‘Beam me up, Stephany’ – companies can join mission to help the homeless

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‘Beam me up, Stephany’ – companies can join mission to help the homeless

Alex Stephany's tech-for-good platform has supported more than 3,000 people into employment and homes since it launched in 2017

Entrepreneur Alex Stephany has high hopes this year for his award-winning tech-for-good startup Beam.

A one-of-its-kind crowdfunding platform, Beam supports homeless people and refugees into stable jobs and homes.

Named by LinkedIn as one of the UK’s top 15 startups, Beam has partnered with dozens of homeless charities and over 50 boroughs, which refer people to the platform. Their individual profiles are listed on the website where people can read their stories and donate to fund their most pressing needs, from employment training and work clothes to a deposit for a homeless family to move into a safe and stable home.

Beam has supported over 3,000 people into jobs and homes since it launched in 2017. And now, Stephany has opened up the platform to businesses as he continues on his mission to tackle the UK’s growing homelessness problem.  He hopes to raise £5 million by the end of this year and have over 1,000 UK companies on board, funding homeless people as well as refugees, notably from Ukraine, through the platform.

Alex Stephany, founder of Beam

“It sounds crazy but we are making it really easy for businesses to do good,” Stephany, 42, tells Jewish News. “I saw first-hand running my previous company (JustPark) how hard it can be for businesses and busy employees to make a measurable difference month in, month out.

Every company that wants to do more in this CSR (corporate social responsibility) space can now set up a social impact programme in under 10 minutes. If we crack it, the hope is that lots of companies will talk about what they are doing and others will see it, leading to a snowball effect. This would enable us to help tens of thousands of homeless people and refugees in the UK each year.”

Stephany, who presented the company to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year, plans to tap into the desire of companies to “do good” and the growing pressure placed on them to evidence their socially-minded credentials.

“Over the past couple of years, the number of people who need our service has ballooned. The number of people using our crowdfunding platform has risen from around 10 people at any one time in 2019, to around 250 at any one time today.

“So I began to think about new sources of capital. Companies need to prove their CSR credentials to employees and regulators so we needed to find a way to make it really easy for them to do good.”


Beam enables individuals and businesses to donate and support a homeless person into employment

Using a slider on the site, companies can allocate a £50 donation to each person they want to support. An algorithm automatically allocates each donation to the live campaigns that are slowest funding on the platform, ensuring donations are equitably distributed among Beam users.

Each month, employees are notified about the individuals their company has backed. They can share ready-made social media posts celebrating the good their company is doing, as well as send messages of encouragement to the people themselves. Beam ensures that beneficiaries have a working smartphone to speak to their Beam caseworker and read the messages that employees send them.

Stephany, 42, was inspired to set up Beam while on his commute to work. “I used to walk past the same homeless man at Archway station [in London] and would buy him coffees and thermal socks. We got to know each other. But weeks went by and the man didn’t appear. I got worried and when he resurfaced he looked truly terrible. He told me he had a heart attack.”

Stephany began to think about what could have made a meaningful difference to his life. “Didn’t he actually need the skills, confidence and support to get into work and provide for himself? Sure, that would cost more than a coffee. But then I thought: ‘What if everyone chipped in?’”

Fast forward and Beam has won 40 awards. It was named one of Wired’s top ten startups and one of the 20 hottest British startups by the Evening Standard. A former lawyer-turned-serial entrepreneur and author (The Business of Sharing, published by MacMillan) – Stephany has also given a prestigious TED talk and was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2022.

Beam has grown to a team of over 130 people, hiring senior leaders from globally leading tech players such as the UK’s most valuable tech company, Arm Holdings, and US payment giant, Stripe.

Charities and fundraising organisations are facing a double whammy at the moment. Inflation means that demand for services is rising, and those services are getting more expensive to run. So the need for donations are increasingly important.

Stephany says “the pressure that the cost of living has placed on working and middle-class charity givers, plus the increased demand for our service required us to think about how we can plug the gap and move quickly into this B2B space.”

The number of businesses contributing to Beam increased by almost 80 per cent during 2023. Among them are global private equity firm Permira, via the Permira Foundation, and leading homewares brand Mustard Made, co-founded by entrepreneur sisters Jessica and Rebecca Stern.

Stephany, who went to  Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, and has a first in English from the University of Oxford, says he was “probably always destined to be an entrepreneur.

“I’m pretty unemployable. I got made redundant and then fired from two jobs, as a lawyer at Clifford Chance and then as a management consultant, but it was lucky I was so bad at them. If I would have only been pretty bad, I may have wasted another few years there.”

He adds: “There’s a huge taboo about getting fired – of course, it can be horrific, but quite often can be the start of something positive and propels you towards the next thing. A lot of people tread water in jobs that aren’t a good fit for them.”

Stephany believes it is easier than ever to start a company today. “You can do it in an hour by opening websites using Shopify, or selling clothes on Vinted. There are so many outlets for it. And you don’t need to quit your job to do that. Indulge your curiosity when it comes to a particular thing.”

His advice? “Find a problem that really gets under your skin. If you’re not really committed to solving that problem, then you won’t have the energy to spend years working on it. You need to be obsessed with the problem, rather than the solution, as your solution will be wrong at first.”

For more information on Beam for Companies click here.

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