How Govalo is Bringing Gift Cards Out of the Past

Overlooked Ventures invested in Govalo in October as the company’s first venture capital investor. Since then, co-founders Rhian Beutler and Kelly Vaughn have completed their pre-seed round, grew their customer base to over 500 active users and brought in over $600,000 in gift card sales, and hired new talent across engineering, partnerships, and support.

Govalo is reinventing the gifting experience, starting with Shopify merchants. Founders Kelly and Rhian met a few years ago at a Shopify event, and first partnered as hosts of the commerce tea podcast. After a conversation about the future of gifting in e-commerce, Kelly and Rhian decided that it was up to them to bring gift cards out of the past. Kelly, a software engineer for 20 years, wrote Govalo’s first line of code in July and the pair launched the app in the Shopify store in October.

Brandon Brooks had the pleasure of speaking with Rhian and Kelly on Twitter Spaces last week to check in on their progress and share their journey + success so far with founders and potential VCs (FYI — they’re currently raising another round). This hour-long Twitter space was filled with valuable advice for founders who are fundraising or thinking about raising a round. Here’s a recap of Friday night’s chat.

First, Rhian and Kelly shared their backgrounds, both have spent years prior in the Shopify ecosystem — Kelly as the CEO & Founder of the Taproom Agency and Rhian as the Co-founder and COO of Venntov. It’s clear from their background that the two are the right people to solve the problems surrounding digital gift cards for Shopify merchants, and beyond.

It’s no secret that the pandemic accelerated the shift towards online shopping, pushing e-commerce forward. However, a very important piece was left behind — gift cards. The existing gift card experience in Shopify made it difficult for shoppers to purchase a gift card, and send it to the recipient. Enter Govalo, who reinvented the entire process.

In just three minutes, Shopify merchants can install Govalo, onboard, and begin offering gift cards. Gift cards have a lot of impact. They help small businesses drive purchases amid supply chain issues, which unfortunately don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Govalo gift cards act as an acquisition, retention, and loyalty channel. How? Merchants can point customers to a gift card if a desired item is out of stock and even use gift cards as a promotional technique in place of a promo code or other discounts. Plus, gift cards are what young consumers want. 67% of Millennials and 83% of Gen Z’s prefer them.

Govalo’s platform is revolutionary, but their team is what makes them stand out. Rhian and Kelly complement each other perfectly as co-founders. The two had some great advice when it comes to finding and working with a co-founder:

  • “Find someone you have an awesome Venn diagram with.” You want your strengths to overlap enough that you can communicate with each other well, but you also want to bring different experiences and skillsets to the table
  • “Only one cofounder is allowed to get worried at a time.” In order to stay positive and keep morale high overall, one founder needs to be the sounding board and encouraging even when things get hard.

The fundraising process is no exception to the above rules. When raising their pre-seed round, Kelly and Rhian were in the dark. It was their first time ever fundraising, both were bootstrappers previously, so they took every piece of advice they could get. After reflecting on their experience as first-time fundraisers, Kelly and Rhian realized that advice shouldn’t be seen as gospel, instead, it should be a data point — all advice should be collectively considered.

Govalo’s first investors came from their community, which is the Shopify ecosystem. Rhian and Kelly didn’t know that they’d end up securing investments from institutional investors. After coming across Overlooked Ventures, the two co-founders knew that our missions aligned well. They applied, had a meeting, and OV became their first institutional investor.

“It only takes one yes.”

(the day we all joined forces)

Overlooked Ventures’ investment announcement caused an avalanche of VC interest. A number of other venture capitalists reached out to invest into Govalo, and they ended up oversubscribing their round. When it comes to raising capital, Rhian and Kelly had a few more words of wisdom:

  • “Choosing the folks who you take capital from is just as important as raising said capital.”
  • “Be intentional from day 1 when raising venture capital.”
  • “Be bold. Ask for help. Be unafraid and have thick skin.”

Since Overlooked Ventures invested in Govalo, Rhian and Kelly have grown at an unprecedented rate. They’ve grown their customer base to over 500 with merchants like House of Wise and Baboon to the Moon. One of the reasons they’re making such large strides is because they value their early users and their feedback.

“The best way to get better as a SaaS company is actively listening to users and servicing users the best way you can.”

While bringing in more sales, Kelly and Rhian hired some amazing talent. The two are big fans of people with non-traditional backgrounds. They know what people are capable of, and are aware that not everyone gets the opportunity to show it. That’s why Kelly and Rhian give their team the space they need to push themselves and do what they want. The co-founders are also keen to hire implementation engineers who are freshly out of Bootcamp because they can learn alongside senior staff engineers.

“You have to give somebody a chance to do the thing.”

Rhian and Kelly are two exceptional founders building a company that directly helps small businesses and improves the gifting experience. If you’re interested in learning more about Govalo or investing in their current round, contact them at hello@govalo.com.

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Founding Partner at Overlooked Ventures

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Janine Sickmeyer

Janine Sickmeyer

Founding Partner at Overlooked Ventures

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