13 July 2010

Episode 29 Meeting Zarine Kharas

Yesterday I went to an event organized by ETIC, where Zarine Kharas CEO of JustGiving.com (JG) came to present her website and answered questions of 20 people working for NPOs or social entrepreneurs. The event was mainly organized for a Japanese public but fortunately an interpreter was in the room.

One of the questions that was asked was about, what kind of organization JustGiving was and Mrs. Karas started explaining why JG exists as a profit making company instead of an NPO. Her answer is that people working in profit making company are much more disciplined and also much more motivated to go for the extra mile for the benefit of the company than volunteers, who are there because they have extra time and want to do a good action.

A second reason is that people working in profit making companies tend to be more creative because innovation is important for any type of organizations if they want to last. Unfortunately, volunteers tends to be happy with doing the same things and don't feel the urge to try new technologies.

The last reason that she mentioned, which is a bit linked with the previous one is that profit making companies are actually ready to take risks. This is very true, especially in Japan, where people tend to be risk averse, it makes even more sense to have more organizations, who can try new fundraising strategies for them. If we simply take the mobile website for instance, very few NPO are able to afford to develop one, taken that it can cost around 30,000$, you can understand that few of them go for it. i-kifu.org will differentiate from other websites by providing a mobile platform for the NPOs.

Here a few random learnings from Mrs. Kharas

1) Be transparent with the donors and take the time to show them what happen with their donations, videos can be particularly powerful.
2) People tend to listen more to children and are more touched by personal stories than large campaigns
3) Tax back incentive has been identified as not relevant in the donation decision process
4) Make sure you get the right people in your team
5) Don't be afraid of changes and be open to new ideas
6) When new ideas don't work, don't stay stuck and pass on a new one, sometimes it's a matter of bad timing
7) Persevere, be bold and courageous
8) Finally don't forget to have FUN!

Thank you Mrs. Kharas for inspiring me.

End of Episode 29

01 July 2010

Special thanks

I wanted to say a special thanks to all the following people I met between May and July, classified by chronology.

Gunnar Bauer for creating my logo. http://gunnarbauer.com
Junko Nirmala greenjapanbiz.jp for introducing me to Wada-san, Adachi-san, Koji and Yamamoto-sensei
Yamamoto Sensei for introducing me to great people during his class.
Ayumi from C's for sharing her insights about donation in Japan
Luke from  equalc.com for mentioning about i-kifu at green leaders.
Emilie from Party4Peace http://www.parties4peace.com 
Anthony Blick for letting me presenting my project to his network. 
Sarrajean for sharing her energy to help NPOs http://sarajeanr.wordpress.com 
Damion for supporting my project and introducing me to Henry Seals
Henry for helping me to make a presentation in his network 
Leszek for his motivation to help NPOs and introducing me to David from Jambo and Andrew from bicycle for humanities
Hidezumi and Yuta for the translations
Gaku for introducing me great people, among them the daughter of Tezuka san from Astroboy
Hori-san for continuing to connect me with right people in the mobile industry.
Hector Serra from Artist without borders
Roman Zimmerman for introducing me to Stephen and Takako
Jeffrey Rowe from jetsets.jp for sharing his network and advice
Kenneth for his advice for i-kifu and connecting me to Alex Young from Mostyle
Alex Y. for sharing his entrepreneur experience and expertise in the mobile sector
Hiro Maeda from netprice for inviting to the Open Network Lab contest
Raymond from honeyjapan.com for teaching me about Manuka honey
and many others I might have forgotten...

Thanks to all!


Episode 28 New concepts and ideas

Two months have passed since my last post. I met so many great people that it's going to be nearly impossible to mention them all but I want to thank you all for your support.

I guess everyone is wondering how the project is going. The good news is that it is going forward! We found a great designer that I want to recommend to anyone, he's name is Vince Ota from Script Interactive http://www.script-interactive.com. We are currently going back and forth with the draft of the future website and all I can tell you is that i-kifu's website will look like no other online donation websites! I am very excited!

Hopefully, the drafts will be done by the end of the month. The next step will be to have Wizcorp implement the design on an Open source SNS named Open PNE. It's the reference for Japan in social networks systems and also what is great is that it is optimized for Japanese mobiles.

I thought about new concepts and the most important one is that I want to integrate a Karma Point system in i-kifu. On i-kifu.org users, will be asked a simple question, “how much karma do you have?”. By doing good actions (like making a donation, Promoting an NPO, inviting friends to join i-kifu.org, signing an online petition, doing volunteer activities), the users will be able collect karma points and get presents given by sponsoring corporations and celebrities.

Celebrities? Yes, one of the way to promote i-kifu that I think is important, especially in Japan, is to have influential supporting my project.
So currently I am trying to find a Japanese person, who will be able to contact agents of celebrities to convince them to put their profile on i-kifu when the beta version is finished. For the celebrities it will be a new place for them to promote themselves as people, who cares about the world issues and also a place for them to sell their goods by sharing the profit with some NPOs. Basically, we want to make everyone benefit from being on i-kifu.

Believe it or not but I met a celebrity 3 weeks ago! her name is Harumi Kurihara http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harumi_Kurihara and I even participated in her cooking show on NHK world, I was told that the episode would be aired in July but I am still waiting for news. That was so exciting and it will be my first time on TV! Plus we cooked Kushikatsu and it was so delicious!
I didn't have much time to discuss about my project but I have the contact information of her agent. In the future, I hope that she will be interested in i-kifu!

I have a feeling this post will be long...bare with me!

I participated in a contest for entrepreneurs in Japan but unfortunately among the 41 participants, my project was not selected in the 8 finalists for lack of market potential. Even though I am disappointed, I am not fully surprised. Social projects are hard to sell in a competitive environment. One of the reason is that social entrepreneurs like me, don't really strive for financial results but more for social impacts.
But don't cry for me yet, I am also participating in another contest called Entrepreneur Mentor Initiative, where I might have more chances to be selected. They will get back to me within 2 weeks, let's wait and see.

Questions I need to answer:
Should I make an application on Facebook and/or Mixi or not?

I talked with different people and got all type of recommendations, the conclusion is that it's hard to predict which one will be the best to start with. The two networks have pros and cons, so with a limited budget where should I go ?
I am still not decided but all I know is that eventually we will have applications on both platforms.


I started a survey in Japanese to collect information about what the people think about mobile donation and got very interesting results. So far 104 people have participated and I am aiming to have 500 people in total. If you can read Japanese please respond to it, it will take you 2 minutes. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RKQH7KV.
One of the founding is that many people don't donate because they don't know how the money will be used and I thought that was an information I had to provide to the donors. That is how I got the idea for i-kifu that people will be able to select right from the start, how their money will be used. For example, if you choose a campaign from the Red Cross, which support the people in Haiti, who suffered from the earthquake. You will be able to donate blankets, tents for the victims, who lost their homes, clean water and meals, vaccines etc...
The key is to give choice for the donors to select what they want to donate in terms of concrete objects. I believe this is something missing in all the other online donation websites.


How to make the people come to i-kifu and even better, make them come back. This is a very important question. My idea, is to give them an incentive. I named it Karma points, Japanese people like to collect points. To get points you can choose to either donate money or your time.

There are many ways to get Karma Points (KP). If you don’t have much time, you can make quick money donations using your mobile phone or other on-line payment options.

If you prefer to donate you time, you can select between the following actions (the points are just examples):

- Join an NPO page to get their newsletter and get 100 points
- Rate an NPO and get 100 points
- Invite a friend to i-kifu and get 100 points if he registers and get 10 % of all the points he will generate
- Respond to a survey and get 200 points
- Publish link to i-kifu in your Social Networks and get 10 points for each clicks.
- Sign a online petition and get 200 points
- Buy goods from the NPOs (Points depends on the good)
- Help an NPO by doing volunteer activities

The last one is something that I think is needed by the NPOs, often it is hard for them to find volunteers, so I had the idea the supporters should be able to tick a place in their profile where they said, I have interested in getting volunteer activities invitations. I think this has a chance to interest many people to join i-kifu. Imagine that you want to work for an NPO in the future, i-kifu could be your resume showing all the great things you have done!

So what happens when you have a lot of points, apart from leveling up and showing to the world that your doing a lot good actions, my idea is to ask corporations and celebrities to give presents to the most active people.

Unfortunately the beta version will not have the karma point system fully implemented but this something that will definitely be interesting to think about.

End of episode 28