Alexandra Depledge is a tech entrepreneur and one of a growing movement of business leaders who have signed the Founders Pledge that has raised more than £106m for charity in 18 months. Through the Founders Pledge, entrepreneurs make a commitment to donate at least 2% of their personal proceeds to charity when they sell their business. Through this simple idea the Founders Pledge is able to provide tech founders and investors with a tax efficient way to do good in the world without taking time and effort away from the projects and businesses they’re working on.
When Alexandra sold her business Hassle.com, an online cleaning marketplace that matches time-strapped working professionals with local, trusted and fully vetted home cleaners, she said donating a percentage through Founders Pledge was a 'no brainer'. Here Alexandra explains why she signed up to philanthropy.
"We operate a 'pay it forward' motto at Hassle and on hearing about Founders Pledge from a friend I knew that it could help me to put that mantra into action. I already knew that I wanted my donation through Founders Pledge to go to charities that prevent human trafficking and work to improve mental health services. However, there are so many worthwhile charities deciding which could have been overwhelming. That's why Founders Pledge advocacy of high-impact giving struck such a chord with me. In everything else I do I look for measurable impact, why should giving to charity be any different? After my exit I worked with Founders Pledge to find the best charities in those areas and ensured that my donation did the most good possible."
What does philanthropy mean to you?
I strongly believe all people are equal – except that is not what I see around the world or even in UK society. Philanthropy is a way for an individual to contribute to changing that.
How would you describe your philanthropy and what is your goal?
I subscribe to effective altruism, which is using reason and data to see how you can give most effectively. One of the biggest complaints I hear levelled at charities is that too much money is wasted, spent on administering the charity, and charities consistently fail to quantify the impact they make. This movement is all about changing that, borrowing Will MacAskill words you can “do good better.”
What was your first experience of philanthropy?
I think I was 6 and I saw a photo of an emaciated pony, I started crying so hard my dad called up there and then and gave a donation
Do you feel you are making a difference? If so how?
It feels like an enormous task and it is easy to feel like it is too big and too daunting to make much of a difference, but in a small way I do feel like I am making a difference. With my exit I know that part of the money that I have donated helped to rescue 6 women from sexual slavery. Have I changed the world, no. Have I helped 6 women change their lives, yes.
Has your philanthropy had an impact on your personal or professional life?
I have a definite skew towards commerce that can deliver social good. I don’t think it is confined to social impact or charities. At Hassle.com I saw the positive impact our platform had on our cleaners lives everyday and we generated profit. It is all about the culture and the mission you bring to a business. I think younger generations need meaning in their work and so we will start to see a more ethical form of business come to the fore, one that is mission-led and driven by social impact.
Of what are you most proud?
The culture we built at Hassle.com and how successful we were at professionally developing people. We subscribed to the philosophy that all you needed to succeed at Hassle.com was the right attitude and a hunger to learn. We didn't care what university you went to or even if you had gone. Something must have worked in that approach as so many of our former employees have gone on to senior roles at other fast-growing, successful companies.
Why is philanthropy important today?
The gap between the have’s and have-nots is growing much wider both in the developed world and the developing world. I feel it is terribly unfair that people’s chances in life are dictated by where they were lucky or unlucky enough to be born.
What advice would you give to people starting out on their own journey?
Don't wait; start small as that is better than not at all.