Luan Cox is the founder of HelpersUnite, a crowd-funding platform that connects business ventures and artists with charitable organisations.
Luan Cox is the founder of HelpersUnite, a crowd-funding platform that connects business ventures and artists with charitable organisations. Previously Luan spent over 15 years in the internet and finance space, as Vice President of Interactive Data Corporation, Executive Vice President of Pinnacor, and Director of Business Development of Quote.com.
HelpersUnite works by pairing business ventures seeking crowdfunding with charities. If the business venture successfully secures funding with the help of the HelpersUnite community, it must then pay its partnered charity a percentage. A similar model is also in place for event promoters, whereby the HelpersUnite community will help promote an event, providing a percentage of the ticket sales goes to a partnered charity.
1. Where did the idea for HelpersUnite come from?
Some time ago, my partner and I started noticing the phenomenon of online crowdfunding just starting to take root. Only a few sites were out there at the time, and we noticed that they were all doing great work in helping fund creative projects, but it stopped there. When we took a step back and thought about how crowdfunding could be even more powerful and make a bigger difference, we came up with HelpersUnite. We decided to create a platform that could do social and artistic “good” through empowering filmmakers, musicians and entrepreneurs to help a charity in parallel with making their own dreams happen.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
We have an incredibly talented and dedicated team that doesn’t stop. We work 24/7, literally, as it’s critical to our user-base that we are responsive and always on. It’s important to us that they know that we care as much about their project getting funded as they do, and we will do everything in our power to help them be successful. While at the office together, we have lots of fun but we are obsessed with reaching out to the world via social and mainstream media in order to get the HelpersUnite word out. When we’re not doing that, we are brainstorming on how to innovate the crowdfunding space as well as improve the user experience on HelpersUnite.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on HelpersUnite?
This IS relaxing.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Being tenacious and unreasonable in your expectations of what can be accomplished, while having an almost child-like optimism about what is possible. Remember, there are no limits on what can be done with the right team and the right motivations.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
Assembling the right team has got to be one of the most important and can be one of the most frustrating experiences in building a business. So many people were and are attracted to the idea of working at a company such as HelpersUnite. While some of the folks we had on board early on were good at what they do, we needed greatness and above all a commitment to being able to ride the emotional ups and downs of building a business. We are in a great place now and learned an important lesson which is that just because someone loves your business idea doesn’t make them an entrepreneur.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
The satisfaction of creating and building something that never existed before and that changes the lives of many is intoxicating. This, along with knowing that our families are believing in us and fully expecting us to succeed, is enough to keep you working around the clock.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
As it always takes more time than you think to build a brand and gain more visibility, the only big thing that we would have done differently would have been to be a little more aggressive on our marketing efforts ahead of launch. Getting as much momentum as possible before launching a website goes a long way. That said, having only launched two months ago, we are pretty pleased with where we are now.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
HelpersUnite is only the beginning. Our vision from day one has been to build an ecosystem of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing sites all focused on “good.” Our business model and strategy leverages our experience in building scaleable platforms for data-intensive and mission-critical applications. We intend to utilize this for the greater good and to take the crowdfunding world to another level. That level is to think beyond simply funding someone’s demo CD because it’s cool. How about we fund that CD, donate 10% to a non-profit focused on helping aspiring musicians and perhaps provide support beyond the funding through crowdsourcing? Our passionate goal for the future is to continue to build out flexible technology that resides on every relevant site in the world with a common goal of making it easier for investors and donors to find information and analytics on projects, start-ups and charitable initiatives that match their ideals. We will be a Facebook for making things happen with transparency and a focus on good.
9. If you weren’t working on HelpersUnite, what would you be doing?
Probably running a Vietnamese restaurant in Brooklyn. We just don’t have enough and probably creating one that donates a portion of all bowls of pho sold to charity. Now, that would be cool.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
This is truly a “scoopy” secret. We will launch our second site in January called GreenUnite.com. We will have a submissions site for featured projects live on December 2nd. Any guesses on what GreenUnite.com will focus on?
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea that is burning in your heart and mind, do your research fast (but not too much) and if it keeps you up at night, go for it…and fast. The world needs you. It needs you for jobs, innovation and passion. But…this is not for the weak of heart. It is back-breaking work and only for those with the innocence to continue and the intelligence to know how.
29th November 2011