What would you do if you had $1 million dollars? Erik Bergman decided to invest almost all of it into building Great.com, an online platform with only one purpose: making money to support charities.
Jetbull spoke to Erik and found out more about how he went from building million-dollar companies to building platforms supporting charity, as well as how he plans to make Great.com truly great.
Let’s start with the beginning. How did you manage to build a $15 million-dollar company?
That’s a long story, but to give a short version of the answer: it all started out by accident. Me and my friend, Emil, tried out all kinds of different web projects and didn’t really succeed with anything. In 2007, we build our first bingo affiliate site, but that too looked like a failure for a long time. Then suddenly things turned around and started working our way. From that point we gave this all our focus and all our time.
Two very important factors have been luck and timing, but since those are hard to replicate I’ll focus on some other important parts. We have always had a lot of fun with building the business. I believe that you have to enjoy what you are doing to be really good at it. If you don’t enjoy it, you will not be able to put in the time and energy it requires but if you have a lot of fun it will feel almost effortless.
How do you go from making money for yourself to building businesses to make money for charities?
After our IPO, I got more money than I will ever need. I expected that to be “happiness forever” but soon realized that it wasn’t. Money is something amazing that gives freedom, security and endless possibilities. However, it’s not the “happiness forever” as I was hoping it would be.
Instead, I felt a bit lost and didn’t really know what I wanted to do now. I got involved in several different charity projects and I felt that this is what I should do! It was so rewarding to see what I can do for other people.
Then I asked myself: what’s the best way for me to help? And the answer was to start a business all over again, but this time, give it all away.
Why buy a 900.000$ domain name and not just donate the money to charities?
I don’t know if the smartest thing was to buy the $900.000 domain or if it would have been better to give it away and start with a cheap domain.
My thoughts behind the purchase was that I would get a name that instantly gives the project trust, that it would help me to recruit and get PR, and that over time it will be a lot cheaper to build a very strong brand around a word that almost everyone can remember, spell and have a positive association to.
The only question is, will the name Great really help us generate more than $900.000 extra over the next 50 years? I want to do this project for the rest of my life and I believe that down the line this first deal will make perfect sense even if it seems a bit extreme at this stage.
How does Great.com work exactly? What is its mission statement and how do you plan to reach it?
Exactly how it works has not been rolled out yet. In short, it will be like any other company, focusing on making as much profit as possible – the main difference will be that instead of paying the profits as dividend to the owners, we will give it all away to charity.
Who can help and how?
At this stage the most important thing for us is to build a big reach. Get people to hear about the project, partly to help us, but mainly to inspire others to do something similar. If we can show that we are giving, I believe many others will want to do the same thing.
To get involved and be a part of this journey I’ve written a very simple guide with a few steps that anyone can do and this will make them a part of something big!
You said in your video that seeing the result of your donation, changed you. How can someone see the results of their “investment” in Great.com?
Wow, that’s a really good question! I believe that the biggest challenge that charities have is to translate donations into emotions. It’s really hard for someone who donates to any charity to really get the emotions that the donation represents. If you send money to a big organization, the main thing you will see is a smaller amount in your bank account, even though you are doing something amazing, it’s hard to get the emotional reward.
I want Great to be really good at showing what we are accomplishing. Both to inspire others to give and to show our team what amazing things we are doing. We will go on trips to visit the projects we are supporting and, down the line, maybe also bring people who have supported us to make them really feel what a wonderful contribution to the world they are doing.
There are so many charities out there, how will Great.com differentiate and choose between them?
There is an amazing site called GiveWell that I can highly recommend to anyone. They compare charities of all kinds with the aim to recommend the very best ones. In my opinion the best ones are the ones that make the best and biggest impact in most people’s lives per dollar donated. In short, these are almost always focused on the absolute poorest people in the world. One dollar simply makes a lot bigger difference there than it would in the western world.
In the opening video you say: “I am really, really good at making money.” Is that a skill that you either have or don’t have or is it a skill that can be learned?
I believe it’s both. To me the main thing about money is not money in itself but people. If you are good with people, you will be good with money. Some of us have had great families that taught us very well how to interact and some haven’t. I had a good background and got some of this from home, but I have also studied the topic a lot. I can recommend the book “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. It’s written in 1937 and it’s still one of the best books out there on the topic. I believe anything written about human relationships later on is, one way or another, inspired by that book.
Where can we find out more about you?
We will update Great.com with all kinds of info moving forward so a good way is to get in there and follow our different channels. If you want to read up a bit more about me personally, you can check out erikbergman. That’s my personal site and it says a bit about my history, my dreams and why I want to do the things I want to do.
So, it’s all out in the open now, the idea, the plan, the wish. And even though Erick started all this, you are now presented with the chance of taking it one step further towards something greater than any of us.
Do you want to get involved? For starters, there are two super easy steps where you don’t pay money, you pay attention. Step one is to follow Great’s Facebook, YouTube and newsletter. Step two is to share their introduction video.
So, do you want to be a part of Great too?