Have you heard of the start-up Simplyk? The business was born when François de Kerret and Thibaut Jaurou, two entrepreneurial engineering students, met. Desjardins will soon be one of its users. Here's our discussion with two passionate entrepreneurs.
For Cooperation Week, which runs from October 14 to 20, 2018, Desjardins wanted to rally its employees around a common goal: to give back to the community. How? By encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunity to give their time to an organization that works with young people. But with over 45,000 employees in various Canadian cities, how to simplify the process? By calling on de Kerret and Jaurou, two young dedicated and inventive entrepreneurs!
We met with de Kerret and Jaurou in their bustling District 3 offices, where they shared the background and development of Simplyk.
"When I arrived in Montreal, I wanted to volunteer. It was pretty hard to figure out which organizations needed help... It was a bit frustrating, even though I was trying to offer my time for free. That's when I had the thought that I could bring something new, make it easier to volunteer. That's where the mission came from." - François de Kerret
They met at Polytechnique Montréal, where both were completing their master's degrees--Jaurou, a civil engineering student, was working on an algorithm project to simplify carpooling. De Kerret was studying mechanical engineering. Their paths crossed thanks to a shared interest in solving social problems.
"I heard of François and his idea through some mutual friends, and we decided to pool our knowledge." - Thibaut Jaurou
And that's how Simplyk was born--a free, user-friendly online platform that connects volunteers and organizations, where anyone at all can go to register and find organizations in their neighbourhood that are looking for volunteers.
"We saw that many high school students were required to volunteer, but they didn't have a tool to help them. So we created an online platform specifically designed for schools. Students go directly through Simplyk to organize their volunteering."
This tool, launched at the start of the 2016 school year, is now used in nearly 30 schools throughout Quebec. It's made life much easier for teachers, who previously had to collect forms signed by organizations' representatives to (often manually) record their students' volunteer hours.
Seeing the reporting capabilities of the platform got the two entrepreneurs thinking. What if they developed a corporate version that would meet the same kind of need?
And that's where the idea of adapting the concept for businesses came from.
"More and more employees are looking for volunteer opportunities. They want to make a direct impact in their community and do something tangible. So our goal is to reach more and more businesses and develop the corporate side of our venture," says de Kerret.
Jaurou adds, "It's our way of being profitable and fulfilling our primary mission of putting volunteers in touch with organizations, which is completely free for both sides."
"More and more large companies are encouraging their employees to volunteer, but they didn't have a tool that would make it easy to organize and report." - François de Kerret
And that's how, after a bit of outreach, de Kerret and Jaurou ended up developing a platform specifically for the needs of Cooperation Week. It will allow Desjardins Group's 45,000 employees to volunteer their time with organizations that work with youth.