Guess2Give: Mark Chandler and Tim Parkman
The brains behind a new way to raise money for charity on following regulation and finding funding
Tell us what your business does:
Guess2Give allows anyone taking part in an event, such as a marathon, the opportunity to set up a sweepstake on their finish time, to raise money for charity.
Each guess is £3, with up to £2.50 (including Gift Aid) going to charity. The remaining 50p goes towards a prize fund, which is won by the person who guesses closest to your marathon time.
Guess2Give not only provides a significant new income stream for charities, but also hopes to expand the pool of people who engage with fundraising and donating [by introducing a spirit of competition].
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Mark came up with the idea while training for four consecutive triathlons. He wanted to fundraise across all his events, but knew he would only get one hit with traditional online sponsorship.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Guess2Give fulfils a need for both charities and their fundraisers.
According to 2010 figures, 78% of large charities are feeling the impact of the downturn and 28% are anticipating a drop in funds. In the current economic climate, the need to maintain or increase funding remains the principal worry for charities.
At the same time, we know that the financial demands of fundraisers are becoming increasingly tough to achieve. Minimum sponsorship pledges for the London Marathon are set at £2,000, for example, and for a Kilimanjaro trek it is £3,500.
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What were you doing before starting up?
Mark has over 16 years’ experience working in the third sector, at Marie Curie and Beating Bowel Cancer. Tim meanwhile worked within the digital marketing space.
In June 2011 we both resigned from our jobs, as working full-time and working on Guess2Give was no longer sustainable. It was a bold step but 18 months down the line we still have 100% belief in Guess2Give.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
We’ve both previously set up our own businesses and sold them. We shared the dream of running our own company again – one which had the energy and drive of a private business but with a charity edge.
As it turned out all we needed was to find the right business partner and the right concept – which we agreed during a cycle ride around Richmond Park!
What planning did you do before you started up?
Guess2Give is a unique product, so we needed to invest significant time in research to make sure we were in line with regulatory and licensing requirements – including those of the Gambling Commission.
We also needed to ensure that the concept resonated with charities, and so approached a handful during the early stages of development. The response was unanimously positive.
How did you raise the money?
We funded the business ourselves for the first 18 months, and since then have offered family and friends the chance to invest.
In February 2012 we were awarded a grant through NESTA’s Innovation in Giving Fund. We are currently looking for an angel investor.
How did you find suppliers?
The short answer is that we have been extremely careful not to overstretch ourselves when engaging advisors and business partners.
We spend a lot of time writing clear requirements upfront – particularly regarding the technical elements of our website.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Guess2Give has cut new ground across two heavily-regulated sectors – the charity and gaming/gambling sectors.
By far the biggest hurdles we’ve had to overcome relate to the regulatory and licensing requirements.
Once we’d overcome those regulatory requirements we were left with all the challenges that start-ups usually face.
Where is your business based?
Our office is situated in a fantastic boatshed of serviced offices on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. Tim is actually based in Auckland, having moved out there with his family back in October 2010.
While that might seem strange to some people, the arrangement works extremely well. We communicate daily via Skype, and benefit from effectively 24-hour a day business activity. For example, if Mark has a meeting at 6pm then we can get a proposal for that company ready by 9am the following day!
How have you promoted your business?
One of the strengths of our business model is that our charity partners promote our service to their fundraisers and supporters. Some of our larger partners have active fundraiser databases in excess of two million people!
We provide the charities with the assets to promote Guess2Give to their fundraisers. Fundraisers then set up their sweepstake on Guess2Give and promote it via email and social media to their friends, family and work colleagues.
How much do you charge?
Each guess is £3. Fifty pence of the money goes into a prize pool and at least £2.00 (including Gift Aid) goes to charity.
The more guesses a person makes, the more money goes to the charity – because the fee for registration and so on is deducted from the first guess. (For more details, see the Guess2Give website.)
This price point was set after consultation with our charity partners, and then we tested it on the system with users.
What about staff – how many do you have?
In addition to the two of us, we have an operations manager. We plan to recruit a team of eight to 10 over the next year or so.
What has your growth been like?
It’s early days on system usage, as our consumer launch isn’t until April (2012) – but we’re already seeing the number of events (and guesses made on those events) steadily increase day-by-day and week-by-week.
We are on track to break even in June 2012. Our pre-consumer launch turnover is £18,000 to March 2012
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
It’s a roller-coaster ride: stressful, challenging and at the same time extremely rewarding.
We both agree there isn’t another place we’d rather be right now.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Securing the significant funding we need to support our venture! Our biggest concern with Guess2Give has always been realising our full potential.
We’ve got proof of concept on a fantastic and innovative idea, so for us the only question that remains is how quickly will it build and grow?
What was your first big breakthrough?
We’ve had a number of key breakthroughs, including getting the green light from lawyers that the concept was feasible.
If we had to choose one, it would be when Parkinson’s UK was the first charity to sign with us. We knew that was the start.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
1. Always believe your gut instinct – if it feels wrong, chances are it is wrong. Don’t ignore it. 2. Start asking questions early and keep asking questions until you’re sure everything is right. Put your concerns (and any answers) down in writing as a record. 3. Keep your business lean and simple. Plan for it to take longer than you first anticipated. 4. Keep an eye on the end vision but take each step as it comes. Spend time at each stage, planning and writing the detail down. 5. You need some luck, but the harder you work the luckier you’ll find yourself.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Hopefully in five years’ time we will be looking at our next venture. (Having sold Guess2Give following a successful launch in the UK and expansion into selected overseas markets.)