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You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

A Slice on Cody Hanson, Co-Founder and COO of OpenGrants

Chances are you’ve heard of at least one person you know receiving a grant, right? Well, if you’re like most people, you probably don’t even know where to get started when it comes to grants. Cody Hanson is on a mission to change that with OpenGrants, a grant search engine covering U.S. public and private funding. Along with the search engine, the platform offers a marketplace to hire experts, educational tools and resource webinars, all for free.

Hanson’s professional background comes from marketing, focused on business growth. He spent a few years at Singularity University, an education company that helps startups. During this time he learned about businesses that create a positive impact in the world, which got him thinking… “I believe every business, as a duty, should create some sort of positive change in the world. There are plenty of opportunities to create a profitable business while doing so.” Looking for a way to make a change, Hanson noticed an “emerging industry of public, private innovation”. He (like almost everyone) knows that democracy moves slowly, which in some cases, can be beneficial. But Hanson noticed a discrepancy in the relationship with the government and stakeholders. “Society and the world is changing so quickly. We need to figure out how to help those systems adapt.” Thus, OpenGrants was born with a mission to support startups and nonprofits. 

It’s no coincidence that OpenGrants’ initial market was early-stage technology startups. Sedale Turbovsky, Co-Founder and CEO of OpenGrants had experience winning grants for large and small businesses. Turbovsky found there were many barriers to break through as someone trying to find and apply for grants. “It’s a naturally complicated system to navigate. It’s murky to figure out and hard to access.” Hanson and Turbovsky both decided grants shouldn’t be hard to navigate and set out to create a solution and software. 

Hanson feels extremely grateful for the relationship the co-founders all have with each other. What makes this trio unique is they’ve known each other for almost a decade and all have different personalities that balance each other out. “When one of us is feeling burnt out or beat down, the other two are charged up and ready to help out. The flow of that energy works out well.” Not only do the co-founders balance each other out, they also share a love for outdoor adventure sports. With the intense nature of adventure sports, Hanson and co-founders feel they’ve all had preparation for running a company. Being in life or death situations has given them the confidence to navigate every part of starting a company. “We have a lot of shared passions and we kind of started doing work together slowly. We ran an agency together for a while and now have all been a part of a few startups. We have a really good long-term friendship.” Due to the great relationship with the co-founders, trust comes easily for them. 

When it comes to fundraising, trust plays a big role for the co-founders. CEO Turbovsky leads the fundraising efforts for OneGrants and the rest of the team helps with the supporting elements: pitch decks, proof points, etc. “Turbovsky can really focus on fundraising because it takes so much time from one person to make that happen… there’s no playbook for it. It’s a lot of taking calls, getting to step two or three, maybe moving forward, maybe not. It’s a numbers game.” Like most teams, they had to figure out what works best for them by learning as they go. 

Although there are a lot of things Hanson wished he knew while starting his entrepreneurial journey, one thing he advises is to keep persevering. “If something isn’t working, look at it again and re-envision it. Maybe re-launch it or change something, but keep the persistence of going for it.” Hanson notes not to blindly go for the same goal, but rather taking a step back to keep going in the same direction or path is what’s important. “Even if you don’t succeed, I really believe you win points for just playing the game. You’ve done some positive good in the world and you’ll be rewarded for it one way or another. It’s better to go in and play the game and take chances than it is to not and sit on the sidelines.” 

Hanson’s goal to make a positive change in the world is to bridge the gap that currently exists in fairness and equity in grant funding. “We’re targeting 20% improvement of the efficiency of grant funding nationally, then eventually globally. Right now, there’s a lot of grant money wasted on both the grantor and grantee sides… There are large chunks of the country, especially in the U.S., that are left behind and that causes some of the broader societal challenges that we run into.” 

As a company on a mission to make a change, metrics are important, but not everything. Hanson instead views revenue as a means to growth and success and making sure his team is “happy, healthy, motivated and feeling good.” His team members’ mental health is his priority along with making a difference for the greater good.

“It’s really important that we’re all taking care of ourselves and of each other if we want to continue to do this work… You know what they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

With OpenGrants, Hanson will continue to work hard to do what’s best for his team while working towards the company’s mission.

Founder Bio

Cody Hanson received his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from California Polytech State University-San Luis Obispo. Prior to founding OpenGrants, Hanson held marketing leadership positions at Vail Resorts and Singularity University. Connect with Hanson on LinkedIn.

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