Click for a cause

Cairo-based startup Bassita wants to use the power of the crowd to help build a better Middle East

When Salem Massalha and his business partner, Alban de Ménonville, first came up with their fundraising idea in 2014, they were so surprised no one had thought of it before that they named it Bassita, which means ‘simple’.

And simple it is. Bassita’s technology enables a company to track all of a campaign’s interactions on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or Instagram. Every time someone likes, shares or comments on a campaign – once it passes a specific target – a sponsor pays for the impact. They call it ‘clickfunding’.

In 2014, Massalha and de Ménonville were living in Cairo, and had been for several years. Both men are French, and Massalha has Egyptian heritage.

“When we saw the incredible impact social media had on society throughout the Arab Spring, we thought that if we could create a new model that would harness that energy to create a positive impact for society, we would have a very strong model,” Massalha says. “Many companies pay a lot of money to have visibility online, so, for us, it’s a very organic evolution of social media to allow web users, just by interacting, to create some impact.

“Social media penetration is booming in the region,” he adds. “The whole idea of clickfunding was to use this energy to create a better future and a better region.”

“We’re a for-profit social enterprise. Making money is our proof of sustainability”The format is straightforward. A client, typically a foundation or other social initiative, will approach Bassita to help promote a particular campaign or cause.

“We’re being paid for our work, and that can include creating a concept, producing a video, and tracking the campaign,” Massalha says. “What we don’t take is any commission on the funds that are raised.”

Instead, sponsors come on board, and pledge donations once the campaign reaches a certain level of popularity.

“The idea is to create a win-win-win situation,” Massalha explains. “A win for the NGO, which creates awareness and funds for its initiative; a win for the sponsor, who will pay for the amount of visibility he receives online, but also partners with the web user for a better future; and a win for the web user who, by clicking, creates a positive impact for his community.”

A campaign between Bassita and UNICEF, the UN’s children fund, involved a video starring Egyptian comedian Maged Al-Kedwany and was viewed, organically, more than 2 million times on Facebook in three days. That meant around $150,000 was raised from three sponsors – Hilton Hotels, Careem, and SC Johnson – to fund the installation of 1,000 water connections to low-income homes in Upper Egypt.  

Bassita began without any investment: “We’ve been bootstrapping since day one,” Massalha says. The company did win several prizes, which helped financially, but the decision not to raise funds was deliberate.

“We wanted to have complete freedom to develop the model,” Massalha explains. “It’s better, and easier, for us to have no [outside] influence right now. Once we’re 100 per cent confident, we will look for investors.”

It shouldn’t be difficult to find interested parties. As Massalha points out, clickfunding is very scalable. “It’s a model that can travel and scale up very easily – you can make very small campaigns or huge campaigns,” he says.

Just as crucially, Bassita has proved that clickfunding is profitable.

“We’re transparent about it; we’re a for-profit social enterprise,” Massalha says. “Making money is our proof of sustainability. I think it’s really part of the identity of a social enterprise to have two types of KPIs. The first one is the beneficiaries and the second one is profit. And neither KPI can be disconnected from the other, or you’re no longer a social enterprise.”

Within five years, Massalha hopes that clickfunding will have spread from Egypt to, well, everywhere.

“This idea, born in Cairo, has the capacity and the potential to acquire new markets in Europe, the US and the region,” he says. “The Middle East has incredible potential in terms of its creativity, education level and cultural heritage, which can be used to create a better future.”