Turning a loss into a win

A Modi'in-based start up group wants to combine the world of on-line gambling with on-line charity.

When Assi Isac was working as a development manager for the online casino company 888, a new idea popped into his head. Why not use Internet gaming software to better mankind? Instead of gambling with money to increase one's personal profits, Isac started brewing a new concept: game playing to benefit American philanthropies. In 2006, his idea GoGiving was born. Today, the team of three is based in Modi'in, Israel, ready to launch the user-version of the site. With an investment of $600,000, the platform can be up and running within the next few months, Isac, GoGiving's CEO says. He is now collecting registered charities to sign up with the site. Although private investors seem to be "psychologically frozen," right now, says Isac, the company recently presented its idea to a room of investors and entrepreneurs at Bootcamp Ventures, an Israeli organization that helps young companies take their enterprises to the next level. GoGiving has since had some promising inquiries, he reports. "GoGiving is a fundraising platform for registered NGOs, combining two of the fastest growing markets in the online industry - online gambling, and online charities," says Isac. Although GoGiving itself is a for-profit entity, it promises those looking to collect cash for charitable purposes a much smaller fee for their online transactions. He explains: "Today, when you donate $2 by SMS, more than 50 percent of this money goes to other companies, and most goes to the ones in the middle," says Isac. "This is an outrage." GoGiving aims to give charities a better price per transaction. "We will be a central gateway," and audited by an external source like Ernst & Young or PricewaterhouseCoopers, Isac explains. GoGiving plans on collecting sums of money - all of which will eventually go to registered charities, with the money distributed as members play multi-user games against other members. Losers get a portion of their cash, or earnings from play, dedicated to charities of the winner's choice. The games, says Isac, will be competitive, and state-of-the-art, and the site will be a place where people from the gaming world will want to hang out, he assures. Providing the enabling technology for registered philanthropies to collect donations with cheaper transaction fees is just part of the story, says Isac. First of all, donations made for game play will be tax deductible in the United States, or wherever the platform is being installed. "It's a whole new attitude. We want to concentrate on people around the world. We'll be asking users: Who did you donate to and why? "For the first time, NGOs will get premium services to access potential donors. Normally, donors spend less than a minute on a website. Now they'll be spending a lot more time, with the GoGiving games and the community. This is the perfect time to offer them exclusive and targeting information," he concludes. This article appeared in its original version in Israel21c.