At this year's SensAbility – The WHU Social Entrepreneurship Conference, the team from HiMate managed in inspiring the entire SocialPitch jury for their concept. At the third edition of SocialPitch, Thomas Noppen and Thomas Schindler presented their social enterprise, HiMate, which brings refugees and businesses together on a single platform. HiMate facilitates the donation process and the allocation of donated materials while at the same time intensifying contact between refugees and Germans.
Political debate in recent weeks and months has been confined almost exclusively to a single question: How do we prevent so many refugees from continuing to come to Germany? In the process, however, policy-makers have lost sight of a question that is at least just as important: How can we provide the best possible assistance to the people who are already here? This is where HiMate from Berlin comes in. The social startup founded by several young entrepreneurs wants to quickly integrate all the newcomers to Germany. That is the political dimension. And it wants to manage businesses’ helpfulness more efficiently. This, in turn is the economic dimension.
The HiMate app provides an exchange platform. Businesses can post their donations to the app – from toys to movie tickets to memberships on a soccer team – and refugees can reserve these donations online and then pick them up locally. The mechanism runs on vouchers that are familiar from the way Groupon or DailyDeal are run. The only difference: the offers are free.
How did the idea of launching HiMate come about? It all began with the initiators’ determination to get involved on behalf of refugees. They went to Straßburger Straße in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, where hundreds of refugees are housed in a former school. The first attempts were disappointing, however. It was incredibly difficult to simply get through to the relevant people in the refugee shelter. They noticed a host of individual initiatives by companies to deliver donations to the appropriate collection points. But in these cases, real encounters with refugees were the exception to the rule. The fugitives themselves were hesitant about contact with potential donors as well. Due to the language barrier, many of them spent most of their time within the refugee shelters.
Today, HiMate is a team of more than 30 volunteers, including Andreas Müller, a member of the 20th Graduating class at WHU, and Thomas Noppen as the first full-time officer and director of HiMate. The initiative has the support of lots of large and small companies and organizations, including, for example delodi and Project A from Berlin and the Entrepreneur's Pledge.
For companies, HiMate offers the advantage of no longer having to contact decentralized refugee shelters to find out what kinds of donation are needed in the first place. Now, they also no longer have to rely on the good luck it takes to get a response from overworked volunteers. With HiMate, companies can more quickly place their donations where the real need is – with little effort and no limits as to the range involved.
For refugees HiMate not only has the advantage of providing the things they desperately need, or the things that make their everyday life more bearable. It also helps them step out from the isolation of refugee facilities. HiMate mainly relies on small businesses, such as local retailers. If a refugee picks the product up from the business directly, he or she gains a better sense of the surroundings and makes new contacts in the process.
SocialPitch@Sens is a start-up competition held as part of an annual, student-organized event: SensAbility – The WHU Social Entrepreneurship Conference. With 200 participants, the goal the conference has set itself is to bring students together with social yet profitable entrepreneurship. During SocialPitch@Sens, Thomas Noppen and Thomas Schindler addressed the critical assessment by representatives of the Funding Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), Tengelmann Social Ventures, the ISSO Foundation, Boston Consulting Group, and the WHU Incubator. Both through their presentation and their confident answers to all questions raised, they finished ahead of the other pitch candidates and earned 1st place.
HiMate is currently in the open testing phase in Berlin. You'd like to support HiMate? The initiators are still looking for plenty additional vouchers from dedicated businesses in Berlin. Because the refugees’ demand is enormous.