Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Alex Stephany, founder and CEO of Beam, the first crowdfunding platform that provides direct support to people experiencing homelessness. Alex has discovered how to make tech work for good. Let’s see how he’s doing it!
Spiffy: Hi Alex, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell me what challenges you are addressing and how you’re making tech work to transform the lives of people who are homeless?
Alex: Great questions, Spiffy, I’d love to! As you’ve figured out, Beam is focused on ending homelessness. We think it’s wrong that people don’t have a place to call home, and we believe that everyone should have the chance to fulfill their potential. Through our website, homeless people can raise money for job training, work tools, travel costs, and rental deposits. Members of the public can donate and send messages of encouragement to boost their confidence. A team of Beam caseworkers then supports each homeless person into a stable job or home.
Spiffy: It sounds pretty comprehensive. Can you go back a step and talk about what motivated you to hone in on homelessness?
Alex: Five years ago, I became friends with a homeless man who sat outside my local train station in London, UK. I’d buy him cups of coffee and pairs of socks when it was getting cold. But his situation wasn’t improving. I thought about how I could make a lasting difference in this man’s life. He had never had a job and was illiterate. For me, it was clear that he needed skills and support so he could provide for himself. That’s what motivated me to launch Beam in November 2019.
Spiffy: Can you talk more about how Beam is working to create a more equitable world for people who don’t experience it as such?
Alex: I’d love to, Spiffy. Beam is on a mission to create equality of opportunity for all, starting by creating brighter futures for homeless people. Sadly, many people face homelessness because they have not had the same opportunity as the rest of us to nurture their natural talents—and that’s an aspect of inequality that we’re putting right. By supporting homeless people into stable jobs and homes, we’re hoping to build a more equal world where no one gets left behind.
Spiffy: What kinds of exciting milestones has Beam achieved over the past few years?
Alex: We’re really excited that Beam has supported more than 500 homeless people into stable jobs and homes. Each time we support someone, we can see the difference that this has on their financial situation, family relationships, and self-confidence. Our goal is to help millions of more people across the world so that they can build brighter futures and achieve their dreams.
Spiffy: I’m always inspired by the stories entrepreneurs tell me about their own experiences with failure. What about you? Have you ever experienced failure and what did you learn?
Alex: When I left university, I tried out different careers in law and consulting. The problem was, I was never any good and I was fired from my job on more than one occasion! It was only when I started working in the tech sector that I realized I’d found my true calling. So don’t worry if you try something and it doesn’t work. Failure will help you grow and learn about yourself.
Spiffy: It sounds like you’re poised to keep inspiring people to figure out what fits and go for it! Thanks for the work you’re doing to make the world a better place, Alex, it’s been an honor talking to you today. Over and out!
Alex Stephany is the founder and CEO of Beam, the world’s first crowdfunding platform for homeless people. Before starting Beam, Alex was CEO of the parking app JustPark. An expert on the sharing economy, Alex is the author of The Business of Sharing, published by Macmillan in 2015. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 16, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.