Backers of new ChangeX ‘Impact as a Service’ platform include Bebo founders

28 Jun 2017

The ChangeX team. From left: John Concannon, Sorcha McKenna, Paul O’Hara, Caroline Casey, Daniel Paul, Niamh McKenna, Paul Watson and Julia Hildebrand. Image: ChangeX

ChangeX reveals new business model to provide real-time visibility into the impact of philanthropic investments.

Dublin social entrepreneurship marketplace ChangeX has revealed a new Impact as a Service platform.

More than €300,000 was garnered from experienced philanthropic investors in Ireland and the US, including Bebo founders Xochi and Michael Birch, MyFitnessPal founder Mike Lee, and Faye Drouillard from The Giving Circle and The Community Foundation of Ireland.

‘Organisations like Watsi and Charity Water are already proving that there is an appetite in the giving market for directly tying recurring giving to tangible impact being realised’

Future Human

Bebo was founded in 2005 and was bought by AOL in 2008 for $850m. The Birch husband-and-wife team bought the company back from Criterion Capital in 2013 for $1m.

Can ChangeX make a world of difference?

Dublin-headquartered ChangeX launched in 2015 and is funded by investors including Albert Wenger, managing partner at Union Square Ventures; software entrepreneur Ray Nolan; John O’Farrell of Andreessen Horowitz; and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, Jerry Greenfield.

ChangeX has mainly focused its efforts in Ireland and Minnesota to date and is growing quickly, with more than 4,500 teams starting ideas in their communities, impacting more than 150,000 people directly.

The new platform is designed for individuals, families, foundations, corporations or governments who are looking to grow the impact of their philanthropic investments.

As well as creating transparency for the funder on their investment, it will also allow social innovators and local community leaders to mobilise the resources necessary to accelerate scale and impact in a way that’s measurable and sustainable.

An Impact as a Service pilot was undertaken in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which selected 10 ideas and saw 103 replications get started throughout the state of Minnesota. This included several exported by Irish social entrepreneurs, including Grow it Yourself, CoderDojo and Fáilte Isteach.

Using the new platform, funders select the ideas and regions they care about and buy ‘units of impact’ around those ideas they want to spread, at a price – they pay for the ideas started and can track the progress live.

For example, a philanthropist could invest in 10 new Men’s Sheds in County Cavan. As they get off the ground, the impact deal is realised and the funding is allocated. If only eight of the 10 Men’s Sheds start in the agreed timeframe, then the funder only pays for eight sheds.

Through a live feed, ChangeX allows funders to track the impact of their investments on their smartphone, including both impact data and stories.

ChangeX reveals 'Impact as a Service' platform backed by Bebo founders

ChangeX CEO Paul O’Hara. Image: ChangeX

Speaking with, ChangeX CEO Paul O’Hara explained that the plan is to use the Facebook social graph to help link philanthropists with change-makers.

“As with most high-priced products, Impact as a Service is largely dependent on in-person relationship building, and that will continue to be the case even as awareness builds.

“We will soon introduce a lower price point to allow more people get involved and that will be an online-only transaction. Most important is that we continue to realise impact on the ground by finding and supporting local change-makers in communities across the world.

“We also [have] higher ticket opportunities for lead sponsors around themes such as health or regions like Minnesota. Our intention is to sell the different products all over the world, but initially in Ireland and US.”

O’Hara sees Impact as a Service model as a new model for giving in the charity and philanthropy sectors.

“We have decided to initially launch with a focus on higher-end deals in the philanthropic sector, but it is our intention in the coming months to roll out a lower end, crowdsourced giving model that will help fund local replications of new community projects. This will include monthly recurring giving models that would start at €20 a month.

“Organisations like Watsi and Charity Water are already proving that there is an appetite in the giving market for directly tying recurring giving to tangible impact being realised, and we believe this type of model can be applied to solutions to a wide range of social challenges,” O’Hara said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years