A memorable journey across the North’s major cities arrived at it’s final destination in Manchester where the Northern Stars competition geared up for its last round of contestants hoping to enter into the Grand Final.
Over a hundred expectant audience members gathered alongside 12 local startups creating an ideal networking opportunity for digital entrepreneurs. The presentations kicked off with James Chalk from the renowned crowdfunding platform Crowdcube sharing exciting news about their plans for Northern expansion, including insight into the successes already delivered by crowdfunding for tech startups.
Hot on the heels of their introduction a whole raft of world class startup pitches broke new ground into services as yet undeveloped by the digital sector. All done within their allotted 3 minute countdown the 12 contestants then continued with a high level of audience engagement during a Q&A session at the end. With so many entrants neck and neck, Polen won the Public Vote and was declared overall joint winner. Following this recent win Renata Chemin, Co-Founder of Polen was able to share with us their story so far.
Can you give me some background on you and your company?
I used to be a theatrical producer in Brazil, selling plays and organising strategic partnerships for promotion with theatres in which we would perform for low income children for free during the weekdays (when the theatre was usually closed), bringing public schools to watch the play. It was absolutely amazing to see the brightness in those children’s eyes watching a play for the first time. When Fernando (my Co-founder and CEO of Polen) told me about his idea I bought it promptly! We developed a different product in Brazil called Polen Purchases that transforms pictures into donations. In the beginning of 2015 we got into Dotforge Acceleration Program and it changed everything, we came to the UK and got to see a different perspective of social responsibility. It is an amazing experience to see the differences between two countries.
What are you working on right now?
We’ve just started fundraising so we can launch our mobile app and build our team here in the UK.
Where did your idea come from?
We have a very close relationship with the charities we help in Brazil and we started to notice that most of the regular donors were more than 35 years old. We followed that up with research and discovered that donations from under-30s had fallen from 8% to 3% from 1980 to 2010. We needed to do something to engage the younger generations in doing good, but we knew that we needed to do something tech, easy and shareable. So we started to brainstorm different ideas to build something.
We came to the UK and saw that Corporate Social Responsibility is a big thing here, in Brazil it’s just starting to grow. There are a huge number of companies in this, but nobody really knows it like we do. We realised that companies need a way of presenting social responsibility opportunities to it’s consumers. We just put these two needs together and Polen Photos was born.
Explain your business model
Polen Photos is a mobile app that that transforms pictures into donations.
It works through campaigns made between companies who want to be socially responsible and charities. And to allow these donations, the user only needs to take a Picture.
It’s very simple: The user chooses the campaign and takes the picture, after that, they choose a sticker to decorate his Picture. Every sticker contains the charity and the company logo and to complete the donation, the user share it in his personal social media profile. When a campaign is over, the company makes a direct donation for the charities on the amount of pictures shared and pays Polen a 20% commission, making this solution totally free for people and charities.
What’s been the single biggest highlight for your business?
I believe that it is actually something that happened this week! We just closed a deal with a major company in Brazil to be their CSR tool for next week. I cannot give many details on it though…
But beyond that, I really see the turning point of Polen as when we came to the UK. It changed everything and mainly, our perspective. We started to think globally and not only in Brazil.
What was it that about Northern Stars that encouraged you to engage with them?
The first contact we had with the English startup environment was through Dotforge in Sheffield, so we actually got to know the North first. It’s awesome to see a region getting together to call attention and show that the innovation and startups are not only in London, but in the whole England. We needed to be part of it.
Has there been any businesses or entrepreneurs that have inspired you?
The most inspiring person for us is Dan Pallotta who in an entrepreneur, human activist and the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential. His writing and talks have guided us until here, as he is the creator of multi-day charitable events and really defends that Non-Profit organisations should revolutionize they’re ways of getting funds and that the way we think about charity is dead wrong . His iconic TED Talk has been viewed more than 3 million times and it is one of the top 100 most-viewed TED Talks of all time. Everyone should see it: http://bit.ly/1PG9b2N
Why should investors be excited about the North’s tech industry?
I’ve been to previous events and found some amazing startups with products and services that I would never imagine, solutions that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The challenges that startups face in the North are just hooks for the greatest entrepreneurs!
What does success look like for your company?
Our business is here to help. We want to prove that helping makes sense.
Find a sustainable way of fundraising for charities is mine and Polen’s mission.
We want to become the next generation of fundraising for charities by putting brands, causes and people together and transforming everyday actions into donation opportunities.
With this proposition in mind, we see Polen as a company that is able to change and to stimulate more and more initiatives to do the same. In our long projection, we see Polen in 40 countries, donating around USD36 million a year.
Want to learn more about Polen?
Written & edited by Noel Peatfield, copywriter specialising in tech. Based in Manchester (UK)
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