Philanthroper, the site launched by Mark Wilson’s Panoramic Media that applies a daily deals-style ecommerce model to charitable donations, is now up for sale. Wilson announced the news via Twitter, and told us in a follow-up interview that the decision to sell was based on a lack of available time and resources to dedicate to the site. The company plans to remain active until a deal can be reached.
Wilson said that the team is finding itself stretched thin with other projects; his lead developer Bernerd Schaefer is spending more time with his German-based startup, and design partner UnitOneNine, which used to be a boutique shop, now has more business from high-profile clients, making it harder for them to devote resources to smaller projects. “Basically, all these partners have so many other responsibilities, which is a big part of the motivation [to sell],” Wilson said.
Wilson, who’s also a freelance writer and longtime contributor to tech news site Gizmodo, said that he himself isn’t stepping away from Philanthroper to tackle anything specific. “It’s not like there’s any big idea or something on the burner [...] I would just love to see someone who has some real funding take over Philanthroper and let it be as big as it can be,” he said. “In the startup world, people want to see things explode, and I think it has the potential to, with some serious funding.”
When asked whether he and his team had actively pursued any funding for Philanthroper, Wilson admitted they hadn’t. “Philanthroper has been more about building a brand, building this community,” he told us. “The whole approach has been this really, truly grassroots approach. We haven’t really be trying to monetize it.” Philanthroper does have calls out to advertisers who might be interested in working with the site, but Wilson stressed that year one was about building a level of trust with users that would make them feel comfortable using it as a go-between for charitable donations. “Maybe, in retrospect, chasing funding early on would’ve been a really good idea,” he admitted. “But I like where the site is now. The internet voice surrounding Philanthroper is different than any I’ve ever seen, and it’s more genuine,” said Wilson, referring to the tendency of commenters and pundits to take an overwhelming negative tone with a lot of his freelance writing at other outlets, and online publishing ventures in general.
As of this writing, Philanthroper counts over $130,000 in donations made through its daily offerings, which allow you to donate as little as $1 through partner PayPal to a different cause every day. “The retention we have on our product is crazy, the engagement we have is crazy,” Wilson said. “We just need more people using it, and the way to make that happen is clearly money.”
As for how much Wilson and his team is looking to make on the sale of Philanthroper, he stressed that the target number isn’t astronomically high. “We aren’t looking to make millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re selling a brand we know people trust, and I think the first year of critical legwork is out of the way.” He suggested that ideal buyers might include non-profit organizations, who would be able to use it as another fundraising vehicle.
Even industry leader Groupon is seeing its bottom line hurt as consumers get over the novelty of flash sales and daily deals, so it’s no surprise to see a similar approach aimed at soliciting donations encounter similar problems. Still, Wilson clearly has high hopes that the community and positive response to Philanthroper can be put to use by another group, who’re better able to give it the attention he believes it deserves.