Crowdfunding to Change the World
Eileen Guan, ’16
Eileen had every intention of graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in information systems, and taking a steady corporate job that would make her parents proud. In her junior year, Eileen read Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek. The book focuses on what Ferris refers to as “lifestyle design” and the rejection of the very common life plan in which people work the traditional eight-plus hour work days and take few vacations for decades to save money in order to relax after retirement. Eileen suddenly realized that she couldn’t possibly follow the path she had set out on.
I was always really bad at school, but I always knew that I wanted to make something. I’ve always been really interested in solving problems.
Exploring a New Passion
Eileen returned from her winter break, immediately joined three entrepreneurship clubs, and began absorbing everything she could about startup life. Her newfound interest led her to a podcast interview with Peter Diamandis, founder of X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind. Her main takeaway was that innovators willing to take risks and break rules are the only people who can fundamentally change human kind. To Eileen, and Peter Diamandis, these change makers are inevitably entrepreneurs.
The number one thing I got from Training Camp was a sense of structure. Creating structure doesn’t come naturally to me. Training Camp covered all of the things that I like to do but it was presented in a structured way and it gave me a sense of discipline. I can take that discipline to Billion.
Inspired by the notion that people, not corporations, are best equipped to make fundamental change, Eileen came up with the idea for her company Billion. Billion is a platform geared towards solving big global issues like hunger, water and health. It combines the mechanics of both basketball brackets and crowdfunding competitions to help the best social enterprises get started. Companies selected to compete collect votes that cost voters one-dollar each. Every dollar pledged follows the top vote-getter in each matchup in the bracket. The enterprise with the most votes receives all of the money raised for their venture.
Shortly after conceiving of the idea for Billion, Eileen entered the GiveBackHack hackathon in Columbus, co-founded by 2014 Fellow Louisa Lee. Eileen and her team won the first place prize of $4k. Not only did Billion win the funds to get started, Eileen was introduced to VFA!
Putting Down Roots in Columbus
Eileen joined the Fellow class of 2016 and found a startup job in Columbus with the express purpose of continuing to work on Billion in her spare time. At Training Camp, Eileen learned all sorts of skills that will help her grow Billion and developed a network of like-minded peers in Columbus and all over the country. We’re excited to follow Billion and see how Eileen helps the change-makers of the world get started!