Opening its doors to one of the largest Northern Stars gatherings so far an air of expectancy grew at the Sunderland Software Centre as a strong group of startups prepared to deliver their pitches. The bar was set consistently high making the final decision on a winner a hard one to call and a draw was eventually decided upon.
I managed to hook up with joint winner Gary Thompson, Founder and CEO of social impact startup GoRaise later in the week. Via an email conversation during one of his frequently made train journeys from London to Newcastle, Gary was kind enough share with me his entrepreneurial ventures from his first money spinner as a child through to his present day successes.
Can you give me some background on you and your company?
I’ve always had a passion for business, I think it may have come from catching fish on holiday as a child and selling them to the other holidaymakers. It was a nice little earner! I spent a couple of years in the big corporate world, but soon realised it wasn’t for me and co-founded an IT services company in 2000. I’m pleased to say that IT Lab is still going strong.
I’ve since been involved in numerous other businesses and love all things startup. For me that’s where the fun is. I founded GoRaise earlier this year, and it’s a great business to be involved with. It’s nice to be able to run a business with significant social impact.
Where did your idea come from?
I’ve got a lot of friends in the charitable world, and I know that giving fatigue is rife. GoRaise helps fix this issue as people can help out without it costing them a penny (the only cost is to the retailer).
I can’t lay claim to the idea of charity cashback, however the penny dropped when one day I received 3 or 4 messages from friends asking for donations for their personal challenge. Because of this, GoRaise has been built to make it super easy for people to raise additional funds for their personal challenge (running marathons, climbing mountains etc)
The GoRaise platform also makes it easy for businesses to raise money with their everyday purchases such as train tickets, hotels, stationary and IT equipment. Businesses spend thousands every year on such items, and it just seemed to be a logical extension of the initial idea.
Explain your business model
We have partnerships with over 2000 of the UK’s top online retailers. Every time a supporter buys something online, the retailer pays a donation to the supporters chosen good cause.
GoRaise receives a bonus payment above and beyond the money donated to causes. There is also the opportunity to monetise traffic from selling additional exposure to retailers via email and onsite campaigns.
It’s been built to help not just the major charities, but also grassroots organisations such as PTAs, sports clubs, girl guiding units, churches and other community groups.
What are you working on right now?
A train. Sorry, bad joke but it’s true 🙂 I’m excited to say we are currently working with the Movember foundation to help their Moustached warriors raise extra funds. We’re also working on a few widgets to ensure people don’t miss out on any donations. There is lots of good stuff going on!
What’s been the single biggest highlight for your business?
Seeing the first few donations start coming in was an exciting time! Since then we’ve built some great partnerships with really interesting organisations. Movember being one of them.
Has there been any businesses or entrepreneurs that have inspired you?
Doug Scott is very active in the local NE startup community and has created many successful businesses. I admire the remarkable pace in which he gets things done. He thrives on disruption.
Why should investors be excited about North East’s tech industry?
There is a really vibrant community of very clever and friendly entrepreneurs. I’ve invested in a few businesses in the North East, and I love the no-nonsense approach to business and the fantastic work ethic.
What does success look like for your company?
GoRaise is aiming to be the default reward site for customers. It shouldn’t be a question of whether a transaction raises money, more who it goes to. I would also like to see a significant foothold in the US by 2017.
Want to learn more about GoRaise?
Written & edited by Noel Peatfield, copywriter specialising in tech. Based in Manchester (UK)
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