Featured Startup Pitch: Budge turns charitable micro-donations into a social, gamified proposition
Founders: Hillan Klein and Marc Lipsitz
Year Founded: 2011
Headquarters: New York City
Investors: Paul Bassat and Justin Liberman, Square Peg Ventures; Matthew Rockman, Former co-founder of SEEK.com.au; Tony Faure, Chairman of Pollenizer and former CEO Yahoo!South Asia and NineMSN
Brief Company Description: Budge is a private, venture-backed mobile micro-donation platform that makes giving to charity fun.
By Hillan Klein, CEO and co-founder
Budge has created a fun new culture for charitable donations. By merging social media, gaming and micro-donations, Budge has transformed charitable giving into a playful, interactive experience.
On the Budge platform, a user chooses a ‘Budge’ (a challenge or task), a charity, and a dollar amount, then challenges their friend. For example, “I will give $2 to Breastcancer.org if you wear pink socks for a day.” Or, for a messy roommate, “You do the dishes tonight” and I will give $5 to charity, if they don’t then they donate. It is simple—whoever does not complete or win the specified challenge then they donate. All Budges are posted in the app’s newsfeed too, so your social circle can get in on the action.
Finding a co-founder is always a challenging task, as a suitable business partner is somebody that you can trust to deliver on his or her commitments and can support you through the rollercoaster that is startup life. Marc [co-founder Marc Lipsitz] and I are lucky, given that we are cousins who have grown up together and think of each other as brothers. This meant that we not only inherently trust each other, but we’re aware of each other’s strengths, as well as areas that we need added support.
With complementary skills, we have found that we’re able to delegate tasks to each other and trust that they will get done. Prior to Budge, I headed up the National Australia Bank’s social media team, having previously led the redesign of their 200 million visit per month website. This provided me with great opportunities to gain experience in dealing with marketing and communications, operations, legal, risk management, amongst other important skills. Marc was working at Breville, an innovative and product design focused organization, focused largely on kitchen appliances. During his time there, Marc was able to really focus on understanding user behavior, which informs the crucial design of a product and ultimately the customer experience.
Both Marc and I believe that if given a fun, interactive mobile platform with low dollar amounts and a seamless and quick way to pay (similar to the app store mentality), then Gen Y will be much more active in helping charities. For that reason, we created Budge in 2012—the only social, mobile, micro-donation app currently available.
Our target demographic in the U.S. and Australia is Gen Y. When we founded Budge, we recognized that charitable giving is at an inflection point—struggling to engage younger generations while also grappling with how best to revive a stagnant industry.
In an effort to raise awareness, we’re collaborating with our charity partners to integrate Budge into their existing events and marketing initiatives. In addition, Budge leverages social media to engage our community, but also to encourage user adoption as users challenge their friends and publish this to Facebook and Twitter. We are in discussions with large media companies about utilizing the platform for branded marketing campaigns for large corporate brands that are sponsors of charitable organizations.
How We Differentiate from the Competition
In contrast with traditional modes of philanthropy, we combine social behavior with micro-donations to inspire people to use their regular daily activities and interactions as a means to donate. Simply put, we are disrupting charitable giving by making the process both easy and accessible by allowing people to challenge their friends to do anything on behalf of a meaningful cause.
We look to be one of the most affordable fundraising platforms in the market, and as such, only take a small percentage of each transaction (up to five percent). Additionally, our platform offers a wide range of partnership opportunities for charities and corporations. Campaigns can be customized to utilize Budge’s user-friendly interface, database of users, and simplified mobile donation process. There is also an option for white-labeling.
After a successful beta launch, Budge currently has members actively ‘budging’ and donating in the United States and Australia, and has a wholly owned subsidiary in Israel employing our highly skilled software engineering team. To date, we’ve cultivated partnerships with African Services, BreastCancer.org, EngenderHealth, Envirolution, National MS Society (NY Chapter), The United Nations World Food Program USA and READ Global, with more being added all the time.
Given this, we believe there is huge potential in the market for Budge. Our users tell us that they love the product, and the ability to hold their friends accountable to small tasks—all in the name of good.
Budge helps people to engage their friends, in a fun and meaningful way and as such, users are eager to invite their friends onto the platform. For charity partners, Budge is aiding in closing the gap between the way that social media helps build advocacy and awareness, and actually getting people to part with their money. This is a unique proposition that ultimately reduces ‘slacktivism’ and encourages real action on behalf of users.
Additionally, Budge offers a handful of really unique opportunities for corporate brands to leverage this platform in marketing initiatives, and we are already in discussions with a number of major media partners and brands around integration of Budge into their marketing and CSR initiatives.
Moving forward, Budge plans to continue to learn what drives Gen Y to be more active and encourage their friends. We’re focused on innovation in philanthropy and to ultimately shift a generation’s perspective on giving, to one where it’s enjoyable, meaningful and fun.
In the 2013, we are looking to recruit new team members into our lean and enthusiastic team. Specifically, an experienced CTO, marketing and campaign managers and a business development lead to keep up with the already overwhelming demand and interest from non-profit partners, media, marketing and event companies and integration into specific campaigns.
Budge – www.thebudge.com