Qipoqo, a Startup Built on Help

Help is a valuable asset. I vividly remember the first time I moved out of my family home into a student flat packed with boxes and furniture. Fortunately I could count on close friends, who helped me out. However when I moved to Barcelona last year, I was not so lucky. It was too far for my friends to come and I didn’t yet know a soul there. Thus in the midst of blazing summer heat I had to carry my newly bought Ikea furniture across 4 levels on a narrow staircase and assemble it all on my own.

My Co-founder Céline Schmahl and me

Still Barcelona was where my startup journey really began. It was in that beautiful city where I met my Co-founder Céline, studying innovation & entrepreneurship. Both passionate about entrepreneurship and full of ideas, we were not satisfied only learning about innovation, but wanted to create and start something of our own. So we thought back to the stress of moving and how much easier it is with help. The good thing about friends is that when you help them there is an unwritten agreement that they will do the same for you. But many times no friend is around and a tight budget doesn’t allow for paying a professional either. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to extend your circle of friends and people that help with these tasks; not only moving, but also reading over your master thesis, taking photos or helping with that crashed computer?

Thus the idea was born to create a swapping system for tasks, qipoqo (derived from lat. “this for that”). Instead of money qipoqo is based on virtual helping points and the notion of receiving help in return for help. This enables members to swap tasks they can’t do for those that they enjoy. Hence they spend their time more wisely, without paying a lot of money to hire a professional. At the same time they can meet new and interesting people.

Soon we realized that there was a whole community around sharing online and offline, which was becoming stronger and stronger. We got familiar with the system of Timebanks, popular especially in smaller towns in Europe and the US. One took place in a Spanish village only a few kilometers from our school. What we instantly loved about this concept was the involvement of young and old people from the most different backgrounds helping each other out. But we also saw several flaws related to these systems: the local and offline nature limiting the range of members and skills, as well as the rather unprofessional non-profit organization with a complicated matching process and an ineffective currency system.

Timebank Art Installation (dOKUMENTA13)

With qipoqo we want to step it up with swapping. Our aim is to attract a wide range of people with different skills and needs and place them in the center of our service. We are doing our best to create a system that is easy and intuitive to use and has the potential to become an integrated part of people’s daily task management decisions. Swapping will naturally be for free within the qipoqo community. However qipoqo is not a non-profit organization, so we will additionally offer our users services to enhance their swapping experience, which will then be monetized.

Our team is working feverishly on qipoqo, but it has a strong foundation built on help from others. We gathered a lot of feedback and support for the concept, name and logo, people encouraged us with our idea, talked and wrote about it. Following a spontaneous trip to Berlin and winning at a startup competition, we were amazed by the great deal of even more support we got. A Berlin agency, Bitcrowd, agreed to develop our beta version for us without charge, a law firm is helping us out with free legal advice and we found a place to work at the spin-off zone of Humboldt Innovation. What do all these people get out of helping us? Some want to boost their image, some have fun helping, others support the idea out of goodwill and because they believe in it – but all of them do it for free. Without this incredible helping spirit we would not be where we are today. All these people reaffirm us in believing in and enabling mutual helping and sharing with qipoqo.

As the closed beta has kicked off and we are preparing to launch, we decided to build on the help of the crowd once more. So we set up a crowdfunding campaign to gather the money for promoting our launch and refining our design. With a small amount of money believers in the idea can contribute to the project and get exclusive perks in return (stickers, bags, bonus points on qipoqo, …). As the icing on the cake Google will double the money if we meet our funding goal. We hope to not only generate enough money to finance our launch and bridge the time to the seed-round, but also to build up a network of supporters for the idea of swapping tasks and help.

If you want to be one of them and make two girls from Berlin very happy, check out www.indiegogo.com/qipoqo. We are curious to see where the help of the crowd can get us.

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