By Kristina Houck
After running a successful hedge fund that invested in Internet companies, Karim Pirani retired at 41. About a decade later and bored with retirement, the Carmel Valley resident decided to create his own Internet company in 2009.
“Retirement is not all that it’s cracked up to be, especially in your mid-40s,” said Pirani, 55.
Pirani launched Safelist, which he calls a “safer Craigslist.” But when the idea failed to gain traction, he began working on a new venture — a fundraising platform that supports local schools.
“Schools are having such a tough time raising money through PTAs,” Pirani said. “In a bad economy, parents are having a tough time writing checks, so I got an idea to create a platform where parents can now clean out their garages and basements and donate those items to their local PTA instead of having to write a check.”
After receiving positive feedback from a test version in Santa Barbara, Pirani launched DonorNation in San Diego in January. The online platform enables individuals and businesses to help schools fundraise by buying and selling products, services and used items. A percentage of the proceeds from each transaction — at least 10 percent and as much as 100 percent — supports local schools.
“Our economy is getting better, but there are still families out there who are tightening their belts to make ends meet,” said Pirani, who also co-owns Raanya Facial Threading and Henna Tattoos in Del Mar with his wife. “We all are pressured by our PTA to donate. For the ones who can afford it, it’s no problem. For the ones who cannot, it’s tough to write a check all the time. Our platform gives parents options.”
In addition to raising funds for local schools, DonorNation enables users to support local businesses, said Pirani, a father of two daughters, ages 11 and 22. From automotive repairs to yoga lessons, a variety of services are available through the online marketplace.
“Nothing is more important than making sure our kids receive quality education,” Pirani said. “By fostering community involvement, we are allowing the community to support our schools in a very tangible way and also support local businesses.”
About 70 local schools are utilizing the platform, 40 of which registered after DonorNation gained exposure from its first annual School Volunteer of the Year Award. Award winners and honorable mentions — including Grand Prize Winner James Fosnot of Oceanside High School — were recognized at a ceremony on June 19 at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar.
“The School Volunteer of the Year Award brought a lot of attention to our platform,” Pirani said. “These volunteers always work in the shadows. None of these volunteers ever ask for attention or ask for awards. The School Volunteer of the Year Award that my company initiated, I think, brings attention to what this community does and how hard our volunteers work.”
With more than $16,000 raised for San Diego County schools since DonorNation launched in January, Pirani said he’s happy with his decision to come out of retirement.
“I think what I’m doing now, this is the best thing that could have happened to me,” Pirani said. “It allows me to build a platform where the community can join hands and support their favorite cause by donating their time or donating stuff.”
For more information about DonorNation, visit