We caught up with Tim Hegarty, Founder of Evershare.io as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Evershare is a for-profit, social tech enterprise developing a QR enabled open finance platform to enable cashless donations to charities.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Tim: I’m Tim Hegarty from Evershare.io which is a platform introducing; Trust, Transparency and Trackability into the charitable donations process. The rise of coronavirus has effectively killed the use of cash whilst exponentially increasing the use of QR scanners. This time last year no one knew what QR scanning was and now you can’t get into a pub without using one.
We are building technology using; Blockchain, Open-banking and QR Scanner technology so that you can now use your mobile phone to make donations to a charity by scanning a QR code. This idea has been around for quite some time but our offering is quite unique in that charities get their own QR code that they can have forever and they can use on any platform; on their website, on emails and in the street. People can make donations at up to 75% less than the cost it would be if they were to use Visa or PayPal and that money goes directly to the charity. That’s what we’re building in the first instance.
We are at MVP (“Minimal Viable Product”) stage, which means that the system is fully secure, tested and up and running and now we are looking for charities to partner with us so we can refine the product by listening to their feedback. Obviously, when dealing with the Internet and Money you have to be very, very careful but our system is using state of the art security and as it is linked to all the major banks it is using their security systems too. We’re looking for charities to get in touch with us so we can offer them the service so they can try it out for real and make some money for their causes.
When I was in China last year on a Department of International Trade mission I was astounded how everything was done using QR codes. Ordering a taxi, paying for a can of Coke, even entering buildings. It was hardly used at all in the UK, but Covid has changed all that. Our system is very simple. You literally take your phone out as if you’re taking a photograph, it then automatically scans because there are built-in scanning systems on most smartphones. It then redirects to your mobile banking app so you can donate directly into the Charity’s bank account. Evershare doesn’t have any access to these bank accounts, but we enable and facilitate that process where your donation goes directly to the charity.
In the past, when you put money in the donation tin you may have thought ‘Where is my money really going? Is it all going directly to the cause?’, but in this case, the money goes directly to the charity and at a later stage we will make sure that the money is spent where the charity intends to spend it.
Tim: Well, originally, I was in the music industry. I wrote a top-10 hit way back in the 90’s for a band called D:Ream of “Things Can Only Get Better” fame. I worked with people like Gloria Gaynor and Worlds Apart and I raised £330,000 for Charity with “Across the Bridge of Hope”, an album starring U2, Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor. The original Evershare was an idea where you, as a fan, could buy a share in a song, but there were a lot of players in that market. We realised that the charitable donations sector was a far bigger market. Just to put it into perspective, the Charity sector in the UK is about twice the size of the worldwide music industry, so it’s a potentially very exciting market to be in.
We decided to pivot to the charity sector and then, with Coronavirus coming along, we looked at the problems in the charitable sector. We realised that the days of ‘collection tins’ are over. Instead, any charity can now use one of our unique QR codes to raise money. We have digitised the kind lady rattling her tin outside the supermarket!
We are ultra low cost too. To give you an idea of our cost compared to going on Virgin Giving or JustGiving, because we’re bypassing credit card payment systems, on a £25 donation it would cost the charity £1.17, whereas with Evershare.io it would cost only 17.5p which is a huge saving there.
We realised that the charitable sector, especially in today’s environment, is more relevant than ever and really needs help to raise money. We need to make sure that charities are still supported and we keep philanthropy in place. If you can help, you should help. Our aim is it to make it easier for people to help the causes that they believe in.
Tim: Starting a business is incredibly difficult; it’s a lonely and tough job because you’re doing everything. Instead of being a jack of all trades, you’re trying to be a master of all trades and that’s difficult because you can only do so much. What you must do as a start-up, is to build a team around you. I have a great team at Evershare.
You’ve got to have people on board who are engaged with your business and believe in your idea and concept. Don’t try to start a tech company if you’re not a tech person without having that right-hand person that knows and understands tech through and through. That is really important.
Coming from the start-up world in general, if you have an idea, then go for it. The main thing that I’ve found over the last few years of talking to various start-up entrepreneurs is that if someone has an idea, they often over-complicate it.
If the idea is good, take it to the minimum viable product (MVP) stage first. It’s really important to do that without adding on bells and whistles. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I’ve got so many other ideas that I want to do with Evershare, but until I get to the first stage, which is showing charities how QR code will work cheaper, better and faster than the other offerings, and get them on board, there’s no point going forward. The issue is the implementation of the idea. Get the MVP absolutely right and don’t spend a fortune building big heavy tech, just get the idea that works and get it out there.
Get a team together to build a quick and workable MVP so you can show it to your potential customers and then the next thing is to try and get some customers on board. I am getting charities on board but want all charities to use our platform so I’m making a call to anyone in the charity sector: please get in touch with me at email@example.com and I will gladly work with you.
In this way you get honest feedback immediately. Sometimes people will say things and you realise that they might said something that you hadn’t thought of.
Follow your idea through as far as you can and if people start coming on board you can realize very quickly if you have an idea that works. Don’t spend vast sums of money trying to build something and then find that the people don’t want it. Been there! Done that! I’m speaking from experience here.
A lot of people try and build the ‘next big thing’. I’ve done it! I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I did it with the music version of Evershare. I assumed that this was the way to do it. Everyone I spoke with thought that it was such a good idea but then, when I went and built it, I found out that musicians (especially young musicians) weren’t exactly engaged.
That hit me hard, I just assumed that young musicians would want to get money from the fans to further their careers. Yes, they do, but they didn’t necessarily want to do the work involved in making that happen. I made an assumption, spent money, but I was wrong.
Tim: Talking to charities, talking to donors and market research. Market research could be literally picking up a phone and talking to someone who will give you 15 minutes of their time or hiring a company to help you do market research on a more professional basis.
You look at the market and see what’s out there. You find out if there is a big market out there that needs disruption. I certainly think the charity sector needs disruption in the sense that the charity sector has never been that great in adopting new technology. So I thought to avoid giving them a big new system that they have to get their heads around. There is no system integration with Evershare, you basically get a QR code and you can use that QR code via our platform to ask for any donation that you want. So a huge reduction in time and cost for charities.
I realised for our product-market-fit that a lot of charities are 1 or 2 people running it from the goodness of the hearts and they probably have other jobs and they’re very busy. They just don’t have time to deal with any big technological integration to the system. So, I realise that to make Evershare work and to be adopted, I had to make it as light as possible for people to understand and to use.
You can have our system setup within 2 minutes. All it takes is registering with us and your bank account details, we then generate a unique QR code and away you go. That’s it.
I realised that people running charities don’t have much time and that, understandably, all the money they do have, they want to make sure goes towards what they’re trying to fix in society. So product-market-fit had to be low cost to start with – with Evershare.io it’s free, there’s no setup fees.
Another thing we found about crowdfunding sites is that they’re quite open and transparent. They display how much each person has donated and some take that competitively. For example, it’s visible who gave £50 so that may mean to someone that they have to give £55, because they don’t want to be shown up. It shouldn’t be like that because when you think about it, in the “olden days”, pre-coronavirus, if I put £1 in the tin for a poppy and you put £5 in for a poppy I don’t know whether you put £5 in and you don’t know that I put £1. All that matters is that we are supporting the Royal British Legion.
A lot of people (especially corporates) who want to give to charity don’t particularly like using JustGiving or Virgin Giving because their donations are open for all to see. If they just want to help that local charity, it’s nobody’s business how much they gave to them. So again going back to product-market-fit, I want it to be easy for people to understand with digitalising the donations it’s nobody’s business how much I put in or you put in. Just as long as you donate!
Talking about the Poppy Appeal, when you donate you get a Poppy to put on your lapel, and there’s a reason for doing that, because you get a little dopamine hit. You can walk around town feeling good about yourself, because you’ve given to charity. So we’re building the “digital poppy”, a digital badge. So when you as a donor gives to a charity, you will get a digital badge that you can then put on social media and say “hey here’s a great charity here I’ve supported” and anyone can verify that donation (not the amount) by clicking on it. Evershare will then verify this because the record of the action is verified on blockchain and it proves to all that you did donate.
With blockchain technology, anyone can put a picture of a poppy and say that they have given £1000 for the Royal British Legion. Well, with our system you can’t do that. With our system, if you give to this charity you’ll get a digital badge which will verify through our blockchain built on IBM’s Hyperledger system.
We have been greatly supported via grant funding from Innovate UK. A big thanks to them. We’ve got a lot of good organisations around us and we are registered with the Charity Fundraising regulator so we have everything in place now.
I think what we built is easy, simple and scalable, low-cost, ticks all the boxes and we hope the people like it.
Tim: Any work where there’s money and the internet, you’re going to get bad actors. You are going to get people who will try and get that money. We are partnered up with a peer-to-peer open banking company, so we don’t touch the money.
The aim has been to build something that is safe and robust, without spending all your money and going down rabbit holes, so keeping focus is vital.
Finding the right tech people is crucial and has been a problem in the past, but we have overcome that problem and have great people on board now.
Regarding staff – If that person is not aligned to your values or fully understands what we want to achieve, it can be difficult. So Hire Slowly and Fire Fast.
The other thing I advise, having learnt from earlier mistakes, is don’t try to add bells and whistles early on. You’ve got to keep focused. As I mentioned earlier, you have to focus on the thing you want to build as a start-up. The very basic idea. Get it built and get it out.
Tim: An absolute big shoutout to Innovate UK. We got a grant from them and they’ve been absolutely 100% supporting us from day one, they’ve been brilliant. There are a lot of other government schemes and grants out there as well.
I remember when I was at the NatWest Accelerator and I was applying for the grant, I was encouraging my fellow entrepreneurs to apply as well. I found it strange that a lot were saying “Oh we won’t win it” and I said “Well if you’re not in it, you can’t win it”. So, I’d say to everybody to apply for a grant, go for it. There’s a grant for everything out there, there really is. In all fairness, the UK government have been excellent at supporting start-ups and there are many other great organisations like Invest West or Set Squared who offer great advice and assistance. So apply for grants and don’t assume you’re not going to win it. It’s like the lottery, if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t have any chance of winning it.
When it comes to getting investment there are so many systems out there that you can build a beautiful pitch deck on. I used one called beautiful.ai. It’s free and you can build a beautiful deck within an hour. Keep it to 10 pages, so it is succinct. Include who you are, what you’re doing and what you’re asking for. There is no point having a pitch deck without saying “I want x pounds”, because investors need to see what the idea is, what problem is it solving and is it solving a problem.
Finally I’d say that if you have a dream, an idea, then go and do it. Nothing can stop you. I want to help charities, I want people to donate more, and so I had an idea and with Evershare.io I hope this dream comes true.
Thank you for your time!