by kevtsoi

This is an official annoucement from the Well of Change team that we are shutting down our operations effective immediately. It has been an amazing journey with everyone these past couple of years, and I want to thank all of our supporters from the bottom of my heart. Our vision for WoC was to create a new way for people to contribute to their favourite charity or non profit. Although we were unable to achieve this goal, I truly hope that someone will. So, I want to spend these last few minutes sharing what we’ve learned in hopes that someone else will take the next step in carrying forward this vision.

One of the key assumptions we had for Well of Change was that we would create a whole new class of services and transactions that could not exist in the current marketplace.  For example, I would never think to teach someone how to code or play the guitar for money, but for charity I’d do it. Works the same on the demand side as well. On Well of Change, I paid for services that I otherwise wouldnt have bought. Money is going to a good cause and I also get something in return like learning to speak mandarin or how to make sweet and sour pork, so why not? We actually proved a part of this assumption correct with our Skills Drive. For those who havent attended one of our Skills Drive events, it is an in person event where we have our attendees essentially sell their skills to each other, with the money raised going to charity. The purpose of these events was to short circuit all the hurdles of the web matching process (user experience, chicken and egg problem, conversions, etc) and get straight to the heart of the matter, which was to match people and have them transact.  Our events were successful at the matching portion, and to a certain extent, the transaction portion (alot of people paid for services up front). The issue that we did not forsee was that a large percentage of the transactions would not complete, even in the cases where they were already paid for. Even worst, we had an extremely high churn rate, which intuitively made sense since many of our users didnt even fully complete their first transaction. We tried a whole bunch of things to convert those transactions (and I’m sure theres a ton of other things we could have done), but to no avail. What I started to realize and now believe to be the issue is that many of the services offered and purchased were just not that important to our users.  They were mostly for fun and on the low priority list.  So our advantage of being able to match people (because of the “what the heck its for charity” motive) also became our achille’s heel as these types of transactions were not important enough to be completed. Crap!

What I would do differently:

What I’ve come to realize is that just because you have the skills to do something, doesnt mean you can make a service out of it. I am a skilled programmer, but I dont know the first thing about teaching a class on it. I would have to market my class, sell it to interested clients, figure out what and how to teach, and a whole bunch of other things to make the experience a positive one for both my students and myself.  These are all real barriers for someone to convert their skills into an offering.  With WoC, we were able to remove the friction for someone to agree to doing it, but it doesnt eliminate the barriers.  As mentioned with WoC, we focused on things that were as far away from already existing services as possible. Next time around, I would focus on the opposite end of the spectrum, either on existing service providers, or on converting individuals who are very close to it and try to help them with the transition.  Its really important for the buyers to value the services as well. Getting a yes and payment just doesnt cut it. You need happy and repeating customers, and the only way to do that is to make sure that the services are of high value and are actually important to the customer.

There’s tons more challenges that we came across, but it would take forever to document all of them. That’s also the beauty of being a first time entrepreneur.  I was naivy enough to just dive in. Had I know all the problems ahead of time, would I have jumped? Maybe its best to let someone commit first, and only after do you spin all the beans.  I’ve actually seen a couple of very promising new sites that carry a very similar vision to ours. Hopefully, we can see this vision come to fruition.


Kevin Tsoi