Local Entrepreneur Seizes Second Chance and Launches new Tech Startup. LSS #31: WinningCause



When Steve Wasnick’s wholesale picture framing company went belly-up after 15 years of business, he returned to the entrepreneurial drawing board and crafted a new product, passion and purpose.

Originally known as Mill City Auctions, the game plan was a transition into niche online auctions.   In collaboration with lifelong business partner Andrew Mattila, Wasnick envisioned cultivating a user base through iterative development and brand building by offering the nascent service free-of-charge to nonprofits.  While the sights were ultimately set on the larger and more diverse market for online auctions, a unique ‘second chance’ contest forced a refined focus exclusively on the nonprofit market.

Now re-branded/launched as WinningCause, the service replaces the traditional silent auction approach (pen and paper) with a real time web-based auction experience.  Nonprofits are able to use WinningCause to raise more money at their fundraising auctions through preliminary social media exposure, seamless transition into the actual event, smart-phone compatibility, and most importantly – by retaining 100% of the price paid for a given item.

WinningCause generates its revenue through a 10% buyers premium — essentially a tax paid by the winning bidder, to which Wasnick reports zero friction on behalf of the buyer.

“Nonprofit fundraisers alone bring in $16b in annual revenue and Minnesota is the Silicon Valley of the nonprofit world.  We’re launching in precisely the right market,” he says speaking to his nonprofit orientation.

“I was born to be an entrepreneur, having been an entrepreneur since I was a kid — it has never stopped. It defines me and is what enables me to take risk…without risk there is no reward.  My advice to aspiring tech entrepreneurs?  You don’t need to be a technician, since specialized knowledge is around every corner. If you’ve got a great idea, there are no barriers which cannot be overcome.  My nonprofit clients will benefit to the tune of $1.6b in annual savings while I disrupt and dominate this market.”  — Steve Wasnick, WinningCause Co founder & CEO.

Tune in to our 31st Local Startup Spotlight podcast to hear a true story of reinvention.