A reflection on the mountain we climbed in Q1 and how we plan to scale future peaks
Startup life is not dissimilar to mountaineering. Beyond the obvious visual representations of peaks and troughs ubiquitous in any 'startup library' there is also the need to carefully plan routes, deal with the unforeseen decisively and with conviction, and of course, the support, spirit and commitment of a great team.
Did you know, 350 porters, 20 Sherpas, and tons of supplies supported a vanguard of only ten climbers on Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's ascent of Everest in 1953?
The COVID pandemic has posed its fair share of challenges for our team, the enforced solitude, transactional nature of Zoom calls and our inability to replicate the buzz/energy physical presence offers. All sought to strangle our creativity. Fortunately, we surpassed all expectation and delivered some fantastic results for people, planet and profit.
Well done, and thank you Team EA.
In this short update for our stakeholders, I will share some of our notable wins, the enhancements we have made for our users, the challenges we still face and, how as a team we plan to overcome them.
Enhancements in Q1
In late 2020, we deployed our new marketplace - reinventing volunteering with a digital solution fit for the 21st Century.
By moving to an online ‘shopping’ experience with specific projects such as ‘Change Management’ and ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ we made significant improvements for both volunteers and charities. For volunteers it has made it easier to understand what is expected of them and when by, and for charities it has highlighted the wealth of support they are able to get from our Angels at the click of a button.
However, by taking a more structured approach to projects we were faced with a new issue. Not all of our charities and causes were familiar with the project titles, let alone that they should be considering working on these areas to help them achieve their goals. This left us in a difficult position as the improved structure of our projects meant charities would benefit more both in terms of deliverables and the more accurate volunteer matching we were able to provide, but they were less likely to order projects as they were unsure of what they were.
- The solution: The Ethical Angel Masterclass Zone.
With the support of subscribing businesses and universities, we were able to populate a totally free to use learning management system (LMS), with 60+ masterclasses covering all of the project types on our application. This means that a charity can now learn from an expert, in a pre-recorded video tutorial on a range of areas, split into courses based on their current objectives, 'Getting Started', 'Getting Fans' and 'PR & Comms' etc. Each masterclass neatly links to a project that a charity or cause can order.
This leads me on to our next major enhancement. Ordering and messaging.
Ethical Angel has always sought to be an application that offers all users great experiences. Whether for learning, impact, volunteering, team building, support etc.
But traditional volunteering, and its recruitment like process is time-costly, lends itself again to misaligned expectations and can also be subject to bias.
For example, if your charity receives 3 applications for a Search Engine Optimisation volunteer, how would you choose?
Our ordering enhancement now focuses on the time match, as our application has already mapped the skills of a user. This means when a digital volunteer 'Angel' applies for a project the charity or cause is notified that this user is available now... if they say yes, the conversation opens and the project can be delivered at a time that suits everyone. Bias is removed as there is no list of applicants, and experiences and their rewards are more expedient.
These enhancements are delivering an easier and more valuable user experience - enabling Team EA to deliver greater benefit to people, planet and profit.
The team at Ethical Angel have supported many new organisations to join our application. Including hundreds of charities and business subscribers such as SONY, Slalom, PepsiCo, Redscan and Anglian Water.
I am delighted to share these stats:
- +50 average employee user net-promoter score - marking us as a world class provider!
- Users in 52 countries
- ISO 27001 certified and currently undergoing Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation
- Team EA doubled in size with new ambassadors and employees in Luxembourg, Uganda and the UK
- New subscribing businesses in Asia, Australia, North America and across Europe
Whilst it has been a great quarter, we cannot rest on our laurels. Demands from clients and users keep us busy and we have some big plans in development. The most notable of these is the question of how do we grow our user bases (charities, digital volunteers 'angels' and businesses) autonomously from each other, but in a way that continues to offer value?
The perennial issue with any marketplace is how you balance supply and demand - as any imbalance affects the user experience.
We are especially aware of the imbalance at Ethical Angel, as jumps in our Angel user base are often in leaps - we are currently roadmapping deployment to 50,000 employees at one corporate for example - whilst growth of our charity and cause user base is more linear.
To ensure we can provide members of either audience with a valuable experience we are releasing a new user type. Ethical Angel is going B2C.
The B2C user type will offer members of the public, who may be looking for ways to digitally upskill, impact a cause or to have real-world experiences that will be useful to them in their professional or private lives, a similar experience to employees of subscribing organisations. Beyond the paring down of the features that we offer business subscribers the main difference will be the lag that Ethical Angel applies to matching users with experiences, a moveable dial that means we can shorten or lengthen the delay ensuring all users get what they want and enabling us to grow the cause community faster without diluting their value proposition.
This is great news for our larger clients as we can build up the content, experiences and cause community on our application ready for offering Ethical Angel to more of their employees.
Ethical Angel is on a mission to digitise volunteering and benefit people, planet and profit. Our traction to date validates the initial concept that the needs of society can be commoditised as valuable experiences for users - learning, upskilling, health, culture and many more areas... Resulting in a sustainable digital resource for causes irrespective of their location, size and sector.
Like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, we are always looking for the next challenge, and with our growing team and the community support we have, I have every confidence we will overcome them as we seek to bring our application and its value to more global users, benefiting people, planet and profit.
While on top of Everest, I looked across the valley towards the great peak Makalu and mentally worked out a route about how it could be climbed. It showed me that even though I was standing on top of the world, it wasn't the end of everything. I was still looking beyond to other interesting challenges.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Alexander Fahie is the Founder and CEO of Ethical Angel. Alexander can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.