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June 06, 2013 | Tom Ballard

ROAR helping non-profits be heard

ROARMatt McKee asks and answers a simple question – “How do you leverage technology for good?” In his case, the current answer is a virtual start-up named ROAR.

Those who attended a recent Tech 20/20 Venture Exchange Forum “After Hours” event had a chance to hear Kyle McClain explain the start-up. McKee is the Chief Executive Officer, based in Atlanta; McClain is the Chief Operating Officer, based in Knoxville.

The ROAR team also includes a second person in Atlanta plus one colleague each in Chicago, Dallas and Upstate New York.

As one might imagine, the selection of the company’s name was intentional. “The name was all about the message,” McKee told us in a recent interview, noting that people leave their homes with three things – keys, money and a mobile device.

He says that “our goal is to help companies communicate with their constituents,” but the name implies that ROAR wants the message of its customers to be so loud that it is heard above others. McKee adds that the goal is clear communication within the mobile space.

“You will be heard” using the ROAR technology, he says, noting that 200,000 individuals use its platform weekly, and the number is growing by 5,000 to 10,000 users every week.

McKee was based in Cincinnati when he founded ROAR in 2010, licensing another company’s platform technology. Its largest customer at the time was an Atlanta-based publisher of curriculum for churches, so his relocation to Atlanta was a natural move.

The current customer base includes churches and other religious groups, schools, PTAs, and a variety of non-profits. For McKee and McClain, the customer mix is a natural. The former was a minister for 10 years – five in Dallas-Ft. Worth and five in Cincinnati. The two met while they and their spouses were helping with a children’s ministry, and McClain joined the ROAR team when he and his wife moved to Knoxville.

“I did not have a job, so I said I would help for a while,” McClain said. That period is now about three years.

ROAR offers two levels of service, built on what McClain says is ROAR’s belief that “mobile and social media spaces can’t be separated.” He adds that “mobile made social media easy.”

One of the services is custom application development. “The app is for them and only them,” McClain says of this service line. The other service is a more generic App Maker Platform.

“The church logs into our content management system, picks the features it wants, enters its content, and creates its app,” he added. ROAR uses Word Press as its content management system although there is “considerable customization.”

ROAR initially raised $100,000 in angel funding and is currently trying to raise $500,000 to allow it to expand and add “mobile giving.” McKee explains that non-profits could raise funds in much the same way that start-ups utilize crowdfunding.

“We want to make it really, really easy and affordable” to do so, he says.

As far as the future, McKee says it will be based on what ROAR believes is its niche – building and sustaining relationships for its clients.

“We believe we’ve been called to the faith-based market, but we don’t believe that is the only one,” he says, explaining that ROAR is working with commercial clients as well, including at least one in healthcare.

“Was I a pastor that happened to be an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur that happened to be a minister,” he asks rhetorically. The answer is probably a little bit of both.

More information about ROAR can be found at

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