During the holiday season, it’s fitting to celebrate Porpoise – a Moncton startup that helps companies work with their employees to discover and promote how they are giving back together.
The startup has gone through a couple of pivots and permutations to arrive at its current form, but always kept the goal of helping people to do good in their communities. In its current form, Porpoise probes its clients’ employees to learn what they’re doing in their communities. It then helps to align the employees’ charitable aspirations with the company’s social strategy, and helps them amplify the benefits by promoting what the company and its staff are doing.
“To some extent, corporate social responsibility has been very much a marketing play, and I think one thing we’re doing is creating genuine content for these companies,” said CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams in an interview.
The company now has 14 clients, ranging from nationwide companies like the National Bank, to small and medium-sized enterprises like the OMISTA Credit Union in Oromocto, N.B. It is now in talks with more potential clients, including a couple of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.
As it works with these companies, Porpoise polls employees to learn what they’re doing to give back to their community. Kingsley-Williams most corporate social strategies are set by directors and senior managers, who usually don’t know what their employees are doing to volunteer, or what strategy the staff would like the company to follow. Porpoise democratizes corporate social responsibility by helping companies to understand what their staff would like to see the company do.
Client Engagement Manager Caleb Dow said some companies are too humble about that they do to help their communities. By sharing it with employees, the staff becomes excited and proud of the company’s efforts and help to amplify the impact.
Porpoise was originally called Ongozah – the Swahili term for everyone moving in the same direction. Working at the Venn Garage in Moncton, Co-Founders Kingsley-Williams, Denis Daigle and Dan Gillis developed a company that would help community groups crowdsource things they needed – whether it was paint for a homeless shelter or basketballs for a sports organization.
After assessing the business, the group changed tack in February of this year to focus on helping corporations work with employees on their social efforts. And it also adopted a new name, choosing Porpoise because everyone likes the marine animal and it sounds similar to “purpose”. It has helped in pitching clients.
“You can’t just say to people, ‘We’re going to give you purpose,’ but you can jokingly say, ‘We’re going to give you Porpoise,’’’ said Kingsley-Williams.
The evolution of the company will likely continue into 2017. Kingsley-Williams said the company needs to decide whether its perfect product-market-fit is helping large companies work with employees to develop social corporate responsibility policies; or working with smaller companies to do good locally. He hopes the company will continue to find clients as it answers that question.
“In a year, we want to have product-market fit,” he said. “Our goal is to be with 150 to 200 clients a year from now and they would be across North America. We’ve got the pedal to the ground and we’re trying to get some big clients.”