Billion looks to take on massive world problems one snowballed, crowdfunded donation at a time. The competitive crowdfunding platform created by a group of college students and recent graduates gamifies the process of giving.
Billion Founder Eileen Guan came up with the idea for the platform while listening to a podcast discussing major world issues like hunger and access to clean water. They are problems that effect millions if not billions of individuals, and the only people that can really solve them are innovative entrepreneurs willing to take risks.
“I saw that there wasn’t really a platform where people could contribute to impact that reached a billion people or a million people,” Guan says.
She took her idea to GiveBackHack and in just 54 hours, Billion grew to an eight-person team. Together the group came up with the idea of creating a bracket system so they could snowball the amount of money raised and give it to one movement to make the biggest impact possible.
Billion gathered social enterprises and non-profits in the Columbus community and narrowed applicants down from a field of 40 to 14 to fill their initial bracket. Guan says they chose the top spots based on what movements had the most promise and could best benefit from the funds.
With the movements identified, Billion opened up online funding.
Here’s where the platform diverges from the traditional notion of crowdfunding. Each dollar donated equated to 500 points. Billion decided on a low barrier to entry to make the platform accessible, and to tie in to their Independents’ Day plans (more on that later). A user’s monetary donation went to the fund, while the points were assigned to the movement they wished to support.
Billion was able to raise about $5,000 before heading to Independents’ Day where they further gamified the system. Billion partnered with Multivarious Games to create a virtual reality game with a $3 entry fee. The entry fee went to the pooled fund, while the points an individual player earned went to their cause of choice.
“In 10 days we were able to raise $8,300 dollars for the winner of the bracket which ended up being She Has a Name Cleaning Services,” Guan says. About $1,000 came from their participation in the festival with the remainder from online donations.
After winning the bracket, She Has a Name Cleaning Services was launched as a sole crowdfunding campaign on the Billion site.
“Our donations have dropped drastically since the competition has ended,” Guan says.
As to not exhaust community resources, Billion plans to make their competitive crowdfunding round an annual or biannual event. While the next round in Columbus likely won’t happen until early 2016, Billion is exploring other cities in Ohio and other partnership opportunities.
Billion faced the obvious question of why people would want to donate to a fund where the money may not go to their desired cause instead of directly to a movement they support.
“That was something that we had to test this round,” Guan says. “We didn’t know because we had to launch and see if it would actually work.”
She says that just giving a donation feels more like passive giving, while the bracket and time constraints made it a more active affair.
When asked if they faced the challenge that an individual wouldn’t give at all if they saw the caused they wished to support was far behind, Guan says they received two sets of feedback. Some said that scenario did keep them from donating, but on the flip-side, runner-up Hermetica Bioconversions was able to rally their team on the ground at the festival to get points even though they were trailing.
“That’s something that we’re definitely talking about as a team,” Guan says.
Billion is exploring ideas like giving five percent of the fund to non-winning movements to incentive users that something will still go to their cause.
For more information, visit billioneffect.com.