Hong Kong startup, iDonate is the first comprehensive charity rating platform in Hong Kong aimed at promoting informed donation by promoting transparency of charity and evaluating their operating efficiency and needs of funds.

I recently caught up with CEO & Founder of iDonate, Bonita Wang to find out more about the charity rating platform.

What led you to create iDonate and what’s the painpoint that it aims to solve?
I have a friend, Tammy who holds her birthday party yearly.Instead of getting her presents, she recommends all her friends to make donations and select the charity organisation receiving it together. Sometimes, her friends may argue between choosing the charities that will receive the donation.

This led me to think. We looked up Openrice, a comprehensive foodstore guide in Hong Kong that provides food ratings from users, when we were going to buy a cup of ice-cream. We were thinking, “Why don’t we have a platform to input all the information and ratings of charities for donors let them make smarter donation decisions?” As a result, I built iDonate.

Later on, I found that there were charities committing fraud or not using the donation properly. People care how the charities are using the money donated because the donation market is large. In 2010, total donation amounted to US $1.1 billion in Hong Kong, and over US $8 billion in China.

The iDonate Team. Photo: iDonate

How is the traction so far and what are some of the feedbacks you have received?

One week after the official launch, we were featured by a local newspaper. In the past 16 months, we have over 40 media coverages including TV, radio, magazine and newspaper.  We also made it to the headlines on Yahoo news.

All these showed that people do care how charities are spending the donation.  We have hit the market demand and our work has been recognized by the public. Besides, we have started generating income by providing service to University of Hong Kong this year.

We have received many supportive messages from users and charities.  Some examples include:
(1) Steven, a fresh graduate, said that iDonate help to solve the real problem as he and his girlfriend didn’t know which charities to support.
(2) Silence, a small and local charity in Hong Kong (which is not well known) is very transparent and accountable. The organisation said iDonate help them to differentiate Silence from other improper charities.
(3) Private banking people also take reference of iDonate’s information before making donation recommendation to clients.

Being a Hong Kong-based company, what are some of your market expansion plans and the company’s roadmap?

We do not limit ourselves in Hong Kong. After rating thousands of charities, our system is highly automated. We are ready to expand and replicate the product to other countries with no charity ratings such as Singapore and China.

Currently, only the super-rich can afford the time, money and energy to operate an office for managing charitable fund. Thus, we are going to develop a personal charity fund management tool.  Just like bringing professional computer to a personal computer, iDonate will bring the professional charitable fund management to personal charitable fund management.

We target to serve people from all countries.  Other than charities in Hong Kong, we plan to partner with other organizations such as GoodWill Bank in China, Charity Navigator in the U.S., which have the financial details of local charities. In the U.S., Fundly which matches donors with charity campaign, has raised over USD200m since 2009.

The iDonate workspace. Photo: iDonate

How is it like to work on iDonate as the sole founder and why did you not look for a partner like most startups usually do?

I just did not wait till I have all resources to start my venture.  I’d love to have a co-founder.  Being the sole founder, the upside is the quick decision making and having things move quickly.  The downside is that I would have to take care of all stuff and this can be quite distracting sometimes.

I’m blessed to have very good mentors with startup experiences to provide me with guidance and advices along the way.  Else, the path of being a sole founder would be a lot more challenging.

What would you mainly be looking for at Echelon 2012 Startup Marketplace?

We are currently raising funds to develop the personal charitable fund management platform.  Besides that, we’d also love to cooperate with other organizations and replicate the models.  We are looking for both investments and partnerships in Echelon 2012 Startup Marketplace.

In the future, we are going to be a virtual personal charitable fund manager.

iDonate will be exhibiting at Echelon 2012 Startup Marketplace. The team pitched their product at the Taiwan Satellite in April.