20-year old UStart participant James Gallagher from Ratoath in County Meath is a 3rd year Computer Applications student at DCU and the founder of social enterprise GiveBack.ie together with his girlfriend Victoria Ryan-Nesbitt.
GiveBack.ie is an online platform that enables Irish consumers to help some of the most vulnerable people in society by simply shopping online. As consumers shop, they are generating revenue which is donated to homeless charities.
In this piece, James explains the background to his idea and how the UStart programme is helping him to take it to the next level.
“I have been building websites and apps since I was ten years old. As a teenager, I got involved in affiliate marketing, running advertising campaigns for small local Irish companies – literally making money while I slept.
I decided to get out of it though as I didn’t find it very rewarding. As a middle man, I wasn’t creating anything of value. I got bored and decided I wanted to combine my interests in this area with doing good. I wanted to have a real impact and see it through.
People care about causes they are close to, like cancer, where everybody probably knows somebody who has been impacted by it. I wanted to raise funds for a cause that would help people that don’t have a voice – that’s how we decided to work on tackling homelessness.
GiveBack.ie came about last summer when we had the idea to install something on a user’s device that works in the background and when the user makes a purchase, we receive a commission which is passed on to homeless charities. The beauty is that it doesn’t cost anybody anything extra to do this.
I had affiliate connections with a lot of retailers so we brought them together and they got on board with the idea so we started building the desktop extension. Around this time, I first heard about UStart. The mentoring on offer really appealed to us. We also hoped to get funding to help us build a mobile app and to find another co-founder with marketing experience.
The programme has definitely lived up to expectations – we have gotten help to build our mobile app which will be ready to launch this October and we have added another co-founder Seán Judge. One unexpected benefit for me has been the extent that I have learned from the other UStart participants and how they tackle their own challenges.
The best thing about UStart has probably been the mentoring though from helping us to craft our story to looking at finance. UStart has really taken us to the next level of where we need to be and it has also helped us become more connected to the start-up ecosystem.”