July 28, 2015

"Hard Work Pays Off" Common Theme In Alboddo Founder's Life

Suzelle Santos  /  Charleston Digital News

From China to the United States; Columbia, Mo., to Columbia, S.C., and finally Charleston, John Zhang has seen his fair change of zip codes.

Zhang is the founder of software-as-a-service start-up Alboddo Technology, currently located at the Charleston Digital Corridor's Flagship tech-focused business incubator in downtown Charleston.

The company's fundraising software, CharityProud, provides a sophisticated cloud-based donor management solution for small and medium-sized non-profits.

Zhang has over a dozen years of success in software engineering, but surprisingly enough, he started off working with animals.

The software engineer first attended veterinary school in China, then migrated to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in animal nutrition at the University of Missouri, Columbia. "I drove to the farm twice a day to feed the animals," says Zhang, about the pigs and cows he used to study. Then John's interest in computer science became too strong to ignore.

Zhang makes a switch.

In 1999 John and his wife moved from Columbia, Mo., to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., where Zhang would pursue a career in computer science.

He started learning how to code, first with HTML and CSS. He thought it was easy, and interesting. "I can make a difference here," he said. Zhang went on to get his degree in Electronic Engineering from USC, and joined mortgage loan origination software company, Avista Solutions.

He remembers pulling all-nighters at Avista Solutions while his wife attended graduate school. "While she was doing her homework, I was working, and I really enjoyed that," Zhang said.

Because of those fond memories, Zhang says he always tells colleagues that if they aren't spending enough time with their significant other, they should just bring them to work.

For John, hard work always pays off. "You'll get a payback, sooner or later, in some way." By 2012, all the hard work did just that. "We were one of the best mortgage software providers in the country," says Zhang, who became Avista's Chief Technology Officer.

Avista Solutions, which relocated to Charleston in 2009, was acquired in 2012 by D+H, a publicly traded Canadian company. While Zhang stayed on for two more years as the company transitioned, he had big plans when his contract ended.

"I saw how to grow a company from start to finish," said Zhang. After learning all he could at Avista Solutions, he knew it was time to start a business on his own.

In July 2014, following extensive market research and after leaving D+H, John launched Alboddo Technology. His relationships with fundraisers in the non-profit industry proved there was a need for a donor management software that is easy to use, accessible and affordable. He developed the CharityProud product with a team of non-profit professionals that provided him with user perspective.

Zhang is now the leader of a small company that's up against industry giants, but he says that doesn't worry him. Instead, he thinks of it as an advantage.

"One of the biggest problems with current products on the market is that they're too hard for customers to use," Zhang says. He believes bigger, more established companies add dozens of features to satisfy all their clients, making their product anything but user friendly.

Zhang says being smaller helps Alboddo stay current in an ever-changing field, something bigger companies can't always do.

"Nothing is static, even for big companies. If they don't move when the market moves, they will get in trouble."

With the confidence of someone who has been through this process before, Zhang knows that his hard work will pay off yet again. This time, with Alboddo Technology and CharityProud.