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Latin for “By Charity Alone”, we aimed to be the LinkedIn of the philanthropy world. We won over $30,000 in prize money from various business plan competitions so we decided to take a year off school and see where it might go. It turns out it didn’t go very far and we ended up folding and going back to school… but not without having a few lessons and memories of a lifetime.
At its inception, Sola Caritas was a website that helps charities raise donations and find volunteers for their causes. It was at one point the largest database of volunteering opportunities in Canada and had 178 partner charities. Sola Caritas has been awarded the RBC Innovation Award Gold Medal, the EcoVenture First Place Award, third place in the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, and top three placements in a few other smaller competitions.
Sola Caritas was started when my two friends and I became frustrated with how difficult it was to find volunteering opportunities and to give back to the community – especially financially. This was back in 2007.
So we came up with the idea of tying together corporate advertisement fees with charitable donations, facilitated by viewers.
Since then, our model has evolved into creating an online philanthropic profile for our users. Much like how Facebook is your social profile, LinkedIn is your professional profile, we wanted Sola Caritas to be your philanthropic profile, detailing all the good deeds you have done for your community and beyond.
Your philanthropic profile had two parts – one part is how much money you have raised for your community through watching video ads placed by our partner companies. The other part is a resumé of your volunteering history, which can be inputted by users themselves, then verified by our partner charities.
These video advertisements would have been unique in that they could have been targeted at specific demographics, which drives up the value for our company partners. These demographics are voluntarily inputted by our users, because they know that the more non-personal demographic information they tell us (age, how often they’re online, do they own an iPod, etc.), the more money the company will donate to a charity of their choice each time that company’s video is watched. Users can also track their donations and further more, find meaningful volunteering opportunities that they might like, and sign up for them on the spot.
Sola Caritas never really saw the light of day due to our inability to properly manage the outsourcing of our website. As we were all non-techs, we ran into countless issues with the companies that we outsourced to, and eventually burned all our cash, and with it all the agreements we had with charities and companies.
This was one of the big driving reasons I went to Dev Bootcamp to learn how to be a programmer. I feel like as an entrepreneur in the 21st century I will likely be dealing with the web in one form or another, and I better get familiar with it if I want to properly manage a business in the future.
The three of us ended up going back to school and getting jobs in finance and consulting. Who knows - maybe Sola Caritas will rise again one day.
I look back at all our old notes, marketing materials, and documents and I smile.