Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

The Spring Is a Combo of Yelp, Loyalty Programs and Kickstarter for Social Good

The concept behind The Spring is meant to be simple — “dine out and do good,” as CEO Brent Schulkin puts it. The way it works is a little more of a leap: Sign up once with your credit card; then find somewhere to eat from participating restaurants in The Spring’s app; and when you pay, part of your bill will be dedicated to crowdfunding local community projects.

Schulkin said he expects restaurants to use The Spring as a way to get new customers, and to get credit for giving back. At the end of each month, they pay a nine percent fee of each participant’s bill to The Spring: Three percent goes to the community project, three percent cash back to the diner, and three percent to The Spring as its cut.

And then to complete the loop, the appeal should be pretty simple for people who like to eat and do good, and don’t mind trusting a startup with their credit card: Get a little money back, and an email the next day about the progress of the project you supported with your stomach.

The question is whether restaurants will participate. So far, 13 of them are signed up for a trial in San Francisco. That’s tiny. And there are just three participating community projects at the start.

The reason to watch this startup is that Schulkin has had success before with novel combinations of economic incentives and do-gooding. He started a sort of viral social movement called Carrotmob where people band together to ask businesses to make changes and then reward them with spending. For instance, the first Carrotmob had a San Francisco convenience store commit to make its store more energy efficient by changing all its lightbulbs. It drew hundreds of customers who spent more than $9,000 in one day. There have been 250 Carrotmob campaigns since, spending more than $1 million all over the world.

Earlier this year, Schulkin raised funding from Greenstart and angel investors to try to channel the Carrotmob spirit into a business, and The Spring is the result.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald