An overview of Alex Stephany’s life as a social entrepreneur.
Charity has its advantages, though it may seem far-fetched to most, given the ROI-driven model of financing we are brought up on all through our lives. What if someone tells you that Charity has an advantage and that too in the immediate circumstances?
Alex Stephany of Britain, and today the Founder and CEO of Beam is its loudest votary whose work in the field of helping the homeless, the destitute, and the socially marginalized pick-up life skills including the right job-oriented education that’s seeing people come off the streets and temporary shelters and enter their own homes.
Besides bringing a sea of change in the way people view the destitute, it’s even changing the way the poor and the marginalized look at themselves. These besides, the real talking point of the whole exercise has been the way these have been funded. He has used crowdfunding as a means to get people to donate for a just cause which from the looks of it has moved people to reach out and help.
So successful has this project been that the likes of MIT have awarded it the Best Tech for Good in Europe, and Best Financial Inclusion Startup in Europe!
Looking back, you realize Alex always had it in him to get his hands dirty doing things most others would happily gloss over. Before Beam, it was JustPark (formerly ParkatmyHouse) where under his stewardship the company in 2015 executed the then-largest equity crowdfunding project for a start-up! It brought them GBP 3.7 million in just four days against their target of GBP 1 million!
Later in the year, they won Virgin Media’s ‘Pitch to Rich’ competition that saw Richard Branson on the judging panel. As for the company’s app itself, it today assists nothing less than a million folks in Britain to find ideal parking spaces which is a boon to everyone from drivers to property owners!
Stephany is as British as it gets. Growing up in North London, he attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Boys and graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford with a First Class in English Language and Literature. Training to be a corporate lawyer, he switched lines into management consultancy before joining JustPark in 2011 to become its CEO in 2012.
Stephany’s passion lies in a field that is slowly but surely finding its place under the sun as a means of bringing perceptible, positive, and permanent change in society. The concept of “sharing economy sees him write authoritatively and extensively in the media both in the UK and US for known entities including The Guardian and The LA Times.
Besides writing, he openly espouses his causes which include entrepreneurship, the use of technology, the sharing economy, and government policies in regard to these. His book, ‘The Business of Sharing’ which’s said to include interviews of founders of Airbnb, Zipcar, VCs including Robin Klein and Fred Wilson is said to be quite a hit for obvious reasons.
They say winners don’t necessarily do different things. It’s more likely that they do things differently. Stephany fits this description to the T. Where he could ask for donations for the homeless, he instead crowdfunds the same besides requesting corporates sponsorships. And while donations in the normal way go to feed and clothe the destitute, Alex Stephany’s Bean believes in giving them employable skills.
Take the case of Tony, Beam’s first beneficiary. For a start, Tony himself wasn’t too sure if it would work. Perseverance and solid conviction helped, and Tony garnered close to GBP 4500 from over a hundred supporters! It has helped him attain an education in electricals, find a stable job and most of all, move into HIS own home!
The Beam experiment is thus Stephany all the way! It’s tough and needs tenacity. Yet, it’s social, scalable, and has a lot in the name of science. Anyone who wants to get help first has to register on Beam’s website which involves telling the world their story and why they should be helped. In a way, it brings transparency to all their activities with every penny being accounted for. Data being central to their operations, Stephany sees this as the perfect way to help people where they come forward with their needs, and the world supports them- with everything being recorded in real-time.
As for benefactors and donors, the Beam experiment is different because donors read about those asking for help, about Beam, and if all seems ok, they even take up the cause before others ready to help!
On a more personal note, Stephany the social entrepreneur has a side to him that complements his social image. He travels extensively, plays the guitar, and is a regular with yoga, all of which have more than their share to play in making him who he is, an entrepreneur to whom people come before profits!