Enter FaaS: Fundraising As A Service

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I almost never give money to street fundraisers. You know, those guys making eye contact with you, waving a friendly hand and asking for “just a minute of your time”?

Well, I use to do that job back in Sydney, Australia, in early 2008. I was a street fundraiser for some time, then I did quit to find another job. It’s a really hard job, kudos to everyone out there making a living through street fundraising: It’s probably one of the best Sales School you can get together with door to door selling.

But the logic behind it is not so great. In Australia, street fundraising companies will craft a deal with a non-for-profit company in order to fundraise on their behalf. We (company & employees) use to get 50 cents on the dollar fundraised. All those good folks supporting NSW Surf Live Saving where giving half of their money to the fundraising logistics.

My generation seems to be a bit reluctant to donate money the old fashion way: Street fundraising and “money in the envelope” style. Since then, I found that a model emerged that will be game changer to NGO in the years to come, I’ve name it FaaS: Fundraising as a Service.


Scott Harrisson, a former New York based party promoter, left his party lifestyle to go be an NGO photographer in Africa for two years before starting charity:water in 2006.

He had a 51-minute chat with Kevin Rose (Google Venture) about his full story, and how he got to create charity:water. Scott has had quite an eventful journey that led him to start this charity, a “from zero-to-hero” redemption story that only America (Hollywood?) can offer…

charity:water is a very interesting NGO for a couple of reasons:

Use of social media. Most charities haven’t been successfully harnessing social media to extend their footprints. charity:water is using Kickstarter-style campaign approach to fundraising. Individuals are encouraged to join causes and fundraising through their extended networks.

For instance, you can Pledge your birthday (e.g. Ask your network to donate $30 each for your 30th birthday). They also update donors on the actual effect of their donation, using Google Maps geolocation to map wells, and Twitter to follow drilling efforts.

Transparency is #1. When you give to charity, you are not always sure of how much goes to operations vs the cause you want to support. charity:water published its financial reports and operates two separate bank accounts: 100% of public donations fund clear water projects, while operations are funded by private donors.

I came across several platforms that let you fundraise for one-off events, such as marathons or special events. I am convinced that the traditional way of mail/street fundraising can be dramatically improved, it is impressive to see such a well rounded charity operating as a start-up.

Other start-ups, such as razoo, give you two option: you can be a donate OR a fundraise, offering a full platform to fundraise (Fundraising as a serive, FaaS ?) for a 2.9% “rate”. It’s not 100% to charity, but they still raised over $105,000,000 for charity…

How about nonprofit increase focus on fundraising enablement?

The way those startup communicate, act and expand is appealing to the Y-generation, I wish them all the best!

-Rodolphe (initially published on


Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Dr. Peter Diamandis is the founder and CEO of the X-Prize Foundation:

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, thereby inspiring the formation of new industries and the revitalization of markets that are currently stuck due to existing failures or a commonly held belief that a solution is not possible.”

For the last 17 years, X PRIZE tackled challenges such as Lunar exploration, genomics and medical diagnosis. Individuals and large corporations offer prizes for the best innovators. The foundation helped opening up new industries, such as the personal spaceflight industry.




In his last book, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, Dr Diamandis and Steven Kotler challenge the way we tackle disruptive innovation. I haven’t read his book just yet, I came across his 2012 TED Talk (video below). His books’ main talking points are summed up on Wikipedia:

  1. “Technologies in computing, energy, medicine and many other areas are improving at an exponential rate and will soon enable breakthroughs that today seem impossible.
  2. These technologies have allowed independent innovators to achieve startling advances in many areas of technology with little money or manpower.
  3. Technology has created a generation of “techno-philanthropists” (such as Bill Gates) who are using their billions to try to solve seemingly unsolvable problems such as hunger and disease.
  4. The lives of the world’s poorest people are being improved substantially because of technology.”

My thoughts on X PRIZE:

Crowdsourcing and business competitions have been around for some time. But when you add up über-rich trustees that have an interest driving things forward, and help focusing talented individuals to work on critical tasks: we still have amazing results to come!

Most large corporations will have top-notch R&D programs, working on “the next big thing”. Yet, all large corporations must compose with their legacy business offering (hi Microsoft!), lobbies (hi car manufacturers!) and lack of short-term return on investment (hi every-single-business!). All of that is slowing them down significantly, you can read find many articles by Clayton Christensen on disruptive innovation in large companies, or lack thereof.

Technology is now good enough and cheap enough for crazy people all around the world to ship robots to the Moon and back, sequence genome, clean up oil spills…

That’s what Diamandis means by “a world of Abundance”: Exciting times ahead! Is it scary that large corporation and wealthy individuals help opening up new billion dollar industries? Yes, “good” scary, let’s keep the ball rolling!

-Rodolphe (initially published on

Check out his talk:

Forbes Magazine calls it “The $1 trillion opportunity”

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We people graduate from University, or Business School, they aren’t done learning, quite the opposite: We are just starting to learn what our jobs will be for the years to come. Technology has changed everything: sometimes, graduates will apply to a job description that did not exist at the time they started university.

Online Education is a unique opportunity to go above and beyond normal learning experiences, and become a real specialist in what you do. In 2011, I was looking to learn more about Gamification. The topic wasn’t so popular at the time, so I looked it up a bit further, and found lectures notes from The Wharton School, great stuff!

I was about to post this article when I saw the cover of Forbes Magazine (picture below). It appears that we’ve picked the same topic!

Online education is going strong! Sure, it has been around for a few years, but a few indicators seems to be pointing towards an acceleration of the model for 2013. “The Tech”, MIT’s oldest/largest newspaper, wrote a nice article that sums up what’s happening. Here’s a “digest” of online education key players:

Khan Academy, funded by Bill Gates and Google, started in September 2008. They offer over 400 million interactive problems to an audience of 6 millions unique monthly users. Students gain badges through achievements and connect on forums. Here’s Sal Khan, on the cover of Forbes’ Magazine (Nov. 2012).

– Udacity started in 2011, and currently has 112,000 “active” students and instructors from 190 countries. Courses can be completed at your own pace, students can pay a fee to take a proctored exam. Udacity also aims to connecting its students with technology companies, as potential employees.

– Coursera originated at Stanford, gathering over 680,000 students enrolled in over 100 courses. Premium services are offered, such as personalized tuition.

– EdX is a university-funded project, kicked-off by MITx, joined by HarvardX (committing $30 million each) Over 150,000 users signed up for MIT’s first online class, and slightly over 7,000 passed the course and earned a certificate: “Courses and certifications are currently free, but edX has plans to begin charging for more robust types of certification in the future.”

Few comments on this:

Competition: With an unsettled job market, more candidates fight over fewer positions. Universities (along with companies) will source talents wherever they are, which is not always through their traditional application process. If the best PhD candidates are in Burma, they should still be able to benefit from online education.

Transparency of information: Information is already out there, and universities are now playing catch up. Remember lecture notes from Peter Thiel’s lecture at Stanford, that a student made available to all. Start-ups such as Unishared let students share lecture notes: Services such as Google Docs are designed for collaboration, 72 of the top 100 American universities use it.

Universities are too expen$ive: In 2012, US Colleges rose tuition 4.8%, outpacing inflation: alternatives funding models are developing, like Upstart “lets you raise money in exchange for a small share of your income for 10 years” (founded by ex-Google Enterprise VP, Dave Girouard). We could also consider a Kickstarter-style way to wave tuition fees. Ivy league universities often have Scholars/Fellows: Why wouldn’t they open some slots that would be attributed according to experts/professionals’ votes?

Many different players are lining up, students are Gen-Y individuals and seem interested, how will universities and companies adapt to this trend in 2013?

PS: Hey, in case you were wondering why Georges Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise to Mickey Mouse & cie, some sources say that most of the $4.1b will go to… educational philanthropy!

-Rodolphe (initially published on

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

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Chris Anderson, former WIRED magazine editor, presented his new book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution at Google last month.

The book – currently rated #1 for E-Commerce on Amazon – is recommended by Seth Godin and Elon Musk.

Here are some notes I took during his hour-long presentation in Mountain View, Anderson delivered a compelling talk on consumerization from a technology standpoint. I’m always interested in retail, technology and entrepreneurship, and this talk happens to touch on those three topics quite nicely:

1) A change of Paradigm

Kickstarter flipped the manufacturing paradigm on its head. Previously, you needed capital and a factory before you started designing and finding customers.

Now you can raise money, gather feedback and start producing at the same time. Or, take pre-orders and deliver later: it’s basically moving money forward in time.
Seth Godin used the same approach for his last book, those that supported Seth’s project early on received the book first along with goodies.

2) We are all designers

Then, you don’t simply get customers, but a true community of backers. They care for your product, deliver feedback and act as advocates. Pebble watch creators took in the feedback as they went to improve their product.
In the 90s and 00s, Internet created new standards, we are all publishers through Blogs and Social Media. As an extension, technology now enables us all to become designers.
Anyone can walk into Techshops (growing quickly across America & Europe), where individuals of all skills and ages can use 3D Printers, take classes and use specialized tools.

3) 3D Printing is going to shake things

It’s widely accepted as normal to hit “print” on a computer and generate a printed A4-sheet. In 2012, you can get a 3D printer starting $375, think about all the implications. For education, Kids can manufacture toys they want and learn sciences through the making. For manufacturing, it’s quite obvious that spare parts could be printed and dispatched anywhere. Think hospitals generating bespoke prosthesis…

4) Next steps

People share information online, open source designs and DIY are now the norm. Consumerisation goes one step forward, let’s consider the Fashion space as an example:
Everyone can let consumers “Design online and get your creation delivered”. Shoes of Prey does is for women shoes, Blank Label does custom men shirts. How about 3D-printers get that much better and e-tailors take over the fashion world? Picture this: “Download our App, take 3D advanced measurements of yourself, pick a style, custom fabrics and, yes, we offer next day delivery!”

For Anderson, the new business model is the following: Sell products for more than they cost you. There will always be a tribe that will be interested in what you do, take orders BEFORE you start manufacturing: we are all designers.

Food for thought: How about 3D Printers getting that much better in the next 10-years that you can actually use them for Biology? Printing matrix of cells…

-Rodolphe (initially published on

Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup

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Peter Thiel is interesting. He co-founded PayPal in 1999, angel-invested in Facebook in 2004. That year, he also co-founded Palantir Technologies, a start-up that works on big data problematics for financial institutions and governments. Few weeks ago, he co-founded a VC, Mithril Capital Management, raising an initial $402 million.

Education is one of his interests. In 2010, he started the “Thiel Fellowship, which will award $100,000 each to 20 people under 20 years old, in order to spur them to quit college and create their own ventures”.

In 2012, he designed and delivered a 19-lecture classes on Start-up at Stanford. Luckily, one of his students published his notes in order to share them. They will jointly be offering a book on that very topic in early 2014

As of today, I read over half of it and I must say I’m very impressed. Thiel gives a wealth of insights into the Startup world, as an entrepreneur and an investor.
He uses history, economics and sociology that brings the focus away from CS and makes students understand larger trends affecting the industry and startup dynamics.

He also tapped into his network to leverage A-list guest speakers, including his old (Pay)pal Reid Hoffman, and leading startups.

I would highly recommend anyone interested in entrepreneurship to deep dive into those 19 lectures. Average reading time is 15-20 min per lecture. Enjoy!

-Rodolphe (Initially published on

How a $20 tablet from India could educate billions

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This is huge. 

Technology already changed education in the western world, it’s also booming in the developing world, trying to get everyone connected.

Initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child kicked off at the MIT in 2005 and delivered 2.4+ million XO computers for $100 a piece.

Since 2009, they shifted their focus towards tablet computers.

XO3, boasting a solar panel

Obviously, both governments and tech giants have vested interests in getting the next billion of internet users. To do that, you need a proper device and an internet connexion. So, the Indian governments wants to buy “5.86 million tablets to give to school, college-going kids”, bearing in mind 95% of the population do not currently own a computing device. Then, Mr. Suneet Tuli (picture below) created a $40 tablet named Aakash ($20 is subsidised by the indian government) and won a tender in 2010 for an initial 100,000 units.

The New York Times reports that it was a disaster (underpowered/poor touchscreen). Nonetheless, Mr Tuli is back at it and created Aakash 2 priced at $35, getting positive reviews from VentureBeat and Techcrunch, Forbes said the Aakash 2 is “Life changing”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, receives an Aakash 2 (7-inch, Wi-Fi, Android) from Suneet Tuli, right, CEO of Datawind, and India’s UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri. (Nov. 28, 2012) AP/Richard Drew

How do they go online? The Indian government delpoyed free broadband to 600 universities and 1,200 colleges, the real deal is in unlimited mobile data plans starting $2/month, even without 3G it’s still bearable.


> Hardware is dead. Acer works on a $99 tablet, it’s too late. China will drive prices down.

> Execution is king.

Will Mr Tuli be able to deliver Aakash 2 at scale, and fast?

> Politics matter. Will technology and governmental lobby embrace that trend?

> Niche is the norm. Apple’s iPad is niche. Amazon’s Kindle is niche.

> Wow. Connect another billion minds on internet and watch what happens. How exciting?

Read more about Aakash on QZ.

-Rodolphe (initially published on

Essay: Mining gold through Disruptive Innovation and Primary Data

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Intro: Here’s is a non-technical article on how businesses can leverage data to innovate.

Late 2009, I was working in Shanghai, and part of my job was to source the most innovative technologies and companies in the retail space. is a startup that truely stood out. They started in 2007, and raised another $US10m in 2012 and are fast expanding, their new App aim at “revolutionizing” online shopping. Based on where you live, compare prices of a shopping basket with different retailers. It’s all there: product availability, delivery date and local promotions:

“While you shop, we compare your basket in all the retailers so we can suggest smart swaps and replacements to help you save even more money.”

I’ll let the singing eggs do the explaining:

Thoughts and Implications for

> Now, that’s the perfect definition of transparency of information. Is customer loyalty in retail long gone? At any given time, you are only one click away from shopping at a different retailer. We see it as an evidence for High tech products (laptops, cameras…), but seeing that you can now substitute an entire shopping basket in a click is quite impressive.

> More interestingly, is independant from retailers featured on their site, and they resell primary data to CPG manufacturers. Traditionally, Coca-Cola, P&G… rely on traditional data providers (Nielsen…). What offers is all Saas, ultra-granular and real time. Since they focus on the user, they don’t even care if you complete your purchase online or through traditional retailers:

“It’s up to you how you use our site: You can order your basket online, print your basket as a shopping list and take it with you to your local supermarket or simply just compare different supermarket prices online.”

They have a highly replicable model, as long as they manage to acquire retailers data their future will be extremely bright.

> So, the business model is to provide consumers with comprehensive and transparent information on retailers, in order to acquire primary data and resell it to CPG manufacturers. Super disruptive and very bankable, fair play!

Thoughts and Implications for other retailers/businesses out there:

While some traditional retailers built their online presence from scratch, Amazon have been acquiring many niche retailers into their porfolio (think and, were acquired for $US550m in 2010, plus Zappos…). are the only one – to my knowledge – that act as third parties providing information as a portal.

Here’s what I’m interested in: companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have a lot of primary data (social graphs, purchasing behaviors…) and they are large enough to market it through Ads or use it to win more business (advanced consumer profiling).

Social graphs aren’t an easy source of primary data for obvious privacy reason. But as long as it’s an anonymous analysis of purchasing behavior, it seems to be fine! Google is also having a go at gathering consumer primary data through Google Consumer Survey.

In the era of Big Data, we have a newly-found ability to make sense of largely untapped datasets. That will help all companies to articulate data they have been sitting on for years. This goes in two different ways:

Enhance your consumer experience: The Power of suggestion. Big Data from a consumer-stand point: The concept of A/B testing isn’t new, what is new is your ability to query billions of data rows to serve customers better. Think CenterParcs using BigQuery optimizing their yield management system: “Center Parcs Europe employees are tracking booking trends easily, and the application has allowed them to adapt their marketing tactics to maximize

Primary Data as a Business model: Are you sitting on a gold mine? Most businesses would gather primary data as a consequence of day-to-day business activities. Now, it’s never been easier to monetize it: Making sense of data is relatively cheap since it’s all done through external providers such as Amazon and Google. If you need ten thousands a virtual machines to query a database, all you have to do is ask, go and play with this awesome retailer dashboard created by french startup BIME based on BigQuery

So, could well-established businesses and startups alter their strategies through embracing/reselling primary data? Could AirBnB team up with Yelp and Kayak to provide a super-targeted experience for their users?

Check out what Jill Dyche, blogging on Harvard Business Review blog Network, has to add.

NB: This was meant to be a blog entry, and turned out to be more of an essay. If you agree, or more interestingly of you disagree, I’m happy to chat about it, thanks.

-Rodolphe (initially published on