ArdentCause: Women on the Verge

11/21/11Follow @XconomyDET

One day, Rosemary Bayer came to her friend Kathleen Norton-Schock with an idea sparked by her experience as a volunteer for the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT): How could a nonprofit better manage volunteers and resources while improving communication with grantees? Though they didn’t realize it at that moment, Bayer’s idea became the impetus behind ardentCause, a Ferndale, MI-based tech startup that was recently selected as a recipient of Detroit’s First Step Fund financing. ArdentCause is also one of Michigan’s first LC3 hybrid enterprises, an IRS designation created to bridge the gap between nonprofit and for-profit investing by providing a structure that facilitates investments in socially beneficial, for-profit ventures.

Bayer and Norton-Schock seem like the perfect pair to go into business together. They both are encore entrepreneurs with long, successful tech careers behind them. They both have a passion for “doing good”—in fact, they met as volunteers for the MCWT, an organization that helps guide women toward careers in math and science. Bayer, who before ardentCause invented NetBackup (now a product of Veritas) and was an executive at Sun Microsystems, possesses a voracious mind, while Norton-Schock crackles with energy. Both Bayer and Norton-Schock embody an emerging category of entrepreneurs—seasoned professional women looking for a second act that reflects their true calling. ArdentCause also reflects the challenges that female entrepreneurs can face when they’re seeking capital in the male-dominated investor circuit.

Bayer says ardentCause came to be mainly because she had plenty of time on her hands once her daughter moved out of the house to attend college.

“I started working longer hours until finally one day someone said to me, ‘What are you doing?’” Bayer says. Bayer realized she had gone as far as she could go at Sun Microsystems and was ready for a change, so she proposed her idea to Norton-Schock.

“We had heard horror stories about foundations giving X money for decades but not knowing how to measure the real impact,” Norton-Schock says. “Nonprofits themselves want to know they’re making a difference.”

Bayer set out to invent software that would allow nonprofits to track, on a daily basis, their results. Called CauseEffectz, the cloud-based software enables funding foundations and the nonprofits they support to accurately measure activity and resulting outcomes, graphically communicate those outcomes, and better chart progress and successes.

“We facilitate communication with funders and donors,” Bayer says. “Nonprofits can choose which pieces of data to share so that it has a collective impact. We’ve started at the front edge of the movement for accountability. We believe we’ll see other products in this space, but we’re ahead of the pack.”

While the current economic climate has certainly had an impact on the nonprofit sector, it’s still big business. Comprising nearly 1.7 million organizations nationwide, the industry accounts for … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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  • Carmen

    Congratulations to two very talented ladies, Bayer and Norton-Shock, on their latest venture, in which both corporates and non-profits benefit through information sharing. They have made a huge impact through Michigan Council of Women in Technology and I have not doubt that this new venture will be highly successful.

    Well done!