By: Augusta Dwyer, Published Wednesday, Aug. 01 2012, 6:00 AM EDT
Sunjit Khamba was preparing for his end-of-year MBA exams at Wilfrid Laurier’s School of Business and Economics when, like so many other young entrepreneurs with a sudden brainwave, he came up with the idea for a new Web-based company.
The concept, he said, was to play around with the donations to charities and non-profits by corporations as part of their social and environmental responsibility mandates. He would entice people to vote on how those funds should be distributed, in a process “kind of like American Idol,” he said.
The business plan sat in a drawer for a few years until a year and half ago, when Mr. Khamba, 30, redesigned it as a Facebook application and garnered 3,500 users. He decided to expand that into an online company, I Am Mpowered.
“We were restricted with the Facebook environment and so we created a new app that could work with all the other social media and networking sites,” he said. “What this allows us to do is not compete with all these sites, but sit on top of them and leverage their viral marketing capabilities.”
Innovative enterprises that build on or transform existing Internet businesses are increasingly common in the heady world of consumer-based start-ups, both in Canada and around the world. At JOLT, for example, an incubator dedicated to building Web and mobile businesses and part of the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, 80 per cent of applicants to the program intended to expand on, facilitate or introduce such new platforms.
To build his start-up, Mr. Khamba has targeted larger firms with a focus on both corporate social responsibility and social media, he said. I Am Mpowered helps them select a pool of anywhere from three to five laudable projects and non-profits, and invites the public to plump for their choice. If a user would like to see more money go to environmental conservation, for example, he or she can click on that and vote.
Personal convictions and passions are driving the creativity of many of the new entrepreneurs with which she has worked. In Mr. Khamba’s case, as well, his Sikh faith had a lot to do with his coming up with a company that not only has the potential to be profitable “but one that’s involved in some kind of social good,” he said. “It’s one of our core beliefs,” he said, “that no matter what you do, you have to have something in your life where you are giving back.”
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