After visiting a children’s school he donated to in Ghana, Great.com founder Erik Bergman has learned that giving money away is much more satisfying than making it – and he wants to share that lesson with the world.
Listing Catena Media on the Swedish stock exchange at £200m fulfilled Erik Bergman’s boyhood dream of becoming wildly rich, but it is his new project, Great.com, that he hopes will deliver his adulthood ambition to be truly happy. Or at least, that’s the plan.
After seeing the result of a $13,000 donation to set-up a new school in Ghana, Bergman has been inspired not only to continue giving his hard-earned wealth away, but also to show others how valuable the gift of giving can be. So in 2016 he quit the listed-company game, and acquired the Great.com domain after bidding a whopping $900,000. This, however, is only the beginning of a story that Bergman hopes will last at least half a century, in which time he wants to build something that can’t simply be bought at auction.
“Great.com has three parallel missions that all add into one; make the biggest possible positive impact over the next 50 years,” explained Bergman. “To be able to do this we believe the best way is to donate as much money as possible, in the most efficient way possible, and at the same time inspire others to do similar things. These are all very complex topics. So far in my life I’ve focused only on the ‘making money’ part. The last two years I’ve focused a lot on the most efficient way to donate and making an impact. Right now, there is a lot of focus on how to tell these stories.”
Bergman wants to have a very “businessy” approach to this – an approach he believes may be missing within many of the more traditional charitable organisations that exist. He wants to carefully plan, successfully execute, and regularly evaluate his project’s storytelling-ability, ensuring that it reaches maximum engagement and maximum impact. It’s about creating a company that not only conveys a clear message to those who contribute, but also evokes visceral emotion from both customers and employees.
“I want to create a workplace where everyone is being able to use their passion for the best possible purpose. If someone is a developer for example, I want him to be able to use his development passion to focus on a project that is hyper commercial, that makes a lot of money, and then gives it all away in a very number oriented and thought through process,” continued Bergman. “The most efficient charities out there save children’s lives for about $2500. This is how much it costs to do it on a large scale, mathematically, with all factors weighed into it. If a company then makes $2500 per month in profit on each employee and donates all of this to a charity like this, it means that thanks to this developer alone, he saves one life per month, just going to work and pursuing his passion. Can you think of a more valuable reason to work?”
Bergman explained that this is would apply to any role in the company, from the developers and designers, to the customer support and sales team. Indeed, he wants everyone at Great.com to have – and feel – a great sense of purpose.
“The next vision with this is making everyone really feel that they are doing this,” implored Bergman. “It’s easy to say: “I donated money, I saved a life”. It’s hard to really feel it in your chest. That part would be about visiting the places we support on a regular basis. Hopefully everyone in the project could do a journey like this every year. Meeting the people that have gotten our help. Hearing their stories and being able to share them to inspire others. Being able to feel the impact they are making and see it with their own eyes.”
Of course, before any of this can take place, Bergman has to build another scalable business under the Great.com brand. Catena Media will not be involved in this venture, so the 29 year old entrepreneur will essentially be starting from scratch – but still in the space he knows best.
“The making money part of this is going to be affiliation. In its early stages this will be about iGaming. This is what I know, and this is where I see us making the fastest progress,” he acknowledged. “Over time I see this becoming an affiliate for anything. This is part of the choice of name. “Great” can apply to casino, at the same time it can apply to anything from batteries and gadgets to travel and insurance.”
However, while creating a profitable company in such a competitive marketplace always takes hard work, it’s not what Bergman perceives to be his biggest challenge. Indeed, a successful affiliate only need persuade people to buy other companies products, whereas Great.com is being built to inspire.
“I want to give this gift to others, the gift of giving. I think that people are not going to do what you say, but they might do what you do – especially if they see that it makes you happy. I want to create this project and I want to be happy along the way. I want as many people as possible to see that I’m happy doing this – and feel inspired to do the same thing. Hopefully they will succeed, feel happier themselves and the joy will spread while more and more people in need get help,” concluded Bergman. “The challenge I found trickiest to solve is how to talk about charity in an inspiring way without anyone feeling guilt. Most media about charity includes a lot of suffering, and is really hard to watch without feeling guilty for not doing more. I want to find a way to talk about it that gives people hope, which in turn will inspire them to help.”
Learn more about Erik’s Great.com journey at erikbergman.se.