Punch Profiles: People to Know / 10 Questions with Changemaker, Social Investor & Innovator Adam Ross, Founder of Socialvest
Last month when we were in Atlanta for a fundraising event put on by Meringue Boutique, we had the opportunity to meet the folks who started a platform which allows consumers and retailers to buy and give back. The more you purchase, the more you give, in other words, a way for we the people to be socially responsible while doing what we do best: Spending online.Â Socialvest is based in peachy-keen Atlanta, but it can be used and applied by anyone and everyone online and there is an iPhone app.Â As we at the Punch are fixated on innovators and ways to invest in not just businesses but also causes, we found Socialvest intriguing. We decided to explore a conversation with Adam Ross, the founder behind this brilliant idea.
Pamela’s Punch:Â Tell us a bit about your background. / How did SocialVest begin?
Adam Ross:Â Iâ€™ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating from The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with a degree in Computer Science I spent some time focusing on software
development and then went to work for Miramax Films in New York. While working at Miramax
I started a close out business and then got involved in commercial real estate, which eventually
brought me to Atlanta.
In Atlanta I started working with Hands On Networks, a non-profit organization focusing on
community service. In working with them I attended an event with some of the worlds largest
brands. When the conversation steered towards how the companies gave back, I recognized a
major disparity in how brands were giving back and why consumers were engaging with brands
because of their philanthropic efforts.
So I set out to revolutionize the way brands and consumers interact by focusing on three
extraordinarily powerful forces: shopping, consumer consciousness and social media. The model
allows consumers to buy the things they want and need, while simultaneously giving them a
chance to support their favorite causes and inspiring their friends to join them.
PP:Â How does it work? Take us through the process.
AR:Â Anyone can sign up for free Socialvest account by visiting www.socialvest.us online or from
their phone or by downloading our iPhone app. There is no credit card information required, no
additional cost to the consumer and the process takes less than 30 seconds.
Once youâ€™ve created your account we have awesome browser apps you can add to your existing web browser to shop as you normally would at over 600+ participating retailers including Amazon, Nordstrom, Target, Saks, J.Crew, Fandango and the list goes on an onâ€¦pretty much anyone you want to shop with weâ€™ve got, if we donâ€™t shoot me an email. Literally you just navigate to the site you want to shop at (i.e. Amazon.com) or if youâ€™re performing a search in Google or Bing weâ€™ll let you know all the participating retailers who offer that product, their give back percentage and any deals or offers right from the search engine results page.
Once you make a purchase we deposit your giving dollars into your Socialvest account for you to donate to any of our 1.5M nonprofits. The Socialvest model takes your everyday action of shopping and turns it into extraordinary change in three simple stepsâ€¦Shop. Earn. Give.
PP:Â What is the innovation and technology scene in Atlanta like now? How do you see it evolving?
AR:Â Atlanta has a quickly growing startup ecosystem including well-established companies such as
Cloud Sherpa, Scoutmob, and Kudzu to exciting new companies such as We&Co, BeRemedy,
Socialvest (shameless self-promotion) and more!Â Atlanta is also home to a number of venture capital firms, individual & networks of angles and incubators.Â I think Atlantaâ€™s technology scene will continue to get stronger and will continue to turn out more and more innovative companies.
PP:Â Washington DC is a haven for emerging companies, ideas, thought leaders, innovation and collaboration AND charities (not just politics and government!). Have you thought about tapping into this market and these folks to partner?
AR:Â As weâ€™re still pretty young we havenâ€™t focused specifically on the DC market but we have worked with a few really great people and nonprofits located in DC. I agree that DC is a very exciting city and we would love to collaborate with DC based change makers. I am really impressed with the creativity that comes out of your city whether itâ€™s from agencies such as istrategylabs or social innovators like Ashoka and Citizen Effect.
PP:Â We see you personally support First Step, Achievement Academy of Durham, Hands on Network, CARE, and Playpumps. Tell us about them and why did you choose these particular charities?
AR:Â All of these causes are trying to find solutions to real world problems in incredibly innovative ways. First Step is especially close to my heart as a good friend of mine, Greg Block, founded the organization to help homeless men and women here in Atlanta. Achievement Academy of Durham, which one of my best friends and college roommate Clay Harris is the Chairman of the board of teaches and supports young adults who have dropped out of school in order to reconnect them to the opportunities an education provides. Hands on Network helps people find and engage in volunteer opportunities in their local communities. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and Playpumps works to build a world where all people have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and where no one suffers or dies from a water- or sanitation-related disease, using merry-go-rounds as water pumps.
PP:Â You just closed a funding round, congrats on the $2million. As a startup who works in social investing, which is a twist in the tech/app world, have you found the investor community to be more interested and supportive?
AR:Â At the end of the day investors are people. Their personal beliefs influence their investing, so, if you only believe in profit for profits sake you likely arenâ€™t going to buy-in to what Iâ€™m building. That said, there are a lot of people that believe profit and purpose can co-exist and those are the people that believe in and want to invest in Socialvest. And frankly, I think theyâ€™re the ones with a better grasp on the future.
PP:Â What are some of the challenges you have faced and are facing?
AR:Â I think every startups biggest challenges are time and money. After that itâ€™s awareness, so blogs like yours are really important to us.
PP:Â How can charities and companies become involved?
AR:Â We work with charities and companies in various ways. Nonprofits can benefit from our platform in two unique ways. The first is simply by being a part of our giving database so that our members can learn about the great work they do and donate to them. The second is a direct partnership with us where we work hand-in-hand to develop a campaign to educate their members about this great new way to give back everyday to their organization. There is no cost and we have a dedicated support team who builds out not only their custom page but any other support assets that might be needed, such as copy, email creative, banner assets, etc. To get started a non-profit simply needs to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We partner directly with retailers based on their needs and objectives. Our platform provides a
true loyalty program for companies that engenders greater brand loyalty and increases profits. To
begin the conversation, email us at email@example.com.
PP:Â What’s next for Socialvest?
AR:Â Continuing to build community partnerships locally and across the country. Socialvest was built to
be a tool to empower, support and mobilize and our best opportunity to see that vision become a
reality is by getting the tool in peoples hands (lots of them).
In addition to community partnerships we are also actively building out in store retail relationships
to further extend consumers opportunities to shop and earn for the things they care about at
PP:Â What’s next for you?
AR:Â The goal for us is to become a household name. Weâ€™ll look at whatâ€™s next after we cross this bridge.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.