I think I met Andy Hadfield at a tech launch somewhere. We’ve interacted digitally over the years and I gave his ‘social discovery wine app’ Real Time Wine a spin when he launched it. Truth be told, the disclaimer from my blog was inspired by his, drawn from Tim Ferriss’ blog. His latest venture forgood is an interesting approach to solving the challenges that face many smaller NGOs, namely the need for resources and skills, beyond money. Below is a short interview I did with him.
What prompted you to explore this space?
I’ve wanted to get involved in the social space, but had reservations about how to best get involved. I saw a TED video once, which inspired a blog post. My first chance to dip a toe into the sector was when I was invited to sit on the board of the Witkoppen Health & Medical Clinic. It’s an amazing NPO in the primary healthcare space with 100k patient visits a year – largely unknown by most people in my “circles”. It was on that board that I met Garth Japhet (Chairman of forgood and CEO of Heartlines). He read the “what pisses me off” post, thought it was cute, we had coffee – the rest was history.
What is the long-term vision?
We connect people to Causes. That’s the high concept pitch. The long-term vision is more around trying to think like a platform in a space typically bereft of “platform style” technology. There are 85,000 NPO’s in South Africa (possibly more) that have become really good at solving individual problems in particular areas. What if we could build a platform that didn’t solve individual problems – but simply made the whole process of solving those problems easier. Think intellectual, resources and technology infrastructure for the NPO sector.
We’ve started by keeping it simple. We allow people to respond to current Needs and Campaigns of our approved Causes. We allow people to create Offers, which are matched to our approved Causes. We maintain and manage this centralised base of Causes and People. We create smooth, buttery, great user experiences around connecting people to Causes and thereby creating impact.
Once you are a platform in an industry, the sky’s the limit in terms of ways you can add value to your ecosystem.
From booze to charity, a bit of a leap?
Keeps life interesting I guess. Always need booze. Always need charity. Ha!
And remember it’s not charity. We’re a for-profit that just happens to work in the non-profit sector. Hopefully that’ll bring some startup hustle to the problems we’re trying to solve. And hopefully it forces us to keep thinking big. The temptation is always to solve the little problems – we have to realise the 85,000 NPO’s out there will always be better at that than us. How can we make the whole thing easier for all the players?
Other than that? I just reckon the NPO industry is absolutely alien to most South Africans who aren’t in it. They don’t do a great job of marketing how awesome they are and the work they do. It’s critical to our country’s success. It’s critical that government plays a role. It’s critical that individuals don’t sit back and wait for government to play a role. It’s critical to understand the role of NPOs in high gini coefficient countries; they’re the pivot around which the gap between rich and poor can be analysed, understood and potentially closed.
If I am interested in supporting a cause, I don’t need to register, is that intentional?
Yes! We have lots of debates internally about if or when we’ll introduce user registration. At the moment, the product design thinking is around reducing the friction for a user to take that first step, and slightly increasing the friction for a Cause to register (to keep quality high). It’s a delicate balance and something we’ll keep looking at. But I think you and your readers will find that the easiest part of the site is actually taking action. Respond to a Need. Create an Offer. It’s a 2-minute process.
Note: I did respond to a Need for donating furniture and it was quick, painless and, within 4 days, they had collected the furniture we donated.
Will we be seeing an app any time soon?
Ha! NO. Lesson learnt. We need to build scale first, before getting sexy in a platform niche. And apps are really hard to maintain and build from a cost point of view. When we, one day, do an app, it’s going to be around a very particular use case where the app method makes sense. And we’re going to have enough scale so that we don’t have to start building an audience from scratch on 3 or 4 different app platforms.
If I learnt anything from Real Time Wine, it was how important it is to keep things simple. We’ve got this poster up on the wall at the office that says “WE CONNECT PEOPLE TO CAUSES. Allow them to CREATE OFFERS, RESPOND TO NEEDS, REPORT ON IT”. That’s to remind us that the minute we start thinking apps and sexy this and whether the product should make coffee and integrate into some backend to order us lunch, we pull back.
Best technology products in the world? Always started off by doing 1 thing really, really well.
Is there facility to donate money?
No. We’re actually staying away from money in the beginning. Firstly because it’s a huge compliance and audit headache. Secondly, because there are bunch of people out there doing it really well (and making that user journey really competitive). Have a look at GivenGain, for example – a world class product, born in Stellenbosch and now global. Rather partner with them in time I reckon.
Where I’d like to go for our business clients is the field of payroll giving (donating some cash off your salary, automatically and monthly). I think that’s an underserved market (probably because it’s complex and you’re dealing with people’s salaries so you have to be extra careful).