In the first installment of our online web event with Polish software development company Netguru, One Tribe CEO Ric Porteus talks us through One Tribe’s roots – both our business roots, and the roots of trees we save.
It wasn’t always plain sailing for One Tribe, and even today it’s no easy feat for the brand to overcome climate change. Ric describes the business journey, and how he and the team overcame the initial setbacks to make One Tribe a success.
Welcome to episode 16 of ‘Disruption Talks’. It’s 10 am central-eastern time and I’m checking in from Warsaw with you. So today is much like 2 weeks ago and we’re going to be discussing a little bit about sustainability.
I’m pretty much sure that all of you are tired of the greenwashing done by some companies. Having some campaigns about planting trees and other things that are supposed to make them look good. But, when it comes to the actual impact, it’s not measurable, it’s not there, and it’s just PR.
So what we’re experiencing now is a major shift. You might have heard in the news today about Jaguar Land Rover. They have announced that by 2025 they will be changing all of their cars to an all-electric setup. So that doesn’t mean that they will destroy all their regular engine cars, but from 2025, which is very soon, they will be releasing electric cars only and adjusting also the entire car setup. So there are fewer models and less carbon footprint.
Joining us today is Ric, from One Tribe Global, who actually has a platform that allows you to boost sales, due to sustainability and due to the importance of environmental sustainability. So, not one at the expense of the other, but rather a beautiful synergy between experiencing a sales spike and also doing some good stuff for the world.
Filip: “What made you decide to launch a climate action platform?”
Ric: “Well, I suppose frustration. Like most entrepreneurs getting into a new startup it’s out of your own frustration and seeing a huge need in this space. Over the last 15 years I’ve been working in the tech space in consumer marketing. We were trying to work out how businesses can take part in climate action. Generally they don’t, and they don’t do it because it’s not profitable.”
Ric: They may make a donation like a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility donation) in the shareholder report at the end of the year, to keep the shareholders happy. It’s more of a little stamp of approval and it doesn’t really do anything. We’re aware of that and what we wanted to do and what we saw of this was the opportunity if we can make it profitable for businesses to donate to charities and to back climate action projects then we’re gonna be able to create a movement.
We’ve spent a huge amount of time trying to work out how to make it profitable for businesses to donate on a daily or weekly basis. So that need was there that the frustration of it not being a profitable reason why climate action should happen for a business, and why they should, other than by making their supply chain sustainable. Why should they do more, to contribute and help, and take part in climate action projects? It’s purely out of frustration that there’d be no solutions to how to do that.
Understand the reasons why to do it and to help businesses do this work profitably, that’s really why we saw the opportunity. And it’s a vast opportunity and that’s what we’re tapping into.
Filip: So it’s essentially a personal belief and market calculation, right? It just makes sense to do it but also it’s something that struck a personal accord with you, right?
Ric: Absolutely! It came to me whilst still working in festivals. I was working in music events globally, constantly trying to figure out how to get people to buy tickets through eCommerce systems and points of sale. I then started looking for a solution that would allow us to give back to a charity at the purchase point. Whenever anyone is going to a festival or event globally they all come together at one point to make a similar purchase.
And that’s to make a transaction through a system, purchasing their insurance to be at an event. It’s at that point that they are most engaged. And it’s at that point that and it’s at that point that they’re ready to take action. Where they’re enthused that they’re gonna have a great time.
It’s like all the friends together and that was the sort of the main point where we thought if we can access that, if we can make a charitable donation at that point, we’re gonna get a massive take up.
Ric: So that’s why we started out to do that. At the time I was looking for, what would be generalized? So if we’ve got festivals in Australia, the U.S, the U.K. What can we do that’s generalized? It’s not too low location specific and that’s where climate action came in, and for climate action, it’s about protecting rainforest and regeneration.
So 10 years ago that’s where this concept came from. We’ve been in this a long time. We’re constantly evolving, moving around different types of projects, but it’s purely about rainforest protection, which is the fastest way to sequester carbon and protect the planet.
“Rainforest protection is the fastest way to sequester carbon and protect the planet.”
Filip: O.K. So, that’s a valuable insight as to why you decided to focus on the rainforest because it actually has the greatest output in terms of the benefit for the climate and you spoke of evolution. That’s what I wanted to ask you- back in 2019, when we worked originally on One Tribe, it was a different animal than it is right now, right? Could you share the story of that pivot?
Ric: Yeah it’s been a roller coaster. Where we started out was just as I touched upon a moment ago. In my life and the story of One Tribe was all about physical activity. I am an ex-marketing director for an organization called the Pasha Group, which is based in Ibiza. I lived there for 10-12 years. I was running festival events for Pasha globally running all the marketing, customer engagement, and predominantly the digital technology behind the business.
So what happened is that we started out by developing the actual system we’ve built with you guys (referring to Filip and the Net Guru team). A QR code generator with a chatbot attached to it, with a customizable SaaS business software as a service to businesses. This would allow any business, like coffee shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, festivals, and events to create their own chatbot, accessible by a QR code.
Ric continues: So you would generate your QR code and put it on your menus in a restaurant, on the walls in your clubs, or on the back of tickets. You could then scan that QR code which would take you it’s a fun chatbot that would talk to you about saving trees. And if a consumer provided their email address they could take climate action instantly by joining the tribe.
So there’s a whole mechanism about getting people to use the phone to scan a menus scanner poster or scan an advert in a newspaper, with a whole system built behind that. You guys built incredible products for us and then along comes Covid!
We had nearly 300 events penciled in last year, in New York, in Tulum in Mexico, in Ibiza, and of course, loads going on predominantly in the UK. That was supposed to be our launch to market, with every single ticket sold going to save the rainforest.
The customers would scan the ticket, scan the event and scan the drink to give support directly, and we’d also grow the venue or the nightclub’s data in exchange for rainforest protection. And then Covid came along and destroyed all the events. And did it like 100%, not one or two, but a complete wipeout. We were launching in February and it completely wiped out that entire business model, with no eye insight of when it was going to come back.
So we were sort of sitting there thinking: great. We’ve just invested. We’ve built this product. We’ve got all the clients on board and we’re ready to go. Then straight into total lockdown.
So we sat there with 2 options.
Ric: Our tech, really what it is an API system. We sit in the middle. So you’ve got businesses above and we sit in the middle, connecting to NGOs and charities dealing with climate action. We funnel donations through us and we calculate the value. The API connects to the transaction systems and funds the charity.
So when someone buys a product they sign up for a newsletter it triggers off and saves 10 trees or 25 trees depending on what their conservation efforts are and we calculate that. Then they get invoiced and we transfer the money to charity.
So this concept which we have now was in our minds and how we do this kind of eCommerce. Some of the platforms we were working with, the ticketing systems, also sell online, so it’s like if we can get them physically let’s try online as well.
Luckily we had that concept there and I think by the middle of March (2019) we decided we needed to pivot in this direction. By April/ May we fleshed out how we were going to do it and what the tech was.
We’d already burned through most of our investment on the previous business and we sort of went to the mattresses so they say, dug down deep, and started frantically building a completely new business. In every way, you can imagine there was there was it was just completely different, and that took us several months to get right.
Ric: We had a very basic MVP I would say in September. We were still doing everything manually with a client, manually emailing them to secure a digital signature, then getting our developer to actually integrate them live into their system. It was a complete mess and an absolute nightmare for Tom Rickey.
He had to deal with the brunt of that customer pain and if you’re trying to grow a business you’re trying to grow a SaaS business and you don’t have a SaaS, it’s an absolute headache. So, putting a long story short, we pivoted and it wasn’t until September time that we started finding out who our customer persona was. Then really digging deep into that during October and November, probably gaining traction in December.
It’s all still in its early stages but we’re very thankful we’ve got some great investors, and there are some other people behind us or in the wider team that are helping us to really dig deep. We’re all now about to hit the traction stage trying to grow it as fast as possible and getting some incredible brands joining.
Extreme TV, which is international, they just joined with their new product, which is going live shortly. We have Swisse, which is Australia’s biggest vitamin brand. Who else? Karma drinks! There’s just a ton of amazing clients that have really got behind this very quickly and so hopefully this year’s gonna be better than last year. As long as there isn’t a lockdown number 3 or 4! Fingers crossed.
Filip: Yeah, we hope for that as well. We actually want Pasha in Poland as well so I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s an interesting pivot personally right from the clubbing space into the sustainability space and I’m really glad because I think this is like the third or the fourth story we’re hearing on disruption talks of successful pivots. I’m really glad that you are recovering and that this worked out for you.
In the next blog release, we reveal part 2 of the Netguru interview. Ric and Filip converse about how the concept of One Tribe was taken beyond a theoretical idea and molded into the brand it has become today. Through effective marketing and great partnerships, the word of One Tribe began to spread faster than they could have ever imagined…
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