Founder of ethical start-up Karmio talks about his newest venture and how he hopes to bring about positive global change.
As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Sibte Hassan is the founder of Karmio, a new ‘daily deals’ platform that engages nonprofits and local vendors to allow both to benefit from the community through self-organized deals. He shares why the current deals space is no longer sustainable and how we can be better people through buying.
What exactly does your start-up do and what pushed you to make it a reality?
My start up, Karmio, is a platform that enables local businesses and vendors to run their own deals to support various charities. I saw a big problem with the way deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social were structuring all their offers. It was not sustainable for local businesses: the deal organizations take 50% of the fee to bring in new customers but there is a 78% bounce rate. Of the 10 people who buys a coupon, only 2 will come back. I had to rectify the problem and came up with the idea of the vendor running his or her own coupon, creating their own deal that would support a charity.
Was there any other inspiration you had that compelled you to make a difference?
Yes–the tsunami in Japan.
When it hit, it caused devastation beyond imagination. People were suffering while those of us who lived in New York City were in a bubble where everything remained okay. People who wanted to give to the cause had the option to donate $20 via text and it felt good to give, so I thought that we could be doing more than just send $20 via our phones.
I had a living social coupon for $225, which I had bought for $75, and used the coupon the same week that the tsunami hit. I had saved $150 dollars but had only given $20 via text message. This imbalance needed to change.
It’s funny, I have been shooting video for all the PSFK CONFERENCES over the past seven years from London to New York to San Francisco and was inspired by everyone I saw on stage. What I learned from these events was that there are 3 kinds of people: those who don’t understand a problem, those who can see a problem but are unable to solve it, and those who can solve it successfully. I thought about how I could jump from being the second kind of person to the third, and used what I had heard during the conferences to figure out how solve this issue, through an easy and ethical platform, like Karmio.
How long did it take you to transform the idea into a reality?
I started coding it last year, and went live for a little while. However I realized that I need to make some adjustments so the service should be live again in 3 to 4 weeks.
What do you hope to achieve with your project in the future?
My long-term goal is to make Karmio simple to use and easily accessible to everyone from nonprofits to local businesses to regular shoppers. I also want to use it to draw attention to the way that people are hurting local businesses when they buy a Living Social or Groupon coupon. Local vendors are not aliens—they are New Yorkers too! Karmio is about creating an honest platform where sellers can have a say in the terms and conditions of the deal, to keep it fair for all parties.