Combining Commerce with a Cause with fraisr

By David Knight |

“Commerce with a cause” – it’s always going to be tough to successfully combine consumption and charity, but fraisr is giving it a good go. The Berlin-based platform, which launched its beta earlier this month, is a marketplace where users can buy and sell things in support of a good cause.

Virtually anything can be sold on fraisr – which is short for ‘friend raising’ – and it is designed to allow both companies and individuals to promote giving amongst their customers/friends. The company charges a 6 percent flat fee on sales, and describe the service as a like a “good groupon with a social premium.”

The three co-founders are Alex Schwaderer, Lukas-Christian Fischer and Oskar Volkland, and their stated aim is to provide a meaningful alternative for supporting good causes. The platform is a recognisable online marketplace – and things are sold at a fixed price, not via auction – and they claim the potential is there for fraisr to become a mass phenomenon.

For companies, it is a good way to build up cause-related marketing campaigns, while the ability to make an offer private enables individuals to carefully target who they want to contribute. For example, you could hold a charity dinner at home to which you only wanted to invite people you know.

And for celebrities, it could provide a chance to build social network interaction – Lady Gaga, for instance, could sell concert tickets to her Twitter followers via fraisr with some of the proceeds going to charity.

Alex told Silicon Allee: “People are happy to like things on Facebook or whatever. But when it comes to donating money and supporting causes financially, they are not that quick to act. If you take a look at Germany, it’s kind of a special market, because people here are not big givers compared to the country’s economic power. In Germany people give €5 billion a year, but in the US it’s €160 billion.”

That’s something the fraisr team wants to change – adding doing good to normal online behaviour. There are already plenty of ways to donate online, but crucially, says Alex, they don’t fit in with the new digital age: “We want to put good causes and eBay together – currently Giving Works is the eBay charity, but it’s very old Internet; nothing to do with your friends or anything.”

The 6 percent cut taken by the startup includes VAT and is only applied once you have made a sale. But do they believe people will take to this model? “I think they will,” Alex said. “People accept that fact with existing fundraising platforms, which sometimes charge a whole lot more, and not always as transparently. There will be people who donate everything [they earn on fraisr], and it sounds a little bit unfair that we charge, but not everyone [will donate everything], and you’ll be funding the whole platform, the whole idea, with the 6 percent.”

And for companies? “It’s a good groupon with a social premium. Not 80 percent off, but more on. That’s your entry to meeting new customers. Not this crazy discount but because you share a cause.”

The competition includes the likes of Sellaround, but Alex is convinced there is nothing out there that is directly comparable to fraisr. What does exist is, he says, more about monetising Facebook friends and Twitter followers: “But they offer no additional social benefit. That’s where we come in, with something that’s lacking – a reason for friends to join you, to comment. The social relevance of just this pure action of consumption is very little. With us it is more social – you bought a Samsung printer but also helped Greenpeace.”

The six-strong team is based in Neukölln and soft-launched the platform earlier this month. It is initially focused purely on Germany. More features and improvements will be added as the team tries to find charity partners in the local markets. There are also plans to enter the key US and UK markets as quickly as possible, although that won’t happen till next year.

The three founders of fraisr