By Dennis Clemente
Three new startups for social good, FreelyBe and WeDidIt and CommonBond, presented at the Center for Social Innovation’s new co-working space slash incubator and community center near Chelsea Piers last July 15.
FreelyBe is a platform for turning your social life into a social investment. By attending premiere events at New York’s most exclusive venues, Jessica Marquez, CEO/co-founder, said FreelyBe members directly benefit non-profits working for social change.
Inspired by the business model of Warby Parker and Tom’s Shoes, Marquez launched FreelyBe last September. She has since made use of her previous hectic social life for social good. American Express is reportedly coming in as sponsor.
Marquez was in events and promotions for 15 years but in her search for meaning, she quit in 2009 and traveled to 12 different countries where, along the way, she discovered non-profit work. Her travels to the Philippines, Malaysia and Africa opened her eyes to other people’s hardships which made her decide to help them on a much bigger scale.
Freelybe works as experiential marketers with corporations. She gets venues to use for free because of her established relationship with them. The venues then participate in social investment. Nightclubs can take a percentage off revenues to donate to a cause.
The next presenter, WeDidIt is a web platform and mobile app for non-profit fundraising, making it easy for non-profits to acquire new donors and engage supporters while raising money for their cause.
Launched in 2012 by founders Ben Lamson and Su Sanni, the two talked about how they are going to revolutionize the world of fund-raising. It’s essentially about how you can raise funds for your event by loading up a video on their site.
Truth be told, every entrepreneur has an interesting story to tell about their start. For WeDidIt, it was how they created a video 10 months before the app was going to be launched. “We only launched it last week,” the two admitted.
The app and contraption in the video show how you can donate money on the spot using a smartphone. They call it WeDidIt Mobile. It’s a real-time, in-person cash register. To use, just swipe a donor’s credit card then spread the message to friends, increasing the viral effect of any campaign.
The two guys have not accepted outside capital yet but to get the money they needed to launch their company, they had to make some sacrifices. They moved out of their separate cushy apartments in Harlem and Hoboken, respectively and moved together in a more affordable apartment in Bushwick, living frugally as possible to build the site.
They also quit their nice, steady jobs at a global software company. “You have to be crazy (to be in this business). We’re not technical people. We don’t know how to code.” Sunni said. At least, Wall Street Journal thinks it has one of the Best Startup names.
In handing out marketing advice, Sunni said, “One thing crowdfunding teaches you is marketing.” Citing an example, Lamson said, “Empower your early adopters to spread your message.”
The last presenter, David Klein, CEO of CommonBond, said his startup is a student lending community that connects student borrowers and alumni investors to lower the cost of education for students and improve financial returns for investors.
For him, CommonBond is the way to fix the student loan market with an innovative, socially responsible lending model.
There are two types of borrowers—current students seeking new loans and graduates who are paying off school loans. To solve this, CommonBond raises money from alumni and a community of investors who believe in their students and recent graduates.
“We pool these funds to offer more affordable loans to our creditworthy borrowers,” Klein said.
In the process, CommonBond students and recent graduates are able to pay lower rates on their student loans, while investors receive an attractive financial and social return for participating. By how much?!
With CommonBond, MBA students and graduates can reportedly save up to $29,000 and $17,000 respectively with lower fixed rates and flexible terms.
The idea is to become part of a community of individuals committed to helping each other succeed. “By expanding this community, you drive our social promise to increase access to high quality education at home and abroad,” Klein said.
Locally, for every new city to which Common Bond sponsors a graduate loan program, it funds financial literacy education in a local underserved community.
Globally, for every degree fully funded on CommonBond, a student in need is funded for a full year. “We have partnered with the African School for Excellence to make this a reality and have 31 of their students in 2012.”
To round it up, Klein said the more students CommonBond fund, the larger the community grows, the greater impact it creates.
The meetup was organized by Bubbleproof: Social Good for Profit at the Center for Social Innovation, which was launched last May. The Center is a co-working space