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            Two extremely important things are our time and our connections to others who can help advance shared goals. Significant time is wasted on low value introductions and meetings. But at the same time, projects are delayed, don’t succeed, or don’t reach their full potential because critical connections are never made.  We are looking to build HearMeOut, a solution that will save your valuable time while facilitating valuable connections, by asking people to donate to a charity for your time, and/or enabling you to connect with others by donating to a charity. 

          HearMeOut is the platform where you can book time with someone by donating to the chosen charity of the person who you want to meet with. For example: you sell software that you’re confident company X wants, and you’re willing to donate €500 to The Against Malaria Foundation to pitch it to them for one hour. If you want to cut down on cold emails and meetings, you can tell anyone that you only meet with people willing to donate a certain amount to the charity you chose (e.g. I’m a founder and anyone who wants to sell me something can do that if they donate 100 USD to AMF). You pay for meetings where you’re confident you bring something valuable, and you can be assured the meetings scheduled with you are with people who value your time correctly and don’t intend to waste your time. We believe the net result to be meetings with a higher average value- eliminating  intros with those who don't value your time, while enabling those who demonstrate that they do to get on your calendar- with charities benefiting from the signals.   It’s close to zero cost to build and test this platform with some initial users, and it could be very scalable. We are seeking someone to lead this project and initial users who want to get donations before they take a cold meeting. 

What HearMeOut Offers

  1. Ability for people (“Seekers”) to obtain introductions to people that could be helpful to their projects or goals by donating to a charity.
  2. Ability for people (“Listeners”) to help others that can credibly signal that they will benefit from their help because they are gated behind a cost.
  3. Charities can be the beneficiaries of these signaling costs.

          Unfortunately, between working my own full time job as a lawyer and running a nonprofit (website will be changed soon- renaming to “Profit for Good Initiative”), I do not currently have the bandwidth to run such a project. Vincent van der Holst, founder of BOAS, also believes in the potential of this project, but is similarly unable to run this project because he is running the business. Both can advise the business and help attract resources. Vin already has connections to a designer and developer who are willing to help build the first version at no/low cost. 

How Would HearMeOut Work?

            Thanks to Jeff Reasor for developing some mockups of what HearMeOut might look like. 

            HearMeOut would provide a platform for Listeners: those who want to spend their time potentially helping others by providing advice, funding projects, connecting people together who could be helpful, using their influence to advance a shared goal, purchasing products or services that could be beneficial to the Listener, and/or otherwise helping people. Listeners would be able to choose the charity(s) that would benefit from the fee to connect with them, the time increments they could make available, as well as the donation associated with various increments. This donation cost would serve a dual-function: it not only serves as a way to raise money for a charitable cause the listener cares about, but also serves a screening function- the cost associated with the audience will likely imply people will only connect if they believe there is a reasonable chance they can significantly benefit from the introduction, and often the most significant connections would be mutually beneficial. A Listener could set a very high donation price to carefully guard their time, but still be open to those who would most value a connection.

            “Seekers”- those who are looking to connect with others who can help advance their project would be able to connect with Listeners who can potentially help them advance their project in one way or another. The Listener may be more receptive and open to trying to help out of gratitude for the Seeker helping to advance their cause. Seekers can connect with Listeners that have accounts and pages on the website/app. The platform may also enable Seekers to reach out to someone who is not currently on the platform, with an offer to support a charity of their choice in exchange for some of their time. The cost associated with connections may also be more palatable, especially if the Seeker shares fondness for the charitable cause the Listener has designated.

            The platform would take a portion of the fee and put it toward operating costs and generating profit for the platform to grow. We would want the business to be a Profit for Good business, meaning that the vast majority of the profit generated would go to effective charities. This would mean that regardless of the choice of charities that Listeners choose to benefit, some portion of the proceeds would be benefiting effective charities.

We Need a Leader and first users for this Project

            Vincent van der Holst and I are interested in helping recruit people to help with the design, coding, and other work that would be needed for the project. We particularly are looking for someone who wants to lead this project. Please note that currently we do not have funding for this position, but, if the project takes off and generates revenue from portions of the fee, this could support employees including a CEO. We are also seeking our first beta users. If you get many meeting requests, and have a hard time figuring out which are most valuable, let us know in the comments or by DM if you want to test out the platform. Setup is 5 minutes (we really just need your meeting booking link). 

          If you have thoughts, concerns or can help in other ways, please let us know in the comments. 

 


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Do you know if the donation would still be tax deductible? The seeker is getting something of value in return, but it's from a third party, not the charity itself.

That's a great question. @Brad West is a lawyer and can probably answer this for the US.

In the EU this would be possible if you just redirect someone to make a donation to the charity directly and upload their receipt as payment verification so they can book the meeting. This is a workaround solution, and I think this can be made tax deductible directly through HearMeOut as well, but if the beta goes well we should have a lawyer answer this depending on the country. 

Nope. I do not know.

I really like this idea. Fwiw, there are some connections to the "Corporate skills charity bake sale" I proposed a while back. Those ideas might synergize with this.

You write "Again, you would feel icky paying a company for this, but you might feel OK doing it in exchange for a donation." And that's why we think HearMeOut can work so well, because it donates rather than pays to individuals. People are likely much more opposed to giving someone a lot of money for their time (e.g. paying a billionaire to meet with them), but would be more in favor of doing that when it goes to charities. 

I will beta test this with anyone who cold calls or emails me. I'll simply tell them that for a €100 donation they can have an hour of my time, and see what happens. 

Thanks.

Enabling valuable transactions that might otherwise be considered "repugnant" was one of the things that came to mind when I thought of this.

A unique and interesting concept.

I can see the logic but I’d suspect the payments for meetings would need to be quite low in most instances as I wonder whether you create weird incentives where time strapped high-in-demand people slap high fees on meetings and people who have limited funds have yet another barrier to meeting such people. Could also make some very moral conscious people maximise the charge they put on the meeting slot given the time:cost benefit is now not just their own time, but also the opportunity cost of what someone else was willing to pay.

How do you see mitigating the risk that it’ll no longer just be your idea that gets you through the door, but the depth of your pockets?

Separately, am I correct that there is no funds to create the MVP? It feels like something which a few thousand £/$’s could build from a reputable programmer? Would that be useful and possible to get the concept off the ground and able to be tested?

You raise an important potential downside. It was already hard for people with shallow pockets to reach people with deep pockets and this might make it harder.

For me personally, I would do the following. Someone cold calls or emails me. If this is an aspiring entrepreneur who has no deep pockets and a good pitch, I will meet with them for free. Same for any NGO or individual making the world a better place. If this is a for-profit company that has X profits I will charge a Y amount that I think is fair for that company to pay me for my time, through a donation to an effective charity. If facebook wants my time I will charge a million. 

There's pros and cons to everything, but the additional money flowing to charities seems more important to me, but we should think of ways for people who can't afford donations to not be excluded. Replying with your HearMeOut link depending on who cold emails or calls you seems like a simple but effective solution, at least for me, but I'm curious to hear what others think!

Thanks James.

I'm also concerned about the counterfactual...

Would valuable connections that otherwise be made be precluded because they are behind big paywalls? Or would such connections never have happened (or have been more costly in other terms) in the first place? My intuition is that those who would put a large donation cost behind their time would be those who) for whom it would be difficult already to obtain an introduction. I think that if others make introductions, which is often how traditional networking happens, it seems rather gauche for one to also impose the charitable paywall.

Further, I'd hope that HMO could augment traditionalist networking, perhaps by enabling initial inroads into networks, incurring an initial cost for a way into a chain in which the next steps don't have financial costs.

I am also less concerned because the Listeners isn't personally benefiting from the paywall and this makes me less concerned that they would choose to forgo promising conversations. Again, there definitely is the concern, however.

And you're right, currently no funds. Some seed money would definitely be helpful for development.

I think this a cool idea that should be tried. If net-negative, it can be undone fairly easily by simply deleting the website. I'm up for being a beta user.

In case this is relevant information, I spoke to the founder of the Time to Give Network (TGN) not too long ago when he had just found out about EA. "TGN connects solution providers and professional individuals with C-Level champions, experts and more. TGN enables TimeGivers to provide a pre-agreed amount of time with a qualified TimeBidder in return for a donation to their chosen charity. " Sounds like there may be synergies in both your projects.

That's very relevant information! It's very similar to our idea, so I'd love to talk to him. Could you share his contact details with me on vin at boas dot co ?

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