After selling his last startup to Blackberry, Alexandre and his wife took their children out of school for nearly a year and travelled to over 13 countries — Bangkok, Moscow, Mongolia, Sydney, Hawaii and others. The purpose of this journey was to meet with as many nonprofits and philanthropists around the globe as possible, as Alexandre wanted to truly understand the philanthropic ecosystem and find out how he could get involved. He spent a lot of time with NGO directors, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs, identifying problems the whole philanthropic market was facing and finding ways to address those problems with effective solutions. That’s when Alexandre realised what he really needed to do — and how: having donors with lots of capacity and big, powerful networks, who wanted to do more but didn’t know where to start or who to trust was his key point. Using more than 20 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur, Alexandre started innovating the nonprofit space.
Epic Foundation — a non-profit aiming to improve charitable giving — was created in 2014. Now it has 36 agencies in 13 countries around the globe and reaches a younger millennial audience that Alexandre believes is one of the most socially engaged generations that has existed. Carefully selecting the agencies he chooses to fund through Epic, Alexandre focuses on impact, operations and leadership — that’s why the current number of agencies was chosen from 3500 candidates.
Headquartered in NYC, Epic Foundation has its offices in Paris, London, Brussels, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangkok and San Francisco. Epic’s main goal is to support children and youth globally and to achieve that, the company also works on bridging the gap between the new generation of donors, NGOs and social enterprises. Here’s another important number: 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to Epic’s portfolio of organisations aimed at helping children in such fields as health, education, protection and employment. Epic aims to make the overall process of giving as easy as possible, making the disposition of donations transparent along the way.
Alexandre understood the demands of a new socially conscious generation and found a solution by creating a platform where donors can engage in their charity through technology, allowing them to select, monitor and experience their impact. Offering an entirely new concept when it comes to charity, Alexandre changed the way it was perceived. The new platform that he created provided an amazing opportunity to manipulate traditional consumer’s technology and gave donors a novel approach, allowing them to see the reach of their donations, ultimately driving them towards a two-way relationship with their charity.
Now, Epic Foundation is a place where, as Alexandre says, they are disrupting the giving industry by proposing and providing innovative solutions — something that was never an option before. Breaking down old barriers is always a tough mission, but when it comes to charity — even more so. Charity processes can seem tangled and vague, causing unnecessary time and many additional problems that people usually face once they want to donate money.
Epic’s working principals are quite easy — otherwise, this platform would not be called a disruptor in this field. It builds and manages a portfolio of rigorously vetted social organisations, then tracks and monitors their social impact through a data platform, and, above all, keeps donors connected and engaged with the portfolio organisations through ongoing reporting or performance and accountability with a help of a mobile application. What’s even more interesting is that Alexandre funds Epic’s development and overhead costs by himself, and this also means that donors don’t have to pay any costs by themselves. At first, Epic Foundation has targeted only wealthy people and companies. But in March a new platform called Epic Generation was launched, and it enabled anybody to donate to charity — even if it’s just a small amount.
With the launch of the Epic Generation, Alexandre stands by his words: “the amount you give to charity must depend on what you can afford to give. Try to define your level of pain regarding giving — when you’re 27, it’s different from when you’re 35. If it starts hurting you, it’s no longer joyful. At Epic we want to make giving the norm because we don’t want just the Gates and Zuckerbergs of the world doing all the work. Don’t think that you must become Gates to start this. Don’t think that if you are not working at the UN, you cannot be someone who will have an impact on the world. It’s easy.” Alexandre claims that making a social impact should be easy and painless, and Epic works on enabling everyone at all levels of industry, providing the right tools to make a real difference.
Alexandre is more than sure that companies around the globe are doing a poor job of engaging their employees in their impact. Things have changed now, and global businesses should find alternatives when it comes to social responsibility as well: the first and most crucial step, as Alexandre says, is to understand that employees are no longer interested in employer-provided health care — they care about making a difference in the world. This would be a great beginning of a new social disruption. Alexandre sees it as a new turn of young, socially conscious individuals that want to make a difference, having clear missions in their minds, disrupting all aspects of society.
It seems like Christian Dior agrees with Alexandre Mars on this one, as the company now offers its employees the opportunity to “round off” their salary in order to support two of the social organisations in the Epic portfolio: the first one is M’Lop Tapang in Cambodia, which protects children’s rights and health, and promotes economic emancipation for about 7 thousand children in Sihanoukville, and the second company is SNEHA in India, which provides health care for more than 52 thousand children in Mumbai up to the age of 24.
Alexandre is certain that things in the philanthropy sector are about to change, as today’s generation is different and want more than just a paycheck: they want to do good. “The Millennials want this social disruption to make things better. Today’s generation doesn’t belong to one state, but to one mindset. We need to engage this generation that wants to do good.” Alexandre is ready to translate feelings into solutions and contributions, making sure that giving money to charity is easy, painless, systematic, optional and transparent.
If you are also one of those people who did not believe that such words could be used to describe charity and philanthropy, then it looks like Alexandre’s disruption of this industry is successful. He also says that “business can’t do well without doing good” — and if that’s the case, Epic is about to become the most successful company of all time.
“Giving has to give you joy, nothing else.” Meet Alexandre Mars — a serial entrepreneur, an engaged philanthropist and a man who wants to change the way we all — or at least most us — think of donating to charity. Numbers are impressive in this case: over the last 15 years, Alexandre has successfully launched and sold several companies in Europe and North America across different business sectors — think venture capital, Internet, mobile marketing, social media and advertising. Often dubbed the “French Bill Gates”, Alexandre is on a serious mission, wanting to ensure that 100 percent of philanthropists’ money reaches the people it is meant to reach. But let’s start from the very beginning of this story — and man, it is good.
Alexandre is 41-years-old now and made much of his wealth as a serial entrepreneur, creating over five online and mobile marketing companies that were later sold to Publicis Groupe and Blackberry.
He grew up feeling a significant impact from his mother, who was always helping people: “I grew up within that kind of spirit, and that’s why very quickly I said to myself, ‘How can I help other people?’” That’s when his story began, and Alexandre admits that he always wanted to use his success for worthy causes, as that’s how he was raised from an early age. Picturing his life as a quest to fulfil this goal, Alexandre wanted to create something good and efficient for social wealth, as well as create a way to empower everybody to give charity.