Student-run startup helps users donate to charity

Shea Rouda, a junior majoring in East Asian languages and culture, created Drops, a startup that rounds up people’s purchases to help them make small donations to their favorite charity.

Rouda came up with the business idea after observing the impact of his own spare change over time. Every month, he and his friends would allot a small fund toward various apartment activities. Their leftover cash came from tiny purchases such as a Starbucks coffee or a Subway cookie.

“I realized all sorts of businesses actually used the same practice,” Rouda said. “For example, Bank of America has Keep the Change, which helps people save money. It rounds up every purchase you make with your debit card to the next dollar, and the difference between that and the actual price gets moved to your savings account.”

Rouda also noticed the prevalence of placing loose bills in a tip jar or giving money to those in need. However, he hoped to take this concept one step further by translating it from a cash exchange to a credit or debit card exchange.

“I love the emphasis our society puts on donating money and giving back, but I wanted to create an online platform for it,” Rouda said. “With Drops, it’s essentially the same impact, but in a much more omnipresent way.”

Drops is planning to officially launch in the spring. The company is currently in Beta, with around 1,000 users on board for early access tests. Juniors Tristan Arthuad and Mikey Rovzar are both excited to try out the app and start donating.

“I’ve always wanted to give more to charity, but it never seemed like there was an easy way to do it,” said Arhuad, a business administration major.

Rovzar, who is majoring in narrative studies, agreed that finding time to donate is difficult.

“I’ll be honest — I don’t donate to causes often and lack important knowledge about local charities and the help they offer to those in need,” Rovzar said. “However, Drops makes it easy to donate while working around your financial budget, and it allows you to be philanthropically minded.”

Rouda’s hope is to inspire those who don’t normally donate to give to charities.

“Ideally, I want not only to see the donation market utilize Drops, but I also want to augment the donation market itself and make more donations happen in general,” Rouda said. “I hope Drops serves as an easier and more convenient way to do this.”

Looking into the future, Rouda’s long-term goal is to partner with larger charities in the United States, including well-known organizations such as Green Peace and Red Cross. He hopes to do some cross-promotion to make sure their donors are aware of Drops.

In the meantime, however, the young entrepreneur is dedicating all his energy and attention to introducing Drops to the public and spreading the word.

“I’m just taking it step by step,” Rouda said. “Our main focus right now is to provide a great Beta experience for those who want to test it out. Come March or April, we’ll go full-time launch and open it up to everyone.”

Drops is the first company Rouda has started on his own, and he has found the experience to be rewarding.

“Every time I see some measurable change or hear feedback from someone that says our app has been a great service, I feel a great sense of pride and fulfillment,” Rouda said. “It’s certainly a lot of work, but I encourage anyone who has a good startup idea to just stick with it. Once you find an idea that’s worth pursuing, you’ll know, and you just won’t let it go.”