Think about all of the purchases you make with coupons. You have probably used a coupon to buy a meal, to do an activity while on vacation, or maybe even when getting a procedure like Lasik surgery done. Now, what if I told you that there is a company that is a CSUF Startup Incubator Resident that has created a new way to use coupons that will support your favorite causes, charities, and nonprofits?
That company is called Aidtree. At its core, Aidtree has created a virtuous circle connecting businesses, consumers, and the causes that they support. A primary use case for Aidtree would be as a supplement for school fundraisers. With Aidtree, causes passively run fundraisers nonstop. Every time someone who supports a cause buys a coupon on Aidtree a large portion of that purchase price goes to the cause of their choice, the supporter receives a discount, and by participating in this philanthropic business model local businesses get valuable PR that helps to create goodwill in their community. As Aidtree founder Ben Yip says, “Aidtree creates a win-win-win scenario.”
Aidtree’s mission is to connect the purchases you make with the causes you support. But how does it work? Ben’s simple description is, “Where AirBnB is for hotels and Uber for taxis, Aidtree is for cause giving. Businesses create coupons, which are purchased by the cause supporter. Money is then split with up to 90% of the coupon purchase price going to the cause.” The payment system used for Aidtree is the same that is used by shared-economy platforms like PayPal. Ben, however, considers Aidtree to be shared-philanthropy.
One such community is California State University, Fullerton. The Center for Entrepreneurship has already signed up as a cause, Titan Shops has posted coupons on Aidtree’s alpha site, and many other organizations on campus are working towards joining the site as well as either a cause or business. Additionally, a handful of independent businesses already offer coupons on Aidtree’s alpha site and there are many more businesses and causes that will be added to the site soon.
While still early in the development process, Ben has come a long way in launching Aidtree through his own hard work and with the help of the CSUF Startup Incubator. Before joining the Incubator earlier this year, Ben had made a lot of progress in creating the site and started laying the groundwork for bringing causes, businesses, and customers into the Aidtree community.
Once Ben joined the CSUF Startup Incubator we helped him put his efforts into overdrive. As is the case with all of our Residents, we helped Ben in many ways, including: working with Ben to fundamentally understand his market, conducted a top down review of his website, assistance with writing a business plan, conducting long interviews with potential users of his platform, creating a business model canvas, and help in forming strategic partnerships on campus.
A key partnership is with the CSUF Philanthropic Foundation. Funds from Aidtree for a CSUF club or charity are automatically deposited into a cause’s account, which means no checks or tracking for cause leaders. This also allows CSUF causes to continuously raise funds in addition to their usual events. Ben has also worked closely with students at Cal State Fullerton and with other community organizations on the launch of Aidtree.
Ben’s plan incorporates initially working with the clubs and local businesses around CSUF. Club supporters can help their organization raise money with purchases on the growing list of businesses on the Aidtree Coupon Network. A great fundraising benefit will be for clubs with smaller memberships. Those members can use their social networks to promote their club, promoting the discounts, and fundraising.
It is exciting to watch the growth that Ben and Aidtree are experiencing while working at the CSUF Startup Incubator. We are confident that Aidtree will revolutionize the way causes operate so that they can focus more of their time on doing what really matters: helping their communities.
This article was written by Travis Lindsay and Kevin Emery.