#CareerSpotlight: Dale Nirvani, founder and CEO of Goodworld
Ever wonder what it would be like to leave a safe career in academia to launch your own business? Or what it would be like to realize in your early 30s that it’s time to take the power back over your life by getting rid of certain long-held, disempowering beliefs? Or, maybe you’re like me and just want to discover the secret to Dale’s contagious “can-do” attitude, and learn about how she is changing the world with her company’s “the more good we do the more money we make” business model.
We are always curious to hear the stories of women taking risks to follow their dreams and passions. With our “Career Spotlight” series, we take a glance into the lives of dynamic and pioneering women who are impacting the world positively, in many extraordinary ways.
Dale Nirvani is the founder and CEO of Goodworld, the start-up that is making giving to charity as easy as using a hashtag. Her office space is located in the most formal area of D.C., just a few blocks away from the White House, but when you walk in you are immediately teleported to one of Silicon Valley’s start up spaces. The energy and excitement in the air are palpable. And there comes Dale, a coffee mug in her hand, with her smile and warm New Zealand accent that immediately put you at ease.
Before Goodworld, Dale has had multiple careers, as an award-winning academic in New Zealand and in philanthropy in the U.S. Her key to self-confidence? Changing your mindset to get the locus of power back where it belongs: within you. Her advice to success? Take the time to meditate, to better understand who you are. Then take action and go all in.
Tell me about your journey to Goodworld and your key insights along the way
Ever since I was little I have wanted to create something that would have a large positive impact on the world. While I enjoyed my work in academia, I always felt a bit at odds with my goal. I’m from a very action-oriented family, where you don’t have the option to sit and moan about things, so I decided to take my destiny into my own hands and create my company.
I have a background in research so of course I started by digging into the data, undertaking field research, doing market analyses on the philanthropy sector, and reading, reading, reading, reading, reading.
I quickly identified two main trends: there was a huge behavioural change of people going from checks to donating online, and a large increase in the amount of time people spent on social media.
I knew that if I could develop a payment mechanism that enabled people to make donations on social media, it could revolutionize not only philanthropy but on-line commerce in general. From that point on I could not stop thinking about this idea –I would wake up in the middle of the night, leap out of bed and start working on Goodworld.
The world would be such a better place if every business adopted your “the more good we do the more money we make” strategy. Can you tell me about how you developed it?
My main goal in life has always been to do the most amount of good, but as a single woman in my early 30s, I also wanted (and needed) to make money. That was my reality. So I decided to hold those two objectives close and squarely when developing the model for the company. I was determined from the very beginning to find a solution where the more money we make, the more good we do. And the more good we do the more money we make. That focus from the very beginning allowed me to find a solution.
What has been your biggest struggle as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
The challenges have evolved depending on the business stage of Goodworld. My first challenge was to find a market opportunity that truly was big enough to have a ‘wow’ effect.
Now, our main challenge is the go to market phase: you need lightning in a bottle to propel the technology into the public consciousness. Or you need to figure out how to get there in another way, either through paid placement or partnerships. At the moment, we are focused on finalising partnerships with large financial organizations, to get our technology out there.
What is your main strength that has enabled you to go this far?
My ability to focus has been key: to be successful as an entrepreneur you need to follow the cookie crumbs up to a certain point and then double down and go deep.
I’m also a person who believes in taking action: of course it’s important to think through things, but not for too long! A thought is just a thought, actions make the difference.
What is a daily habit that has been key to your success?
Meditation. I meditate every morning, even sometimes for just one minute. It helps me to stay grounded and to generate new ideas. I’m a spiritual person so for me it’s important to bring myself to a place of gratitude, of positivity.
What would be your advice to young women who strive to be leaders in their fields but struggle with their lack of self-confidence?
As women, we often hold beliefs that are disempowering: “I’m not good enough. I’ll never make it. He’ll look after me. I’ll get the money from him”.
I struggled to get rid of these internal beliefs and to change my mindset. I was going out with an entrepreneur when I first had the idea for Goodworld. I would tell him about my ideas, and i didn’t realize it at the time but I expected things to move forward all through the magic of him. But instead of moving forward, all I was doing was giving my power away to him. I was waiting for him to help me make my dreams come true.
Again, I wasn’t conscious of this disempowering behaviour of mine at the time. This was a hard realization for me to make, as it was linked to my long-held, subconscious belief that a man would always provide for me and help me achieve my dreams - a clear sign of low self-confidence.
Women have to get rid of this long-held, subconscious belief that they are not good enough. We need to reprogram our minds, in order to take the locus of control back to ourselves. In my case, I found that sitting down and writing down 30 reasons why that belief is not true, and then 30 reasons why “I am good enough”, was truly empowering.
What is the biggest career risk you have ever taken and why did you decide to take it?
Before moving to the U.S., I was working in academia in New Zealand. I was pretty successful, but I felt like something was missing.
For months, I had the same question in my head: “should I follow my head or my heart?”. Should I stay in academia, a very brain-orientated environment, or follow my heart by going out of academia and into the world?
I was in the midst of this self-questioning when I was invited to a retreat on the South Island. We all had to choose a question we were currently struggling with and formulate an answer by the end of the retreat. We went on a silent walk one day, during which we had to think about our question, but of course my head was elsewhere. At some point during the walk, I spotted a shell which looked like a really ugly head, and without even thinking I put it in my pocket. Then a little bit further I saw an absolutely beautiful rock in the shape of a heart. It was sparkling and it looked incredible, so I picked it up. At the end of the walk we all gathered to report back on our answers to our personal questions, and I shamefully had to admit that I had gotten nothing out of the walk, except “these two stones”. As I took them out of my pocket my friends exclaimed “well that’s the answer to your question”: the heart-shaped stone was beautiful and sparkling, while the head-shaped stone was just an ugly rock. Clearly, I had to follow my heart.
What is your favourite book on women’s empowerment?
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is incredible. I have it on audiobook and listen to it periodically.
I also really enjoy “The Luck Factor” by Richard Wiseman. He argues that luck is actually a science: it comes to people who have a positive attitude, as seeing things in a positive light makes us more likely to constantly look for and identify opportunities.
Any additional thoughts you’d like to share?
I'm more than happy to help. Feel free to reach out on email@example.com
About the author: Fannie Delavelle currently works on leveraging new technologies for social impact at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Previously, she was the trade and public policy attache at the Embassy of France in the United States. She graduated with a Master's from the London School of Economics and Sciences Po Paris in 2014. Connect with her!