trevor Project’s vice president of communications, said the group was thankful for Nassib’s support. “In addition to inspiring so many young people to live their truth, he also inspires adults to accept and support the LGBTQ people in their lives,” said Wong, adding that research shows community interaction at events like SatuRayze is important. “Acceptance from at least one adult can reduce the risk of LGBTQ youth attempting suicide by 40%.”
Nassib believes Rayze can make a difference to communities of all sorts.
“My vision is just getting people up out of their houses and involved,” he said. “It’s just the most rewarding thing ever — being of service to other people. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, of self-worth, as opposed to looking at social media all day, which is just so crippling to your self-esteem and self-image. So we’re combatting all those negatives of social media by getting people out of their houses and giving back. It’s fun.”
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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.
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