Needs List for People Displaced by War and Disaster: An Interview with Tasha, Founder and CEO of NeedsList

Tasha is a social entrepreneur with fifteen years experience in technology, bringing her skill set to social good.

Me: What inspired you to do this work?

Tasha: In the autumn of 2015, like thousands of people across Europe, I was moved to take action to support refugees. I founded a local solidarity group near my home in Southwest France, and we quickly found ourselves providing direct aid to a group of Syrian refugees in a nearby city.

We were in complete crisis mode and I was quickly overwhelmed by how difficult it was to track and update donations of material items. One family needed a fridge, another needed size four diapers, another little boy had no sandals. The group needed a website, translators, and regular food deliveries.

The needs changed week to week, day to day. Meanwhile, people wanted to help, but they kept bringing items we didn’t need, or volunteers would duplicate efforts. I just kept thinking, “if only we had something like a wedding registry to track needs, it would be so much easier.”

I come from a tech background and assumed there was something like that out there, but I searched and searched but found nothing. So that’s how NeedsList was born.

Me: Why is it important to connect these two? What are you up to?

Tasha: I have been on both sides of the equation – needing help immediately and wanting to help in a crisis situation. I know from my own experience that people and companies are looking for better ways to meet needs.

I also know that trust in our institutions is at an all time low – so we need to make it as easy as possible a) for people to find a way to help that is meaningful to them and b) to increase transparency in the process.

We also wanted to reduce waste by allowing donors to purchase goods locally. We figured, if we can buy flowers online from anywhere, why can’t we buy diapers for a refugee family in Greece?

We now have over 100 organizations on NeedsList who are working in ten countries. Since our launch in 2017 users on our platform have met over 32,000 needs for people displaced by war and disaster. These range from sleeping bags to SIM cards and represent over $150,000 value.

Me: Can you share a story/anecdote on how you/your organization in the last year has grown? Whether it was handling a crisis or a challenge… A light bulb/aha moment if you will.

Tasha: From the very beginning when we started working on NeedsList, we were thinking it could be eventually applied to disaster relief, but wanted to wait a year or two. Last summer, we had barely launched our platform when hurricane after hurricane struck the US and Caribbean.

NGOs on our platform began to ask if they could create NeedsLists to engage their donors in relief and recovery work. We decided to go for it, and found that actually – immediately after a crisis is when NeedsList works best. One of the NGOs on our platform was based in Sonoma and within ten days of the Sonoma fires, over $25,000 of resources were channeled to affected families through NeedsList.

That experience helped cement our vision – we want to be the go to place that people turn to support people displaced by conflict or climate change. We want people to take out their phones and say “how can I help on NeedsList?”

Me: What have you learned?

Tasha: I wish I had known just how hard it would be! But seriously, what we have learned is that even having the word “refugee” associated with your business is a huge red flag for financial services and other institutions, so we are consistently required to go through a level of due diligence that is a typical for a small organization like ours.

We are white and have U.S. Passports, and the entire process has made me very aware of just how challenging it must be for migrant entrepreneurs who come from countries deemed “high risk”. I am so happy to see so much interest in refugee and migrant entrepreneurship, but I hope that these programs provide the support for this added layer of bureaucracy from everything to setting up a bank account to launching a website.

Me: How can people get involved and support the work that you do?

Tasha: There are so many ways people can get involved. Jump on and you can purchase supplies, donate your time, or funds. Churches, synagogues, or schools can also sponsor lists and individuals can create wishlists for their birthdays or weddings.

If you know of businesses that offer supplies or services needed by people on the move, please feel free to make an introduction. You can reach me at [email protected]

Interview with Founder of Smart Keybox, it is initially designed for Airbnb short-term rentals

Here is my interview with Mickael, founder of Smart Keybox.

Me : First of all, please tell me about yourself? What is your position with Smart Keybox?

Mickael: My name is Mickael Coppi, 34 years old. I am a founder of Smart Keybox.

Me: What is Smart Keybox?

Mickael: Smart Keybox is the exclusive distributor in France of the brand Igloohome LTD.

We started the partnership in June 2017 with Anthony Chow, the inventor of igloohome products. After a translation and adaptation phase for the French market, we launched Smart Keybox sales. Different products like the Smart Mortise or Smart Deadbolt will come to complete the range on the French market soon.

The products are made in Singapore and distributed in 17 countries. (Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Japan, United States, Mexico, Canada, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, Russia, Australia and France).

In all these countries there is an exclusive distributor. The product has been rolled out to more than 80 countries.

Me: How its work?

Mickael: The Smart Keybox is initially designed for Airbnb short-term rentals. Facilitating the management of late arrivals. The exclusive Airbnb Connect function allows you to link your Airbnb account to the Smart Keybox – igloohome application. This option synchronizes envoice and automatically sends a message to the guest with the keybox access pin code.

Me: How can we use it?

Mickael: The keybox has multiple use, being managed by bluetooth key and pin code with three levels of validity: Permanent, unique code of a day or temporary with date and time of start and date / time of end.

It is possible to use it for personal use example: children returning from school.

For personal service, access to medical or maintenance staff. The possibilities and adaptation are endless.

One of the biggest benefits of the Keybox is its offline operation.

There is no need for Wi-Fi or cellular access to access the keys. This avoids any hacking or connectivity problem.

Me: What is the main objective of your device?

Mickael: The main goal is to secure key sharing while simplifying it. The application also allows to have a follow-up on the openings of the key box.

Me: Who are your targeted customers?

Mickael: Currently, in France, the Smart Keybox is available only on the internet via our website. We will soon begin distribution in physical store through different resellers in several cities.

Me: Do you have a plan to sell for global market?

Mickael: Our ambition is to be the leader in the access solution for Aribnb and to find products in every city in the country.

Me: Thank you, Mickael for sharing about your company. I wish Smart Keybox have all the success in 2018.

Interview with Co-Founder of Taraba Virtuala, a Mobile App for Small Romanian Farmers

I love entrepreneurs and startups. So I am always looking for the ways to help entreprenuers and their startups. Here is a story about a very new startup from Romania.

I interviewed with co-founder Roxana about her startup. Now, let’s get started.

Me: Firstly, please introduce brief about yourself? What is your position with Taraba Virtuala?

Roxana: Hi, I am Roxana, co-founder of Taraba Virtuală, an app for small Romanian farmers. The name is Romanian and it means a virtual stall. I am an engineer with a passion for technology, enjoying tasty food and new experiences.

Me: Where did the Taraba Virtuala app idea come from?

Roxana: The app’s idea came from an unfortunate event when I was unlucky enough to arrive at the hospital twice the same night due to a late snack. I started questioning the food I bought and its sources. After an intensive research my co-founder and I came to the conclusion small farmers do not have an intensive production to reach retail shelves, do not have the time to nor the knowledge to have a strong online presence. We, as software engineers, thought we could solve, at least parts of the problem and make small farmers known to potential buyers located near them, in the urban areas.

Me: What’s the main app’s objective?

Roxana: The app’s main objective is to connect people living in urban areas lacking time to properly do groceries with small farmers located near their clients and willing to deliver their tasty products directly to customers. We are using technology to increase the time efficiency of the farmers in preparing the orders and delivering them to the customers. We tried to incorporate technology and prove it can be helpful to rely on it.

Me: What versions available for the apps currently?

Roxana: The app is currently available for the Romanian market on both AppStore and Google Play.

Me: According by your facebook post, your company is seeking for funding. Who are your targeted investors?

Roxana: Our best investors are people using and ordering through the app. This is how we know we have done a great job and our product brings smiles and a healthier lifestyle. We try to create as much brand awareness as we can and this is where Chivas The Venture competition can help us increase the social impact we have. With a simple vote (login with Facebook and confirm your vote), you can help us get one step further. It’s only ten seconds for you, but a big step for us.

Me: So, thank you so much Roxana for sharing about you and Taraba Virtuala. I wish you and Taraba Virtuala have all the success in 2018.