Transfernation is raising money for their social effort, please donate here. Learn more about them in an interview with one of their co-founders, Samir Goel.
How did the idea of Transfernation come to you?
Transfernation came to my co-founder, Hannah, and I as a product of our mutual passion for food justice and our entry into the Stern Social Impact Business Challenge. Hunger was an issue we both felt strongly about and coming to New York City we regularly saw this contrast of those with extra and those in need. Hannah had witnessed this more extensively in Pakistan and I’d seen it first hand when traveling to India. We saw all the extra food that was thrown out everyday and thought there had to be an easy way to bring it to people who needed it. That was when the inspiration struck.
What is Transfernation?
Transfernation is a 501(c) nonprofit which uses technology to ensure extra food from events goes to supporting communities in need. We’ve rescued huge amounts of food from events around New York City. Recently we released an app that operates like Uber for Food Rescue. Transfernation partnered with SocialEffort to create a system in which corporations could input a few key details about an event and we would source volunteers in real time based on their location, routing, and interests of whether to pick up or drop off the food. Volunteers receive push notifications and upon acceptance of a pickup are brought into the platform with mapping, instructions, and geo-fencing to check them in and out of whichever locations.
How did you get the idea on its legs?
The biggest barrier to entry was getting those first few organizations on board. That took a lot of cold outreach, legal analysis, and some degree of luck. Once we began working on a few events it was much easier to get organizations interested in working with us especially if we worked with any brand-names like Instacart, Clinton Global Initiative, Indeed, and more. Now we are over-capacity and have plenty if not too many events. Hence our fundraiser is important to give us the scale we need to impact more lives and become self-sustaining.
What are some milestones you have accomplished so far?
The first thing I’d want to point out is that there is a huge difference between milestones and accolades even though they are often mixed together. Transfernation has received its fair share of accolades including national press coverage, grants, and awards. However more important than any of that are the actual milestones. We focus on the milestones of: the number of people we are able to help and the amount of food we are able to rescue.
Recently we hit 10,000 pounds of food rescued which translates to approximately 6,200 lives impacted
based on metrics calculated in conjunction with the Jefferson Awards Foundation. While, we are proud of our progress to date we are a long ways away from the hundreds of thousands of pounds we aim to rescue and the total lives we hope to improve.
Is there something about your mission that uniquely identifies with NYC?
New York City has an inordinate amount of events in a very tight space. It also has a huge wealth disparity. This means it gives us the best logistics to have an impact as well as the opportunity to make the biggest change.
What is the best and worst thing about building a startup in NYC?
Best part: The people. It’s amazing being able to meet incredible people everyday and finding ways to collaborate or support one another. There are plenty of individuals working on inspiring projects.
Worst part: It is a city which never gives you a break. You always feel the need to keep taking that next step and pushing yourself further and further.
What will you do with the fundraising money?
Fundraising money is geared to supporting our operations (transport, volunteers, materials) e.g. costs of food rescue and expansion including staff/HR, new partnerships, and locations. Everything goes back into the nonprofit so that we can impact more lives by growing.
As winter approaches does this present different set of challenges for you versus the warmer months?
Winter is tougher because transport is certainly tougher and volunteers are less interested in volunteering . This means they need extra incentives and it makes our service tougher in situations with poor weather e.g. iced-sidewalks, traffic jams, and extremely low temperatures. This means we needs a larger volunteer base and better ways to incentivize.
Why is your mission so important?
Millions of people around the world don’t have enough food to eat or are forced to eat poor quality food everyday. Yet there is enough food that this should not be the case, and instead that food is being thrown out. This is the problem Transfernation aims to fix: making sure that those who need it get the quality food they deserve while simultaneously creating a shift in the way people think about their extra food.
What makes your startup different than other startups?
The nonprofit sector is frequently associated with a lack of efficiency. However, Transfernation aims to change that norm by operating more innovatively and business-like. By bringing technology to these problems to make a bigger change and impact. It’s important for technology and innovation to be directed toward social change as a method of empowering millions around the world. See more here or here.