We asked last year’s top 3 prize winners for some insight into their motives for entering the competition, what they took away from the experience, and some key tips for 2016’s participant ventures. Thank you Change Heroes for sharing your experience!
New Ventures BC: To start, give a brief description of your startup and what you offer as a product/service. How were you inspired to come up with the concept?
Mike Tan – COO, Change Heroes: Change Heroes is a for-impact social enterprise that empowers individuals (like Ruby & Flynn) and organizations to mobilize their communities to create change. With our video-based, friend-to-friend fundraising platform, Change Heroes scales the one thing that matters most in fundraising — personal face to face asks — through the use of personal videos.
To date, Change Heroes has helped some of the world’s leading nonprofits (like Free The Children, Children’s Wish Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and Partners In Health) and Fortune 500 companies (like RBC, Morgan Stanley, and Disney) to mobilize their supporters and employees to raise millions of dollars, funding hundreds of new schools, children’s wishes, girl scholarships, water wells, libraries, and homes around the world.
Here’s a TEDxTalk on how my co-founder Taylor came up with the original concept for Change Heroes: 33 people donating $3.33 a day (price of a cup of coffee) for 3 months which adds up to $10,000 to fully fund a new school house in 11 developing countries through our first charity partner Free The Children.
NVBC: Describe what stage your startup was at when you entered the BCIC-New Ventures Competition. Did you expect at the time of registration to compete for the top prizes?
MT: When we first entered the BCIC New Ventures Competition, we had been in business for 3 years and had just graduated from the Coast Capital Innovation Hub incubator program for social ventures a year before. At the time we had roughly 15 teams members and we were just launching a new SaaS version of our video based friend-to-friend fundraising platform to help other nonprofits scale their impact. We had no clue that we were going to compete for the top prize. Our main intent for signing up was to use the competition to refine our business plan and get candid feedback on how we could improve as an organization and continue to scale at the pace we were growing.
NVBC: How have you used your prize money and services?
MT: We used the prize money to fund the development of a new mobile version of our platform that we’re excited to be launching over the next couple of months.
NVBC: What were your top takeaways from your time in the Competition?
MT: Our top takeaways from our time at the competition and from our amazing mentors were:
- Focus less on the quality of your pitch and more on the quality of your business. In essence, focus on building amazing value for our partners (customers), which in turn will result creating amazing traction, which in turn will result in creating an amazing pitch. The best pitch is showing a graph of real revenues increasing each and every month, and in our case that also equates to more and more positive impact being created in the world.
- Keep the business as simple as possible. Reduce everything down to the core. And then focus solely at becoming the best in the world at the one thing, and leave the rest to other companies. In our case, it’s how do we create easiest and most fun experience to record and send personal fundraising videos – as the more personal fundraising videos watched, the more funds raised, the more impact created in the world.
NVBC: Any updates or successes you can share since completing the Competition?
MT: After one year after first launching our new SaaS version of our video-based friend-to-friend fundraising platform we have partnered with 53 of the world’s leading nonprofits (like Free The Children, Children’s Wish Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and Partners In Health) and Fortune 500 companies (like RBC, Morgan Stanley, and Disney).
And this past fall, we quietly closed a $2.3M Seed Round for Change Heroes and launched a new division of Change Heroes called Journey, focused on Experiential Impact Trips. We realized that the “journey” for a lot of founders of nonprofits and social enterprises (including Taylor) all started with a trip and seeing impact on the ground. As a result, our mission with Journey is to help send as many people on impact trips as possible, while staying true to travelling and helping with respect, dignity, and in a sustainable partnership with the local communities.
Here’s a video of our first trip we launched to build homes in El Salvador this past December:
NVBC: What tips do you have for this year’s crop of BCIC-New Ventures participants?
MT: In terms of tips:
- Get involved and go to all the events and workshops – awesome way to get a crash course on building a start up and meet other amazing entrepreneurs along the way.
- Treat your mentors like gold, load up your Starbucks card, and meet with them as often as you can. They’re your ticket to taking your business to the next level. Ask them to be as candid and honest as possible, that’s where you’ll find the gold. We can’t thank Andy Edelmeier and Gary Boddington enough for all their amazing support and mentorship during and after the competition!!
- Team up with a few other startups to get feedback on your plans and pitches. Massive shout out to Nick Miller from Edvisor.io (who placed 1st) and John Gray from MentionMapp (Top 25) for the awesome feedback sessions last year!
- Don’t do your final pitch from a cruise ship in Alaska with spotty wi-fi and stormy seas 🙂