eWAY and virtual data room business Ansarada announced their commitment to pledge 1 per cent of equity, employee time and product at an event in Sydney on Thursday night. The event sparked further pledges from the Australian start-up community, with the founders from automated trading platform TradeIgnite and tour guide app Stories360 both pledging on the night.
eWAY founder Matt Bullock told BRW he was committing to all three elements of the Pledge 1% program – pledging 1 per cent of equity, employee time, and product – was also in the process of setting up a charitable foundation.
“I am the founder and I am the board so I had a tiny argument with myself and then I decided,” Bullock says.
His comments highlight a key plank of the Pledge 1% program: to reach start-ups while they are small enough to make those decisions without reference to a large group of stakeholders. At the same time, the organisers are hoping to land a few “whales” as well.
Bullock announced the pledge and the foundation to staff in the Canberra office earlier this week, ahead of a formal Pledge 1% event in Sydney on Thursday night. He threw a party for staff, decorating the office with golden “ones”, and he says the team was “pumped” about the decision.
The pledge formalises and extends some of eWAY and Bullock’s existing giving. For Bullock, there is a deeply personal motivation behind his desire to give back.
“My son who’s turned four on Monday was born with no nasal passages and the day after he was born, he and I were on a helicopter flying to Sydney and he couldn’t breathe and we thought he was going to die, and it was a very stressful and horrible part of our lives, Bullock says. “As part of that we stayed at Ronald McDonald House and during that time I always said I wanted to give something back.”
Bullock already donates money to Ronald McDonald House and his wife works there one day a week, but he hopes to do more if the charity becomes a founding partner of the eWAY Foundation.
The Pledge 1% program was started by Atlassian, Salesforce and the Entrepreneurs Organisation of Colorado last year with the aim of securing 500 new pledges by the same time in 2015.
The idea is to encourage start-ups to follow the model pioneered by Salesforce of pledging 1 per cent of equity, employee time and product and to make the commitment at an early stage before there are too many stakeholders to block the decision.
BRW reported on the initiative when it was first launched, speaking to Rally Software co-founder Ryan Martens and Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar. Farquhar said he wanted it to become a matter of “peer pressure” among entrepreneurs and company founders.
Atlassian, particularly Farquhar, and Salesforce are leading the efforts in Australia and Bullock says he will help spread the message to the almost 18,000 businesses using eWAY.
On Thursday evening they hosted a start-up event at a bar in Circular Quay in Sydney, where eWAY and another young company Ansarada made their pledges public.
The room was packed with luminaries from Sydney’s start-up and growth business scene, including BRW Young Rich listers Dave Greiner and Ben Richardson from Campaign Monitor, Naomi Simson from Red Balloon, Gary Elphick from Disrupt Surfing, several people from Telstra incubator muru-D, and a few from interstate such as Justin Dry from Vinomofo and Luke Anear from SafetyCulture.
Sydney-based Ansarada is pledging 1 per cent of time, equity and product directly to Adara Group, an organisation that helps women and children in the developing world.
A Pledge 1% representative was on hand to collect new pledges, via a 15-minute process with a tablet computer, and collected two further pledges on the night from Stories360 and TradeIgnite.
Several founders present at the event told BRW they were considering joining Pledge 1%. Townsville-based SafetyCulture, which has Atlassian’s Farquhar as an investor and adviser, has committed to Pledge 1% previously.
Another model for giving
Tiffany Apczynski, director of social responsibility at US-based customer service software company Zendesk, is currently in Melbourne to announce some charity partnerships for the local office.
Zendesk’s Melbourne staff can volunteer at autism charity Purple Lion, while all events will be catered by social enterprise STREAT, which helps homeless youth. There will also be an alliance with the Autism Partnership.
Apczynski says the Zendesk program is inspired by its experience in San Francisco where it received tax incentives to base its office in the Tenderloin but only if it put that money directly into the local community – an initiative commonly known as the “Twitter tax break”. Zendesk found that an effective model for giving and is seeking to replicate that around the world.
She says Zendesk has not ruled out some form of the one per cent pledge, though its social responsibility program predated the current Pledge 1% program. eing a software-as-a-service business, Zendesk would be most attracted to building it into the product licences, and Apczynski says the company has been inspired by Atlassian’s efforts in that regard.