Nonprofit organizations are a great thing for the community as they weigh in heavily to social causes and make the city a better place. Unfortunately, many have to close their doors every year due to a lack of funding. A lot of the time it’s a lack of awareness where a great organization simply fails to reach out to the right people at the right time. UBC Alumni, Alex Chuang, leads the charge in fixing this problem with Weeve, a new crowdfunding platform that connects people, brands, and nonprofit organizations.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and how it got started.
Weeve was an idea that was incubated in my head while I was doing my Master’s degree at the UBC Sauder School of Business two years ago. As part of the curriculum, we had to take a course where the school paired students with nonprofit organizations to work on a community business project such as a market research report. During my placement, I talked to representatives who were working in the nonprofit sector and I realized that nonprofits face two challenges – lack of funding and lack of exposure.
Then I learned about Kickstarter and thought to myself, what if we could build a crowdfunding platform that helps nonprofit organizations raise money and awareness, but also have brands reward donors with free gifts or coupons. I wanted to create a win-win-win scenario where donors are rewarded, nonprofit projects are funded, and impressions of corporate social responsibility are improved.
In October 2011, Vincent came over to my place and started mapping out the entire website on post it notes. He said to me, “Let’s do this” and thus, Weeve was born. I was confident that Vincent’s computer science background and programming expertise would be able to bring the idea to life. As CTO, he coded the entire website from scratch including all design, front-end and back-end development.
After months of deliberation and revision, we finally came up with a prototype. In February 2012, I met Trevor – a Vancouver Park Board Commissioner and nonprofit professional. I knew that Trevor’s strong nonprofit background and sound business acumen would be a great fit for Weeve, so I invited him to join as a co-founder and COO; he gladly accepted the offer.
I want to thank my co-founders, Vincent and Trevor; without them, Weeve would have never taken off.
We are a team of young and dedicated social entrepreneurs with black belts in business development, nonprofit advocacy, software development, communications, and social media. We are Weeve – and we are changing the way people give.
2. You are taking a fresh new approach on crowdfunding and doing so with a large social impact, tell us more about that.
We feel that crowdfunding can be taken to the next level. Crowdfunding today is a two-way dialogue between the project creators and its backers. Crowdfunding 2.0 involves a three-way dialogue between project creators, backers, and brands – where everyone wins.
We do not want to take any transaction fee from nonprofits because they are already struggling with fundraising. At the end of the day, our focus is to build sustainable and resilient communities across the world – starting with Vancouver. We believe that we are in the service of our community and should be the ones responsible for making it a better place.
3. What makes you different from the other large crowdfunding websites out there?
Weeve stands out from other crowdfunding websites on four fronts:
- We are 100% free to use. We don’t take any transaction fees.
- We focus solely on nonprofits’ projects. We strive to support their quality projects that have great social impact.
- We are deeply rooted in our communities. We promote local causes.
- Our users are rewarded by brands who share the same value as they do for doing social good.
4. What are some of the biggest challenges you are currently facing and how are you going to overcome them?
Funding is currently our biggest challenge. I have been working on Weeve full-time for almost a year now and I‘ve lost 18 pounds, sold my car, and lived off a frugal diet of miso soup. It is not any easier for my co-founders either; we are all in the same boat, where everyday needs such as food and bus passes become challenges. To overcome this, we are seeking to raise money by approaching investors who share the same vision and values as we do.
5. How does this improve the city of Vancouver? What real-world problem are you solving?
The nonprofit sector is often called “the invisible sector” because nobody knows what is happening. Weeve believes that is one of the largest burdens suffered by nonprofits. Our aim is to help local nonprofits be heard by harnessing the power of social media. The positive social change that comes out of each successfully funded community project will make Vancouver into a better city. For example, at the local level, money that is donated to the Campaign for BC Children will help the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation build a new hospital, which will in turn provide top-quality healthcare for Vancouver children. Taking this framework further, Weeve will inspire a generation to become socially responsible citizens. By offering a solution for the everyday man and woman to make a difference, with ease of access and understanding plus rewards to follow, Weeve is the ideal avenue for everyone to “Give Smarter.”
6. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
- Be audacious. Don’t be afraid to ask because you never know. Be reckless and step outside of your comfort zone.
- Learn. Learn. Learn. To double your net worth, you have to triple your learning rate. Don’t expect anyone to do the hard lifting for you and don’t expect anyone to care about your business as much as you do. You are the strongest force in your life and only you can drive change.
- Be authentic. One of the biggest things that investors look for is passion. Be yourself. Talk about your vision. Know exactly what you want, know what you need to get there, and communicate it with your whole heart.
It’s inspiring to see young Vancouver entrepreneurs sacrificing a comfortable lifestyle and laying it all on the line to solve a big real-world problem such as this one. Weeve is extremely transparent and has nothing to hide, which has been argued by many as something other crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo haven’t exactly stayed true to. I wish Alex and his team the best of luck as another GrowLab startup continues to make Vancouver a better place.
Stay in touch @pauldavidescu
*Vancity Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs or startups that are making Vancouver a better place. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send [email protected] an email explaining why*