StartSomeGood is a crowd-funding platform that gives social entrepreneurs the tools they need to transform their ideas into action and impact.We at YourStory.in recently caught up with Alex Budak, co-founder of StartSomeGood, to know more about how the idea germinated, the impact created so far, and how the business idea behind StartSomeGood works. Edited Excerpts:
Tell us more about yourself and how the idea of StartSomeGood was born.
I’m a social entrepreneur and travel writer. I love photography, adventures and UCLA basketball. The concept for StartSomeGood arose after I spent a few months living in India. Though I had traveled a good amount before then, I had never been face-to-face with that kind of poverty. Though some people, I think, become fatalistic when faced with such scale of social challenges, I, more than anything, became inspired by the opportunities for social change that existed. There, for the first time, I recognized that social change won’t come from one or two organizations, but rather from lots of people pursuing social good in their own individual way.
I volunteered for a local social enterprise focused on girls’ empowerment, and I came back to the States ready to dedicate my life to improving the world through social entrepreneurship. I had an idea for a social venture I wanted to start, but I realized that there was no good place to start raising the funds or growing the community that is so crucial to getting a social enterprise off the ground. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there must be countless wonderful ideas out there for improving the world. I reflected back on my experience in India, and spent time thinking about how we could empower anyone, anywhere to become a social innovator. And out of these experiences, grew StartSomeGood.
How does the platform work?
StartSomeGood is a crowd-funding -- or to use the term we prefer, “peerfunding” -- platform which gives social entrepreneurs the tools they need to transform their ideas for improving the world into action and impact. Social innovators come to our site with an idea for how they want to improve the world and detail the issue they seek to address and their plan for doing so.
Once approved by the StartSomeGood team, we work with the social entrepreneurs to help them craft a campaign to raise funds. They come up with a “tipping point” goal, which is defined by the amount of funds they need. All campaigns have a tangible outcome, be it launching a new venture, entering a new market, serving a new population or creating some other new form of social good.
Campaigns have a distinct length -- from seven to 60 days -- and throughout that time supporters come and pledge funds towards their campaign goal. In exchange for their support -- which range from donations as small as $5 all the way to much larger sums -- each supporter receives a reward as specified by the social entrepreneur. Though people pledge their support towards the campaign, funds only change hands if a campaign reaches its tipping point goal by its campaign deadline. This ensures supporters that if they send funds to this social entrepreneur, they know that the idea has reached a critical mass of support and will be able to truly accomplish the tipping point goal that was specified.Aren't there other platforms like these already?
There are lots of great crowd-funding sites out there, and we love being a part of this revolution. From general purpose sites like IndieGoGo, to niche sites for specific projects like video games or fashion there’s a ton of interest in crowd-funding.
We stand out from the pack in a few ways, though.
Firstly, we allow both non-profit as well as for-profit initiatives to raise funds side-by-side. Many other fundraising platforms limit ventures based on organizational models, but we believe that rather than legal structure, these initiatives should be judged by the quality of their ideas.
Secondly, our “tipping point” is a reflection of our platform being built by social entrepreneurs for social entrepreneurs. Kickstarter.com is an awesome site for creative projects which popularized the “all-or-nothing” funding model. We realize, however, that a social enterprise is different from, say, a movie project, in that there is a certain amount of money -- be it $5,000 or $15,000 -- that they need to start doing good in the world. At the same time, they may have a total goal which would allow them to accomplish even more. We reflect these needs of a social entrepreneur with our tipping-point funding model.
For a comparison chart of other popular fundraising platforms, please check out this chart we’ve put together here.
Could you name some of the projects that have received funding on your platform?Since launching on February 28, 2011, 28 social good initiatives have raised over $180,000 on our site.
Jack McDemott is a student at Tufts University, who has overcome a stuttering problem. As he worked with speech language pathologists, he recognized a number of inefficiencies in the model, and set out to use technology to help people address these. He came up with the idea “Speech4Good,” an iPhone app which would help people connect and work on speech-issues, but he needed the funds to put his idea to action. He successfully raised about $3500 on StartSomeGood, and just recently launched his app which is now helping others just like him.
Our biggest success in terms of sheer funds raised, was the Do Good Bus which raised over $101,000 from 690 supporters. They raised funds to do a nation-wide tour where they would pick up volunteers for surprise all-day volunteer trips with non-profits throughout the United States. To see that type of support behind an initiative to increase community engagement was very exciting.
What is your business model like? How do you plan to sustain the platform?
In setting up StartSomeGood, we were very cognizant of making sure that our revenue plan perfectly aligned our incentives with those using the site. We receive 5% of the funds raised, but only if a campaign reaches its tipping point goal. That means, the more social entrepreneurs using our platform succeed, the better it is for everyone: the social innovators get the funds they need to start doing good; we receive funds to continue growing StartSomeGood; and our communities and the world benefits from more good being started.
Do check out http://startsomegood.com for further details.