Funding, Social Startups

33needs : A Brand New Way to Raise Funds to Fix the World’s Biggest Problems

33needs is an online platform that allows social enterprises (for-profit companies in the business of doing good) to raise funds from people anywhere in the world. The funders are the everyday common people who put in small amounts of money to help social businesses to kick start or scale.

This new fundraising model called crowd-financing already exist in other sectors (kickstarter.com for creative projects – music, flim, art) but for the first time 33needs brings this new way of raising funds to the social space, giving social enterprises a powerful platform to raise capital and for the investors a simple, direct way to do good by investing in social businesses.

The 33needs model is simple: social enterprises list their projects along with a short video to pitch their idea, set a fundraising goal and an offer of sharing financial rewards for a limited period with the investors. They get a 30 or 60 days window on the platform to raise funds. If the goal is reached by the deadline, then everyone’s charged. If the goal’s not reached, nobody’s charged. It’s all or nothing. The model is a win-win for all, entrepreneurs get money to grow their social good business, investors are able to make a social impact and also earn a small percentage from the future profits, 33needs gets 5% of the fundraising target.

33Needs is currently accepting applications from social enterprises of all sizes to be promoted on their platform around 7 ‘Big Need’ categories – The Planet, Education, Community, Health, Opportunity/Livelihood, Sustainable Foods. They have already received 700+ applications, have approved 130 and for the launch (around Feb 1st) plan to start with 30-33 strongest applicants and then subsequently adding the others approved. The idea is to keep the site simple and light initially to give investors the space to explore and invest in businesses they believe would have the greatest potential to bring change.

I spoke with the founder of 33needs Josh Tetrick, to better understand his motivation and the uniqueness of his platform

DC: How did you come across the idea of 33Needs.com?

JT: I was deeply inspired by the Obama Campaign which raised millions of dollars from the crowd just over the Internet. Further my early work with UN Sustainable Business Initiatives brought me in touch with young social entrepreneurs in Kenya who had real smart ideas and running small businesses to provide water, education and other unmet needs in the region but had no connection with capital to sustain or grow. Realizing the need for capital for social enterprises and seeing the rising power of the Internet, I thought of starting an online funding platform which would allow social entrepreneurs to raise money directly from everyday people

DC: How is 33needs different from Kiva.org?

JT: The key differentiator is that Kiva raises funds for social entrepreneurs in the developing world which are engaged in generating income for their own sustenance. 33needs on the other hand is geared towards for-profit social enterprises both in developed and developing world solving big, urgent needs out there using business principles.

DC: Why the name 33needs?

JT: The name alludes to the 1933 Securities Act of the United States which prohibited people from investing in companies which are not listed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 33needs is the first ever platform which enables everyday investors to invest in small, medium for-profit social enterprises and as there is no purchase of security the securities law doesn’t apply, the model here is of revenue sharing.

To learn more checkout their really cool and catchy video which explains how it all works on 33needs.com

Also visit their blog and FAQ

If you would like to get a sneak peek of their website which will be launched around Feb 1st, visit http://alpha33needs.heroku.com/