River Cohen – CEO of River Cohen Giving

Instead of following a relatively rigid routine, actively seek out new people and places in order to experience a different perspective.

A revered pioneer known for his expertise in electronic payment processing and compliance, River Cohen is responsible for developing many of the innovative financial service models that have since become the industry standard. Cohen, the CEO of River Cohen Giving, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who, over the course of a wildly successful professional career, has consistently endeavored to improve the lives of people all over the world. In service of this goal, the selfless entrepreneur and philanthropist has dedicated a great deal of time, energy, and resources to a wide variety of causes.

Cohen, who grew up in Northern California and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, often splits his time between his home in the Bay Area and his company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. As the CEO of River Cohen Giving, Cohen has made a concerted effort to travel all over the country in order to offer his support to those similarly committed to effecting positive change through philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors. Cohen often offers strategic advisement as well as several other forms of support in order to ensure socially conscious enterprises are able to succeed in achieving goals designed to yield the greatest possible benefit to the whole of society.

Where did the idea for River Cohen Giving come from?

River Cohen Giving was born out of my sincere desire to make positive societal contributions that effectively address many of the most pressing issues of our time.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Since I travel so frequently, I’ve discovered that flexibility is the key to productivity. At the onset of a new workweek, I create a list of priorities that must be accomplished by the week’s end along with a list of less-pressing responsibilities that I will soon need to address. This strategy usually results in the completion of the entire list, ensuring I am always several steps ahead.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Multiple studies have concluded that there are specific states of mind in which ideas seem to instantly bubble to the surface, so I make a point to cultivate these states of mind in order to develop a new idea.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Investors seem to be placing a greater emphasis on social consciousness. It’s exciting that venture capitalists and other investors are evaluating companies based on each company’s potential ability to accomplish the loftiest of positive societal goals.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Despite the presence of technological tools that make it possible to have a “face-to-face” conversation from separate locations, I continue to believe in-person interactions — in the literal sense — represent the most productive strategy for building lifelong entrepreneurial and philanthropic partnerships.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

An early career experience really reinforced my desire to pursue the concept behind River Cohen Giving, because, without going into too much detail, I realized that I could never devote time and energy in support of an endeavor that seemed unconcerned with its impact on society at large.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I wish I had been more vocal about the importance of pursuing socially conscious endeavors when I first founded my company. It was my goal to lead by example, but, looking back, I believe a more vocal effort would have yielded positive results.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Instead of following a relatively rigid routine, actively seek out new people and places in order to experience a different perspective.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Our principal goal is to support and promote any endeavor aimed at the achievement of a societal good, and those that benefit from our efforts have been instrumental in our continued expansion.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of my team members is fond of a quote that seems particularly appropriate when encountering failure, so he often reminds anyone who will listen that, “obstacles are stepping stones.” What most would view as a failure is, in my view, an opportunity to achieve even greater things in the future by applying the lessons learned in the past.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Since so many entrepreneurs are still mainly concerned with profitability above all else, I am currently seeking to develop and/or partner with a consulting or data analytics firm that demonstrates the value — to society and to the profit potential of the endeavor — of adopting a greater focus on social consciousness.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent a weekend hiking in the Redwoods, which is an invigorating way to reflect on personal and professional goals.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I have a great deal of experience with payment processing and compliance software in particular, and I have always loved the role that software plays in expediting any number of business operations.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Life You Can Save,” by Peter Singer, which is about the crisis associated with extreme poverty and what can be done to combat this ongoing issue.

Key Learnings

  • Instead of following a relatively rigid routine, actively seek out new people and places in order to experience a different perspective.
  • I’ve discovered that flexibility is the key to productivity.


River Cohen on Twitter: @RiverCohen
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