How Deevee Kashi went from club owner to co-founder and CEO of the app that’s changing the way big business does benevolence.
By Audra Heinrichs.
Ten years ago, Deevee Kashi, a philosophy major at NYU, started throwing parties for peers with too much time – and likely their parent’s money – on their hands. His parents, though successful in business, were not rich and he insisted on paying his own way through school. However, Kashi’s reputation for particularly raucous ragers preceded him, and he graduated from blowouts with belligerent undergrads on the Lower East Side to champagne and caviar with Rihanna and Leonardo Di Caprio. For years, Kashi travelled the world organizing sumptuous soirees for Art Basel, a number of film festivals and the like, before settling back in New York City and managing hotspots like 1Oak, Up&Down, “when they were still cool”, and the infamous and untraceable, NeverNever. But Kashi, then a bona fide bon vivant of the celebrity set, had an altruistic itch that couldn’t be scratched by bottle service or Bella Hadid.
“I made more money than I ever thought I’d have at my age – more than any of my friends,” Kashi explains. “Externally, I was leading a life that many would envy and consider glamorous but I wanted to lead a life that more aligned with my values.” He contemplated grad school and battled a bout of depression before deciding to dedicate his time to volunteer opportunities while he figured out what was next. As he cold-called local non-profits, he realized many of them were inaccessible, often giving him the run-around about how a concerned citizen can help. Almost immediately, he got to work reconnecting with a few of his old connections and developed a platform that would make lending a helping hand an integral part of one’s lifestyle – not a one-time event. Enter Deed.
Deed, essentially the Meetup of do-gooders, connects users with volunteer opportunities at places like homeless shelters, food banks and schools. Despite a number of competitors who all tout similar capabilities, Deed has managed to be different. It feels younger, cooler – while maintaining cultural relevance. Perhaps because its Instagram account reads like a who’s who of the models and influencers who’ve picked up a shift? Knowledge of its CEO’s former life certainly can’t hurt either.
Following a round of good press in 2017, Kashi started getting inquiries from executives at Facebook and Snapchat regarding new ways to engage their employees in “purpose-driven projects.” While users can still sign up to volunteer or make donations, Deed now touts new programs for global companies like skill-sharing, giving and matching, event-based volunteering and tracking and reporting to measure their impact. In addition to local non-profits, Deed is now partnered with billion-dollar companies like Adidas, Sweetgreen, and Stripe with the hopes of bridging the gargantuan gap between the two.
“We’ve found that sometimes, it’s actually more beneficial to the non-profit not for folks to volunteer, but to gift their talents. For instance, if a non-profit needs a new website and a volunteer at a big tech company like Facebook does that for them free of charge, that’s a huge value add they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”
According to Kashi, Deed’s evolution from small-scale good Samaritan work to elevating altruism in big businesses and among billionaires was always part of the plan. Even as COVID-19 continues to ravage communities around the world, effectively ending Deed’s in-person volunteer programs, Kashi doesn’t seem all that concerned about the platform’s future.
“We’re carrying on. Business as usual. We haven’t had to lay anyone off and in fact, we’re actually hiring people during this time.”
Despite it all, Deed’s digital efforts and donations have actually surged in recent weeks. “ I think everyone has an inherent craving to help in some way,” Kashi tells me, “I never wanted to guilt anyone into giving. I just wanted to make it more accessible for those who can.”
Photo credit: Bailey Sondag