Change.org Raises $15M From Omidyar Network, While Committing to Never Sell or IPO
Change.org, the online petition site with more than 25 million users, has raised its first big round of outside funding, six years after it started.
The $15 million round comes primarily from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam’s philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network.
Omidyar Network is taking a minority and non-controlling stake with the explicit disavowal of a future payday from a sale or IPO, two things Change.org has promised it will never do. Other investors in the round include a new “mission-aligned” San Francisco-based fund called Uprising.
Though Change.org may sound like a nonprofit, it is actually a for-profit, mission-driven company that is certified as a B corporation.
Said Change.org CEO Ben Rattray of that perceived divide, “There’s this latent uncertainty about whether it’s possible to build a company focused on a mission, and we’re proving it’s possible. It’s not an open question, it’s pretty clear that we’re having substantial impact. People have a binary perspective of an organization. It’s an impoverished perspective of the possibilty of business to change the world.”
Rattray said he had first courted the Omidyars for investment when he started Change.org, so it was a deal nearly seven years in the making.
Change.org had $15 million in revenue last year based on its sponsored petitions, where organizations can pay to get their causes in front of users in the hope of securing their signatures and email addresses. It currently has 170 employees in 18 countries, and is spending much of its available resources on expanding around the world.
“We’re no longer trying to find product market fit; we’re scaling the organization,” Rattray said. “And it became clear as we started to scale the site to support hundreds of millions of users that funding would be immensely useful in building out an engineering organization.”
Rattray said he still often finds himself combating the perception that signing a petition is a form of lazy “clicktivism” rather than valid activism.
“People oftentimes criticize petitions as being too easy. They think clicktivism is a bug rather than a feature,” he said. “But the goal isn’t to make social change difficult, it’s to make it effective. If we enable at greater scale and greater participation than ever before, we think that’s actually a good thing.”