When we first met Ulupreneur Jenny Xia Spradling, Co-CEO of FreeWill, she talked about how hard nonprofits were struggling to raise money and firmly believed charities were willing to pay for ways to do it. We were convinced from the beginning that this was a big enterprise software opportunity. She and her Co-CEO Patrick Schmitt have more than proven their belief that nonprofits would pay for new innovative ways to fundraise. So far FreeWill boasts more than $4.6B committed to charities and provides a free and easy online experience for individuals to plan their estates and give to nonprofits. And yes, they really are on a path to commit a trillion dollars to high impact nonprofits. And they just raised $30M for their Series B. Bravo!
Ulupreneur Jenny Xia Spradling, the daughter of immigrant Chinese parents, grew up in Washington State. When she visited China as a child—where her not-so-distant relatives were still living in the countryside—she was struck by how they had very little compared to what she had back home, and it made her want to level the playing field for other people. After attending a high school where half the freshman class dropped out, Jenny went to Harvard, which she says was a life-changing experience: everywhere around her she saw people who also loved to learn.
Jenny describes herself as a quiet, shy young girl who wasn’t very articulate, but loved numbers. After graduating she went on to McKinsey, where she observed how the firm excelled at influencing people. She also recognized that it would be a necessary skill for her to develop if she wanted to make a difference in the world. She wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but remembers having “imposter syndrome” about whether someone like her could start a company. She did just that by helping to found Parabus, an app that helps people get money back on purchases; the company was later sold to CapitalOne.
Jenny was passionate about nonprofits from a young age and saw how hard it was for them to raise money. She went to Stanford GSB in 2016 and met her soon-to-be co-founder and co-CEO Patrick Schmitt, who was also focused on nonprofit giving. A major source of charitable contributions is from assets bequeathed by individuals in their wills, and Jenny and Patrick knew that the main barriers to estate planning were that it was scary, complex, and expensive for most people. They wanted to find a way to make legal wills online in a way that was warm, intuitive, and free. She credits Patrick for the “aha” moment that spurred them to create FreeWill, a free tool for individuals that makes it easier for them to give and simpler for nonprofit organizations to receive. Since its founding in 2017, more than $4 billion in transformative non-cash gifts (bequests, stock, crypto, charitable distributions from IRAs, and more) has been committed to charity through the platform. As of Q1 2022, the company raises nearly $6M per day for nonprofits and just raised a $30M Series B round.