What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers describes a transformation currently changing the capitalistic and consumptive mindset which has dominated American culture since ‘The Greatest Generation’ took over post WWII. No longer are we completely comfortable with Adam Smith and Milton Friedman’s notion of “me first”, a belief when combined with abundant resources and efficient manufacturing, has morphed us into a society of nonstop consumers.
With the rise of internet and computer technology, a wave of entrepreneurs and startup companies are harnessing this new found energy for collaboration towards innovative business models. From Airbnb to Zilok to Swap.com, all strive to provide valuable services at a local level, yet the market and transactions are completed entirely in the global online space. Another new player looking to do good is KarmaGoat, which currently is in beta and is launching May 19.
KarmaGoat can be thought of as the eBay of Goodwill donations. It provides a platform where charitable sellers can unload unwanted personal items to willing buyers, who make purchases by paying the nonprofit selected by sellers directly: 85% of the money is paid to charity and KarmaGoat retains a 15% fee to operate and grow the marketplace. KarmaGoat is the creation of Jonathan Lehmann, formerly a corporate law attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, turned UCLA Anderson MBA student and entrepreneur. I had an opportunity recently to speak with Lehmann about KarmaGoat and his experiences:
How did KarmaGoat get started?
Lehmann: “I was moving to LA from Paris and had plenty of useful items which I need to get rid of; I thought it would be great if my stuff could be donated to help others. That was the start of the idea. Then, during my first year of business school, I won the Larry Wolfen Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, which allowed me to spend last summer developing the KarmaGoat idea and business model. In December, I teamed up with three other Anderson MBAs, including James Chung who had over six years professional web development and e-commere experience, and we’ve been working towards the launch since then.”
Why enter the MBA program when you already have the corporate law and entrepreneur background (Jonathan previously created a women’s handbag company)?
Lehmann: “Many people told me I was crazy because I already had the experience and knowledge to create a business. But, coming to Anderson for me was the best decision. I made it my mission to come here and devote myself to entrepreneurship and starting a business. The atmosphere and opportunities have been wonderful.”
What are the next steps for KarmaGoat?
Lehmann: “We are finishing up the site and will launch soon. Myself, my wife and two other soon-to-be UCLA Anderson MBA alumni are going full time on KarmaGoat. In addition, we’ve succeeded in securing sufficient seed funding to get KarmaGoat to market and see how users respond to our concept. We’ re working day and night to to build this into an amazing product and experience.”
Are you ready for a new consumption model? Leave your thoughts and comments below.