It’s easy for ambitious, young professionals who are building their careers to get caught up in the daily hecticness of work. But in order to succeed, interacting with your community is crucial, and that is where CariClub comes into play. This online platform helps firms connect with their millennial workforce by giving young professionals access to philanthropic leadership opportunities, specifically associate board positions with well-known nonprofits and foundations. This NYC startup possesses a powerful network effect as more companies and nonprofits join its platform.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and founder Rhoden Monrose on the process of creating a company that is redefining what the phrase “giving back” means for millennials.
Tell us about CariClub’s service.
CariClub is a unique online platform strategically positioned at the intersection of corporate citizenship and professional networking. The company helps firms connect with their millennial workforce and subsequently help them attract, retain, and develop their next generation of leaders. CariClub does this by giving young professionals access to philanthropic leadership opportunities, specifically associate board positions with well-known nonprofits and foundations. Since launching in Aug 2015 CariClub has partnered with nearly 500 highly regarded nonprofit organizations to place young professionals on associate boards from top industry firms such as Citigroup, KKR, Davis Polk, Third Point, Berkshire Capital, and many others. Headquartered in NYC with plans for global expansion, CariClub is reimagining what it means to give back and get involved for the millennial generation.
How is CariClub different?
While there’s no shortage of platforms to connect young people with volunteer opportunities, the lasting impact that is made through associate boards is incomparable to one-off experiences. These young professionals are introduced to nonprofit leadership in a way that often lasts for years; they provide a host of brand new networks, innovative thinking, financial contribution, and a pipeline of future leadership and donorship. Our most direct competitors are BoardAssist and LinkedIn for Good. Our key differentiation from BoardAssist is that we use a well-designed technology platform and artificial intelligence to create better matching at SCALE. CariClub’s proprietary AI matching algorithm helps our client’s employees quickly find the opportunities that match their interests. BoardAssist is a very manual and expensive option that charges both the young professional and the nonprofit. LinkedIn for Good requires that a nonprofit do all the setup and recruitment of associate board candidates – as resource constrained as they are, this has not proven successful. Furthermore, unlike the typical white-label volunteer management or gift matching platforms, CariClub has the benefit of having a powerful network effect as we add more companies and nonprofits under the same umbrella. It will be much easier for us to take over market share from these indirect competitors once we build critical mass.
Currently, CariClub is in New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago, with plans to expand to other major cities in 2018 and beyond. These are cities with large millennial populations as well as a confirmed commitment to philanthropy at both the individual and corporate levels. Our corporate customers have large cohorts of millennial employees with the need to develop alignment of corporate values with those of employees. We estimate our TAM to be at least $16.1B. If you combine the total employees in our top 3 target industries and multiply that number by our $500/year per license fee, we arrive at a $16.1B TAM. Those 3 target industries are Professional and Business Services, Finance and Information. Our per license fee floor is currently $500, with an upper bound of ~$1.2K. We plan on targeting technology, consulting, law & finance firms in major domestic hubs (Boston, SF, D.C., Chicago, NYC, Miami, LA) in the coming year, which represents ~30% of the market.
What is the business model?
CariClub utilizes a SaaS B2B model. The clients pay $500+ per employee, per year, for access to CariClub as an employee benefit for top employees. Our target clients (businesses) are the employers in these industries with 250+ employees. CariClub provides reports on metrics such as number of employees registered, associate board applications, and hours served. CariClub has had great traction to date with top-tier clients such as Citigroup, Deloitte, KKR, EY, UBS, Unilever, and more. We have 1K+ non-profits on our platform and currently exist in NYC, San Francisco, and Boston.
What inspired the business?
I learned how rewarding it was to help nonprofits while I worked at Citigroup as a derivatives trader. In 2014, I left Citigroup and founded CariClub after seeing first hand that there was a strong desire from young professionals to engage nonprofits at the board level and yet there was no easy way for them to do so.
CariClub is the world’s only social-impact networking platform to connect young professionals to leadership opportunities on nonprofit boards. Offered as an employee benefit paid for by employers, our platform offers members a database of 1K+ nonprofits to choose from, while our matching algorithm provides carefully curated nonprofit matches based on member information and demonstrated interests.
CariClub was created because the young professionals of today want more than just a paycheck – they want to live with purpose and to “do good while doing well.” CariClub believes that those things aren’t mutually exclusive and that we can both enjoy successful careers while leaving a positive impact on the world around us. We have democratized access to nonprofit engagement while working with industry leaders in a host of verticals that demonstrate the scope of CariClub’s appeal. Our clients include firms like Citigroup, Deloitte, Davis Polk, KKR, and Unilever, to name just a few. Our network of nonprofits currently consists of over a thousand qualified organizations in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.
Most importantly, our members are providing skills, energy, and time to nonprofits that focus on thousands of causes (from education, to health, to the environment, and community aid). Their direct impact on organizations has been emphasized by every nonprofit leader with whom we have engaged. CariClub is bringing together and training the next generation of leaders while setting the bar for the future of corporate social responsibility initiatives.
What are some challenges that your business faces presently?
There are three major challenges that CariClub is tackling at present. Firstly, we are working on how to efficiently capitalize on our top-tier corporate partnerships in an effort to secure long-term multi-city partnerships with new and existing clients. Marketing these relationships can be difficult when our current sales process is at the whim of seasonal corporate cycles. We are working to shorten the sales cycle and make a more active effort to bolster these relationships through marketing. Secondly, there is an implicit reliance on the platform to sell investors on CariClub; we have difficulty communicating our idea without showing them the platform. While investors are interested when they visit inhouse and see what we’re building, and we have found the demo video highly effective, this relies on the platform as opposed to the conceptual aspects of CariClub. We must create a strong and more compelling story for CariClub about our progress and potential. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, we must enhance our technology to accommodate our growth and minimize the human capital needed to connect our members (young professionals) to the right nonprofit leadership opportunity. This will require building an in-house technology team that has the technical skills and attention to detail to build a platform that our high-caliber members deserve.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
As we continue to grow, our focus is on developing a community of corporate and nonprofit professionals within our existing network through a increased engagement with the platform. This will include an increased focus on nonprofit events and more interaction through correspondence and notifications. On the other hand, we will expand our client base and ideally launch officially in D.C., Houston, and LA by the end of the year. We hope to keep our current and future community better updated on this growth and other announcements through an increased public presence on other social media platforms.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Know the value of perseverance. I can’t tell you how many times people have said no to me in different ways throughout my time. Don’t let those rejections get you down, instead treat them as a challenge – use them as fuel to power you through and to prove your value. Everyone thinks and makes decisions in different ways, and everyone’s mind can be changed.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Adam Neumann. He is the co-founder of WeWork, an idea that was born in response to the empty office spaces generated by the economic crises. WeWork is a company that designs and builds physical and virtual workspaces, particularly for startups and other small companies. His innovative thinking and pursuit of various ventures through WeWork, such as WeWork Labs and WeLive, really inspires me to keep thinking outside of the box. Given the opportunity, I’d love to pick his brain.
Why did you launch in New York?
The journey of CariClub began and continues to grow in New York. After emigrating from Saint Lucia at the age of twelve, I grew up in Harlem, NY. As the child of a single mother, I worked hard, won full scholarships to private schools, and got a job as a derivatives trader at Citigroup. From there, I found a circle of like-minded people who found purpose in using their time, talent, and money to make an impact. In 2013, I left Citigroup to create CariClub, a digital community designed to connect young professionals to nonprofit associate boards. With the knowledge that there were many passionate professionals in my immediate New York circles eager to give back, and with the access to countless nonprofits in the city, New York was an obvious jumping off point.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Maialino is an Italian restaurant in midtown. It’s right inside the Gramercy Park Hotel and it’s delicious. Any Danny Meyer restaurant is great.