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Alex Budak, Co-Founder of StartSomeGood (INTERVIEW)

— August 4, 2011 — Social Good
StartSomeGood is one of those initiatives where dreams are made. Not to sound trite, but this social business is an incubator of good (in the truest sense of the word) ideas. Using the ever-popular crowdfunding model, StartSomeGood fosters the ideas of social enterprises, non-profits and socially minded for-profits and gives them the platform they need to meet their sometimes-lofty goals.

After profiling StartSomeGood mid-July in an article dubbed “Crowdfunded Social Innovator Sites - ‘StartSomeGood’ Grows Purpose-Driven Initiatives,” interviewed Alex Budak, one of the Co-Founders.

Four Questions with Alex Budak

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?

The concept for StartSomeGood arose after I spent a few months living in India. While there, I volunteered for a local social enterprise focused on girl’s empowerment, and I came back to the States ready to dedicate my life to improving the world through social entrepreneurship. I had an idea for a social venture I wanted to start, but I realized that there was no good place to start raising the funds or growing the community that is so crucial to getting a social enterprise off the ground. It’s at that point that the lightbulb went off and thought that if I were struggling with this, so too must many other would-be social entrepreneurs. Indeed, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there must be countless wonderful ideas out there for improving the world that never come into being.

As for the business model itself, I'm a strong believer that an organization's tax deductible status should not be the defining factor as to whether or not an entity is creating social good. Much more important than whether someone is for-profit or non-profit is the quality of their ideas and their execution. From the outset, we wanted to be sustainable without seeking grants and other funds, and desired a business model that closely aligned our incentives with those of our users. As a result, our business model is wonderfully simple: if a campaign successfully reaches its tipping point fundraising goal on our site, we receive 5% of the total funds raised. If they fail to reach their goal, we do not receive anything. This means that the more we can help empower others to achieve their goals, the greater success we, as a social business, will find as well.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?

As with many in the social change sector, I really don't think it's about us choosing the sector as much as the sector selecting us. In all honesty, I just can't imagine working in a field besides this one -- I truly don't think I would be fulfilled working a standard 9 to 5 job. To be sure, there are unique stresses and challenges that arise in this sector, but in the end, I couldn't picture myself just selling widgets or pushing paper -- I need to feel like I'm contributing, at least in some small way, to making a difference in the world.

My favorite book of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. In this wonderful parable, a boy goes on a journey in search of his "personal legend." Though I'm still on a similar journey to figure out exactly what my own personal legend is, I know that I'm meant to be working in this sector.

3. How do you get your inspiration?

People and places.

I believe that the single most important thing someone can do is surround themselves with great people, and I think that I've done so both with my incredibly inspiring colleagues at StartSomeGood as well as others I have the pleasure of interacting with socially. Though some may look inward for inspiration, I derive mine from speaking with and learning from others doing incredible things and thinking about how I can take those lessons and apply them in new ways or to new situations. The most important thing is an open mind and a desire to constantly learn.

While it's the people that ground my inspiration, I've also been fortunate to travel a good amount, which has absolutely opened my eyes to the beauty and diversity of our planet and has made me think of countless things in new ways. From train rides in India to marveling at the most incredible natural wonders in Iceland, travel has absolutely opened my eyes to new ways of seeing and serves as a bottomless well of inspiration.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?

Though my girlfriend would probably like the answer to be yoga -- I'm working on it! -- I think the best way to reset is to disconnect from all of the stimuli constantly bombarding me. I'm as guilty as anyone out there at being addicted to the constant barrage of information that our digital lives send to us. I think one of the best ways to reset yourself is to power off the iPhone (Believe me, I wish it were easier for me to do this!), step away from glowing screens and seek out connections -- be it with a person or with a place.