Our tech start-up of the week is FlyThemHome.com, a new crowdfunding website that has been launched by serial entrepreneur Ciara Ryan. With so many young people around the globe being forced to emigrate to other countries to find work, as a result of economic volatility in recent times, she has come up with a new online crowdfunding model to allow friends and family of the departed raise funds and help them fly back home – be it for a holiday or for good.
Ryan has set up Air Ryan Enterprises as her company trading name for the new website.
FlyThemHome.com is not just targeted at helping Irish emigrants raise funds to fly home, however. Ryan has already registered the domain name FlyThemHome.co.uk and she wants to take her crowdfunding formula for globetrotters and emigrants worldwide.
Readers might already be familiar with Ryan, as she is also behind the yearly Farmer Calendar. What’s that, you may ask? Well, it is both an online and print publication that appears each year and features photos of topless farmers (male) for the 12 months in a year. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the calendar go to the Irish charity Bothar. The calendar first appeared in 2009 and Ryan is gearing up for her fifth edition for 2014.
But back to FlyThemHome. In the run-up to the launch of The Gathering initiative, Ryan got the idea for the website. She says she had been talking to an old school friend who has been abroad for five years, living in Central America.
"I thought wouldn’t it be great if all her friends could each donate a little towards her flight home," explains Ryan. "A little from many would amount to a lot, affording her the opportunity to purchase a flight home when she otherwise couldn’t have afforded to come home."
Emigration in the 21st century
That’s when Ryan decided she could create an enterprise out of this. She says that FlyThemHome will aim to cater for the increasing number of friends and family members who have emigrated in order to find work and create a new life abroad.
We often think of the emigrants who have made the move as living the high life, soaking up the sunshine, and having the ‘craic’, be it in Australia, in New Zealand, Canada, Boston, or on the west coast of the US. But for anyone who tuned in to the RTÉ News one evening this week, reporter Caitríona Perry gave an interesting take on how some emigrants are experiencing difficulties. Perry interviewed Irish emigrants living in Perth, western Australia, who were struggling to find work and finding it hard to make ends meet.
Turning to Ryan, she says she wants to do her part to help people who may be living abroad – not just Irish people – and who are finding it a challenge to scrape together the cash to buy an airline ticket and take a trip home to catch up with family or friends.
For the past six months she has been working with a website developer and launched the site three weeks ago. She says that the organisers of The Gathering have been "very supportive" vocally in terms of the new website.
"Feedback has been very positive."
In relation to how the crowdfunding model will work, a person using the FlyThemHome website – be it a family member or close friend – can create a flight fund page for or on behalf of the person abroad. This flight fund page will then be promoted via social networking sites such as Facebook and also through a ‘unique’ link that only friends and relatives can see.
And Ryan has self-financed the project, having decided to boot-strap FlyThemHome.
"I shopped around to get the services for cheaper," she says.
Making money out of the website
So how is Ryan aiming to monetise from FlyThemHome?
If a flight fund is successful, FlyThemHome charges 7pc commission on the total amount successfully debited from funders’ Visa cards / PayPal transfers, etc.
"This will be used to continue to provide the FlyThemHome service into the future. We also hope to sell ad space on the website when we build up a following," she explains.
And, what’s the plan for FlyThemHome then? "To be recognised on a global scale," she says. "Our website is international and anyone from anywhere in the world can create a flight fund on FlyThemHome."
Ryan believes that the website is the only crowdfunding website dedicated solely to flight funding.
"While others may follow, we intend on being the world’s No 1 flight fund website. We have smart and effective SEO plans in place to achieve this," she says.
And as for the Farmer Calendar, Ryan is hopeful that people will get satisfaction from the 2014 version of the topless-farmer edition.
"To date we have received orders from Singapore to South Africa," she says. "The calendar has a special appeal with US and German audiences and featured on German TV to a 6m-strong viewership in 2011."
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