YouCare - the search engine that helps animals
YouCare allows people to donate meals to animals in shelters for free - every 45 searches, one meal is donated to a rescue!
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:
Yes, I’m eligible
Yes, I’m 18 years old or older
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:
Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020
Initiative's representative name
Initiative's representative date of birth
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
France, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States, occasional campaigns further afield
Website or social media url(s)
Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
Re-imagining the role of pets in society
What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?
hybrid: a combination of different types of organisations, such as a social enterprise (an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
Thomas and I are both very passionate about helping animals. We wanted to find a way to allow people to aid abandoned dogs and cats at a large scale, and one day got to thinking about the other socially conscious search engines out there (Ecosia, Lilo). Sadly, none of them were using their potential to benefit pets! We realized that we could find a perfect alignment between our professional expertise in the digital sector and our passion for social change in the animal sector. YouCare was born with the thought “What if we transform a small everyday action (searching the internet) into an engine for widespread change and a motor for positive action for animals?”.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Most individuals want to be changemakers and have a positive impact on their community, but for many of them, the effort required is prohibitive. In addition, many people don’t have the time or the means to help animal shelters due to their age, location, health, and financial situation. Shelters do not have an efficient conduit to the public and their outreach actions may be limited by geography and personnel. Many shelters struggle financially.
3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
We created a free search engine that uses its ad revenue to donate meals to animals in shelters. YouCare is accessible to all user profiles via iOS and Android apps and browser extensions.
Like every search engine, YouCare shows sponsored search results that create revenue. On average, 45 searches enable YouCare to finance a meal for a rescued pet by generating about 20 cents in ad revenue. Of 20 cents, 10 cents go towards financing a meal for an animal in a shelter. Those 10 cents really add up! Every month, we can donate 125 € to each of our 24 partner shelters.
With one small habit change, every individual donates about one meal a week to animal shelters, at no cost. We also ensure that users maintain a close connection to the shelters they are helping: animal shelters send us “Thanks YouCare” pictures that we share on social media.
Our community has confirmed their commitment to the animal cause. This gives us unique opportunities to increase our impact for shelters. For example, in December we launched the #KibbleChallenge, a worldwide fundraiser benefiting shelters. We were able to collect enough money to donate over 60,000 additional meals.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
We implement both the solution builder and leverager innovation models. YouCare is an easy, free way to help animals in shelters. It harnesses the potential of the greater community of animal lovers. YouCare is the only search engine that is committed to animals in shelters. Others’ communities are not very engaged, so we motivate our users: for every donation, we post a heartwarming “Thanks YouCare” photo on our social media channels.
We noticed that shelters and businesses struggled to form partnerships because too many actors were involved. YouCare simplified the contact point and has improved the outcomes on both ends. Shelters are able to tap into substantial financial support from businesses and thousands of people.
5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?
We know that many people care about abandoned animals and want to help them. We use our platform to bring animal lovers and animal shelters together.
We raise awareness of #adoptdontshop by bringing people in daily contact with stories of pets awaiting their forever homes in shelters or with happy pet-human families brought together by shelters.
We are committed to combatting animal cruelty and spreading the word about animals in shelters that have trouble getting adopted due to behavioral issues or handicaps. We share stories of adoptable shelter pets with disabilities as well as share comic strips that explain the background of shelter dogs with behavioral problems. This has elicited a great deal of compassion and understanding from the YouCare community and has made it easier for some animals in our partner shelters to get adopted without facing discrimination.
Our hybrid business structure allows us to call on volunteers to help us run certain aid campaigns, which has helped members of our community combat isolation by coming together in the name of the animal cause.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
We have approximately 200,000 monthly users that have allowed us to donate over 500,000 meals to animal shelters so far. In only 18 months, we’ve reached 3.8 million searches per month and $15K of monthly revenue. We’ve also worked with over 30 animal shelters in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States.
We also have an extremely active and positive community on social media with an astounding engagement rate of 10%. They are very happy to help animal shelters with YouCare and often tell us that we empowered them to make a difference and we educated them about animals in shelters.
We plan to measure progress in terms of monthly users and revenue as well as in total number of meals donated.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
We need to become better known and find more corporate partners! With more resources we’d like to invest in outreach and begin campaigns with social media influencers. We also identified a wide untapped user base of animal lovers - for example those present at the veterinarian’s office, at the dog park, in pet stores - that we’d like to target. A further strategy is to expand our current corporate and shelter partnerships to scale our impact. We also need to expand geographically in order to reach full potential.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Our users are empowered to make informed, positive choices and help animal shelters for free. They receive appreciation and updates from our partner shelters and join a community of fellow animal lovers that want to make a difference.
Our partner shelters access support from a community of thousands (potentially millions) of animal lovers. We also facilitate direct food donations via corporate partners.
YouCare Team Members work on a dynamic and rewarding socially-conscious project, help many abandoned pets, and build value-centered relationships and partnerships with other organizations in the pet industry.
Entrepreneurial Partners work with an agile and promising start-up, effect change on a wide scale, access business opportunities.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
We secured initial funding from family members and friends and are almost self-sufficient with our monthly revenue from the search engine. However, this revenue does not allow us much leeway to expand our operation and spread the word about YouCare. With more funding, we can secure more users, which will in turn provide us greater financial stability and long-term growth opportunities.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Our team is led by two co-founders working full-time on the project: Charles Thiery, CEO, and Thomas Moreau, CTO, UX Designer, and Front-End Developer. To handle business development and partnerships, we have one full-time Strategy and Development Manager. Our technical team is made up of two full-time software engineers and two contracted part-time App developers.
11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?
Individuals are increasingly taking into account the impact of their actions, both from an environmental and a social standpoint, which is why we want to become leaders in the field. We protect our users’ privacy and strive to be ethical and transparent. We also compensate for all of our carbon emissions by planting trees. If we win the Purina BetterwithPets Prize, it would be a public show of support for companies with high social impact.
If we win the prize, we can help thousands more animals at shelters and could convince more people to help animals daily. This small change may encourage individuals and companies to rethink their choices for the better and count on YouCare to facilitate this transition.
12. How did you hear about this challenge?