Makerble’s Matt Kepple: “Our mission is to make the world a better place faster”
Makerble – a mobile app that enables charities to track and share where donations are used – scored first place in both the audience and judges vote at last week’s TechPitch 4.5 (31 January 2016). We caught up with founder Matt Kepple to find out more about his lifelong commitment to the charity sector and his hopes that Brexit results in British backing for British businesses.
-Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today and congratulations on doing so well at TechPitch 4.5. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your professional story?
After graduating from an undergraduate Masters in Chemistry, I worked at a series of advertising agencies, managing the creative teams crafting and executing campaigns for a raft of clients. All the while I had the idea to do Makerble, but while waiting for the funds to fall into place I got involved with other ventures. I met my co-founder Annabel Dickson through a social venture she was launching in 2008, which brought people together to fund charities through events. We ran that with a group of friends for a few years and now YTFN.org has raised well over £100,000 for small charities working around the world. I spent some time working in market research and trends analysis before moving into the charity sector where my roles were either in project management or marketing campaign management. By 2013 I felt I had saved enough money to make Makerble happen. That’s when I left my job and went full-time on this idea.
-Tell us how the idea for Makerble began and evolved. Was there a particular experience that led you to spotting the market gap (or similar)?
My parents always sponsored a child while I was growing up, so when I got to university and was given the opportunity to sponsor a child, I took it. But after a few months I realised that I couldn’t afford the £15/month and frustratingly I had to cancel it. But it gave me an idea: what if I got my friends to chip in £1/month each and we sponsored a kid for a quid? I started the ‘Sponsor a Kid for a Quid’ campaign and after a couple of months we had 150 students and staff all ‘crowd-sponsoring’ children around the world. That won a Channel4 Ideas Factory Award that triggered my ambition to imagine the campaign across universities everywhere. I knew it would require a digital presence and while thinking about the idea on a journey between London and Birmingham I saw the Megabus slogan of “£1 fares: Low cost intercity travel”. It got me wondering what would happen if we created “£1 donations: Low cost international projects” and took the concept of child sponsorship whereby you know where your money goes and applied it to charities across the spectrum. That’s the idea that became the first version of Makerble.
When we launched the first version of Makerble in 2014 it was a marketplace of charity projects where each charity had a basic newsfeed for sharing their progress. But what we found was that charities weren’t getting into the habit of sharing their stories. And as we investigated this further we saw that charities were facing one of two problems related to how they tracked their impact internally; either they were taking paper notes in the field and typing them up into spreadsheets, which was a drawn out process and ill-suited to creating shareable content, or they were using a clunky CRM system that their staff entered data into grudgingly and again wasn’t suited to outputting regular content for social media. In light of these two hurdles we decided to create a simple mobile app that a charity’s staff could use to log the progress being made. Because it was an app it would mean that charities wouldn’t need to manually type up notes into spreadsheets and it would be easier to enter data into than a web-based CRM system.
-What did you do once you had this new idea, and how did it evolve?
The idea for the new version of Makerble was borne out of conversations we were having with charities about how they tracked their impact. We already had our team, but what we needed was the funds to continue paying for product development. So we started providing consulting services to charities, creating websites and running marketing campaigns. Through the revenue we generated we were able to fund product development of the mobile app.
-What is Makerble and how does it work? Why is it unique in the market and what value does it give to its users, especially compared to similar applications?
Makerble’s mission is to make the world a better place faster. We streamline the way charities track their impact by providing them with a marketplace of KPIs suited to their specific area of work and giving them an easy-to-use mobile app that their staff can use to log the progress they are making with every person they help on every project they fund around the world in real-time. We are the only product that gives charities a ready-made set of KPIs suited to their area of work and there are only two platforms that provide a mobile app.
-How have you funded yourself so far and what are your plans/hopes for future funding?
We currently have an EIS investment round of £160k open, which closes on 24th March. This will give us the 6-8 months runway we need to build up our client base and become cash flow positive.
Watch Matt’s winning pitch at TechPitch 4.5
-You did really well at TechPitch 4.5. How did you find the experience? Did you make any good connections and get any good feedback?
It was great to be back at TechPitch 4.5. We pitched there in Q1 2014 and through the event we met a guy who introduced us to someone who subsequently invested in our first round. The event is really well organised, and Petra and Rassami do a great job of bringing a decent set of people into the room, along with credible judges who ask thoughtful questions. I have 3-4 meetings in the diary off the back of the event and wouldn’t be surprised if there were more to come.
-What is your take on the start-up ecosystem in the UK, especially amidst continuing Brexit uncertainty?
The start-up ecosystem feels good from my perspective. Pitch competitions are great because they give start-ups an opportunity to get feedback and meet potential investors. The one thing Brexit has shown is that moving forwards we will need to be more self-reliant. British people backing British businesses is going to be increasingly important and initiatives like TechPitch 4.5 are catalysing those kinds of connections.
Find out more about Makerble here.