An Israeli start-up has created the world’s first crowd-cleaning platform designed to incentivize users to clean up the environment.
The CleanCoin app, launched five weeks ago in Israel, allows users to easily report or clean up trash piles around them and earn prizes.
“I knew I wanted to create a company that would do good for the world, and I had a lot of ideas,” said Gal Lahat, the company’s 21-year-old co-founder and CTO. “I travel a lot and feel very connected to nature, and it is heartbreaking when you encounter a big pile of litter in a beautiful spot or see a fish trapped in plastic bags. I had an idea that I thought would be simple to implement and have a really big impact.”
The app is simple to use. When you see a pile of litter outdoors, you can take pictures and upload them to the app, where they are tagged on a map and automatically given a score. Then you can either clean up the pile yourself or leave it for someone else to clean. Whoever cleans it up can report it to the system and earn “CleanCoins,” which can be exchanged for real-life rewards.
“The rewards are actually quite worthwhile and pay better than food delivery,” Lahat said. “It comes out to about NIS 10 for one trash bag, which can take about two minutes to fill. We offer some virtual rewards, like upgrading your avatar on the app and things like that. But we also offer great physical rewards, like a free night stay at Abraham Hostels or free clothing from Billabong.”
Rewards are the product of agreements the company has made with suppliers, and many prominent brands have been more than happy to cooperate, Lahat said, adding: “We have deals with travel companies, surf clubs, wall-climbing centers, Azrieli and more.”
Cash payouts may also be possible in the future through partnerships with local municipalities, he said.
The reception of the app since its launch last month has been overwhelming, said Adam Ran, CleanCoin’s co-founder and CEO. About 18,000 users have already downloaded and registered on the app, with more joining every day.
“It is amazing how quickly this has taken off,” he said. “Everyone wants to help out and be involved.”
The company is based in Haifa and is supported by the IN-VENTech accelerator program, which first matched Lahat and 35-year-old Ran and also helped the team secure grants.
A seed-investment round is now in the works and is open to investments of $100,000 or more from people whose approach is in line with the founders’ philosophy. The company currently has nine employees, with many of them working on a volunteer basis until funding is raised.
There is still much to learn, Gal said.
“This phase is very experimental,” he said. “We are learning every day, validating assumptions, trying to understand the local market better and preparing for entering the global market. Once we have the whole system together, it is very easy to scale.”
The team has already been approached by organizations in Mexico, Holland, Belgium and other countries, Gal said, adding that the app is currently only available for download in Israel.
“We are developing formulas to improve how we evaluate how much a particular trash pile is worth and how well people cleaned,” Lahat said. “One of the most challenging aspects right now is developing a fraud-detecting mechanism to make sure people can’t try to trick us to get free points.”
Lahav and Ran said they hope the app will slowly help bring about behavioral change in people.
“We are not just looking to change the world in one day,” Ran said. “We want people to make this a part of their life. People aren’t going to clean up if they feel like a friar [sucker] afterward. We want to connect ecology with the community to make the world a better place.”