We have seen first hand how local Dutch communities have been affected by the COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing measures. Though necessary, these measures have been detrimental to local businesses and their employees. Millions of people are now without income. We wanted to work together to figure out how we could support local communities and their businesses. We began to explore an array of support models that could lend a helping hand and after several iterations, Raft was built.
What it does
Raft is the not-for-profit small business support platform, which supports local businesses to raise capital, seek professional services, exchange business strategies, and maintain customer loyalty.
The foundation of the platform will be its core relief funding mechanism: a crowdfunding service that enables communities to support local businesses by purchasing future services (Relief Rewards) in exchange for immediate capital (Relief Funds). There is no cost to the local businesses to list their services on Raft. You might be thinking, “How is this different from a gift card model?” Relying solely on a gift card scheme as your core business model has risks. So we are taking it up a couple notches.
The complexity of keeping businesses afloat is much larger than just solving the immediate cash flow issue. We are designing our service to ensure business continuity through, and after, this COVID-19 crisis. We are partnering with financial consulting firms to develop industry-specific Reward Relief schemes that alleviate present and future cash flow challenges.
Our holistic focus on helping local businesses keep afloat is what sets us apart and will allow us to scale the service for maximum impact. Speed is our highest priority. Businesses don’t need help tomorrow, they need help now. You can learn more about the complete support ecosystem we are building here: link
How I built it
Raft is still under construction. We recently invested a large sum from personal savings to begin development. We are working around the clock to get to market in ~ two weeks.
We need your help. Raft’s founding team is a cohesive unit with expertise in the commercial, operational and go-to-market aspects of operating an organization. We are looking for technical guidance to ensure this platform can appropriately scale to maximize our impact . You can learn about the team here: link
Challenges I ran into
The biggest challenges are resource availability and technical guidance. We are racing against time to save businesses. For Raft to move at the necessary speed, we need resources: funding, and people.
Finding a development partner that could support the development of a robust MVP in less than two weeks was quite challenging. We are now recruiting a technical lead who will drive the service past its MVP stage; we must ensure the stability and scalability of the Raft platform. The lack of a technical lead is one of our biggest risks as an organization.
We view this hackathon as a beacon to share our story and mission with the Facebook Developer Community.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The speed at which we are operating.
I came up with the idea of Raft on March 24th. As of today, March 30th, we have accomplished the following:
- Architected a complete solution and go to market strategy that maximizes impact
- Launched our website with a detailed plan of how we will accomplish our vision
- Entered partnership discussions with Treatwell, Deliveroo and Stripe to help accelerate our efforts
- Initiated collaboration with financial consulting firms for future business models to ensure business continuity for local businesses
- Partnered with a software develop company who can deliver our MVP in the desired timeframe of 2 weeks
- Established partnerships with top Dutch and English law firms to support the incorporation of the organization, manage Raft’s tax obligations, and draft guidance documents for small businesses to correctly navigate the tax implications of using Raft in their respective nations.
What I learned
That people are eager to help. We have received overwhelming positive response from partners, local businesses and members of the community who are excited by Raft and want to help their community in any way.
There is no way we could have moved this quickly without the dedication and compassion of others. It has only been five days and we have accomplished so much. We want to keep going and need your help to do so.
What's next for Raft
Raft’s future is divided into a series of phases.
Phase 1a: Incorporation of non-profit organization in the Netherlands (NL) and the UK Launch of core crowdfunding service in NL and the UK. Target launch date is April 12th.
Phase 1b: Launch of the Raft Fund, a fund matching scheme to further inject cash into local businesses. The Raft Fund will be funded by partnerships with large donors and businesses.
Phase 2a: Launch of the Raft Community Forum, an online community fostering collaboration of local businesses on key failures and successes, best practices, useful strategies, learnings and more. Expansion to the United States and other European countries.
Phase 2b: Launch of the Raft Professional Network, a platform where local professionals may donate their professional services (e.g. tax law, accounting, consulting) to local businesses. Continue expansion
Phase 3:Collaboration with local governments to launch complementary initiatives to encourage the small business community to flourish.
We truly appreciate you taking the time to consider our submission. We hope you found the brief history and future plans for Raft inspiring. We are deeply committed to helping our local communities. We are looking for sharp individuals who are just as committed to helping as we are. We recognize this is an unusual hackathon submission. Regardless of the outcome, we would be so grateful if you could spread the word about Raft.
If you are interested in working with Raft, you can reach out here: link