Empowering Change Through Daily Actions with GoodSearch’s Scott Garell

August 7, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have on the line with us today Scott Garell, the CEO of GoodSearch and welcome to Green is Good, Scott. SCOTT GARELL: Thank you so much for having me. How’s everything going today? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Everything is great, and we’re so thrilled. We’ve never had you on before so you’re a first timer so before we get into talking about your great website, GoodSearch.com, I want you to share a little bit about Scott and tell us your journey a little bit leading up to becoming the CEO of GoodSearch. SCOTT GARELL: Well, thank you very much. Really a pleasure to be here today. Before this, I had done a bunch of different things but most recently, I had run some larger internet companies including Ask.com and Dictionary.com and I was in a position where I got to work on strategy and figuring out how you can grow those website for a large number of users but at the same time, John, I’m also on the board of a nonprofit here in San Francisco called Juma Ventures, and started to get a little older and think, gosh, you know what, it would be amazing if there was a way of using Internet and mobile technology to make the world better and I ran across GoodSearch and the founders were at a point where they were looking potentially to slow down a little and have somebody else come in and kind of help to grow the business and two years later, here I am. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, which cues you up perfectly for the big question, Since this is the first time on the show we’re talking about GoodSearch and GoodSearch.com and I’m on the site right now. It’s a beautiful site. For our listeners who want to pull it up, go to GoodSearch.com. Scott, what is the mission of GoodSearch and how did it get started? SCOTT GARELL: Sure. Well, the mission of GoodSearch is to empower anyone to change the world through simple daily actions. It was started about six years ago by a brother and sister team. Their mom had sadly passed away from cancer and they wanted to do something to give back and they saw all the money that was being made at the time by web search like Google and others and said wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of making money for a public company that has for-profit objectives, if you could take all of the web searches in America and have money go back to your favorite charity or school each time you search the web and so what they did at the time was partner with Yahoo and today, our flagship product is GoodSearch and every time you search the web, about a penny of the search goes back to a charity or school and they’re great results. They’re powered by Yahoo. We call it Google with a heart. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. So, wait a second. So, people who are gonna be online anyway today because all our listeners are gonna somehow search for something today, if they search using your search engine, there’s gonna be a donation element to it? They’re gonna be doing good while they find the answers that they want to find? SCOTT GARELL: That’s exactly right. All people need to do is start at GoodSearch.com and choose a cause. We have over 109,000 charities and schools that are part of our program, big national charities like the ASPCA and United Way and Cystic Fibrosis but down to your local school, animal shelter, food bank, church, whatever but might be and so most of them are in there and you pick there and once you’ve done that, just as you said, it’s as simple as searching the web, which you’re gonna do dozens of times a day. You’re gonna get world-class results and make the world better at the same time. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay, so talk a little bit about you said there’s how many thousands of causes you have on? SCOTT GARELL: Today, there’s about 109,000 schools and charities that are part of our system. They really use us because in this economy, it’s difficult. People want to give back, but they often don’t have time or money and so we’re trying to make philanthropy simple and even for frankly, charities where people are fortunate enough to afford a donation one time a year, they still want to support their cause the other 364 days a year and that’s where we come in. We make philanthropy simple. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk about a simple call to action. We make philanthropy simple. That is just wonderful so how much money has been raised for these causes, 109,000 causes, which is mind boggling unto itself that so many are using your great brand to raise much needed money for- How much money has been raised? SCOTT GARELL: Sure. We’ve raised over $10 million to date and that’s real. When you start to think about one of our food banks says that you can feed eight people for every dollar donated. If it was all going to a food bank, that’s 80 million people we would have fed just through people like your listeners taking the time to get started here and take all their simple actions like search and I’ll talk about all of the things we have on this site to make the world better. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk about the web search itself. Is it as robust as if I go to Google? Do a comparison like you said, we’re Google with a heart. That makes so much sense but would our listeners who use GoodSearch today use GoodSearch.com to find what they’re looking for? Is there any diminishment in services by using GoodSearch? SCOTT GARELL: Well, our results are powered by Yahoo. We get the same exact results you’d get if you went to Yahoo and I think for people who know the industry, Yahoo’s web results are essentially now covered by Bing so essentially, you have the power of both Bing and Yahoo, which 40% of Americans use anyway to search and get the penny when you give back so it’s world-class results and we’ve actually done blind taste tests where you show people the same looking page and you show them results from our product and from Google and people can’t tell them difference. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. So, for all our listeners out there who want to feel part of the solutions, whatever, and they have a cause or some favorite causes they’re interested in, you can do good by finding the answers you want by just using GoodSearch.com. This is just amazing. It makes philanthropy simple. I’m on your site. I just touched the button, GoodShop. Talk a little bit about the products you have and what are you doing on the segments of your website besides your search? SCOTT GARELL: Sure. Thank you for asking that. As I mentioned earlier, we’re all about helping people change the world through simple daily action and while search is a great action and probably our most popular product, the second product we launched was GoodShop.com and GoodShop.com is an online shopping mall where we have 2,800 stores, everything from Amazon to Macy’s to Staples to Expedia, and when you shop with us, a percent of the purchased price goes back to your favorite charity or school so for example, with 1-800-FLOWERS, my anniversary was yesterday and with 1-800-FLOWERS, I bought flowers for my wife. Nine percent of the purchase price went to my charity or school but I paid what I would have paid had I just gone directly to 1-800-FLOWERS and the best part actually is in addition to that, John, we have money-saving coupons, so I personally saved 5% off my price and a 9% donation went back to my charity that I’m on the board of and it was the same price, no cost to me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is amazing, and I’m on the GoodShop now and like you said, there’s 1-800-FLOWERS, there’s Brooks Brothers, Harry and David, Land’s End, Apple, Amazon, all the iconic brands, Bed Bath Beyond, Barney’s — all the greatest and most iconic brands that we all love in this great economy are there and if we go through your website and click on to the link through your website, there’s gonna be a donation element. SCOTT GARELL: That’s right. It’s just as simple as that. People are gonna shop and the fact is if you do it through our site, you’re gonna make the world better too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is just awesome. Talk a little bit about GoodGames. I know you’ve launched something called GoodGames. What is that and how does that interrelate with all the good philanthropy you’re doing? SCOTT GARELL: Sure, so our users were asking us for more ways to give back through simple daily actions and when we went and did the research on games, it’s actually amazing. In America, one in three Americans play casual online games to the tune of 50 million hours a day and so we looked at this market and we said gosh, someone should create, just like we have in web search, should create a product where every time you play great world class online games, money goes back to support your favorite charity or school and so we partners with our KBM, which is a New York-based company. They’re the largest provider of casual online games in the world and launched fairly recently GoodGames.org is the URL. You can come to it through GoodGames.org or through GoodSearch.com under, ‘More Ways to Raise’ and we have some good games here, whether it’s solitaire or Mahjong or strategy games or all kinds of fun things where people are going to play these games anyway and if you do it through us, you’re going to make the world better and what’s interesting, we did some math, and if all of those 50 million hours a day came over to play GoodGames, we would donate a billion to charity in an annual year. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Come on. That’s amazing. So, because you saw where the world is moving, you’ve been involved online long enough so you saw the trends and gaming is one of these megatrends, for lack of a better term, that’s gonna be here to stay and people are enjoying that platform. You then went towards that platform to further leverage it to do more philanthropy. SCOTT GARELL: That’s right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. That makes so much sense and when did that launch? SCOTT GARELL: That launched in April of this year, so just a few months ago, and we call it Funraising with an F-U-N, not a D. You can have fun while raising money. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Do people compete? Do you have organizations or people who then become part of your family in terms of GoodSearch? Can people compete or can organizations compete against each other? SCOTT GARELL: Well, it’s funny you say that. It’s something that our cause partners are asking for and something that we’re absolutely considering to do that. We have, in the past, had kind of a leaderboard so you could see causes in first place, second place. It’s something that we’re considering. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s the favorite GoodSearch product right now? SCOTT GARELL: More people are using GoodSearch than any other product, but there’s a lot of products we have that are very, very popular. In the fourth quarter of the year and for the back-to-school season, shopping is so easy to do, as we mentioned, through GoodShop.com because you can make donations and save money with our coupons but we do have other products too. On the home page, if you were to go to the ‘More Ways to Raise’ tab, we have GoodSurveys, for example. GoodSurveys is a product where you can take 10 minutes of your time and take surveys from a Fortune 500 company and earn about a dollar every time you do that for your cause so if you kind of are waking up and thinking you want to do something that matters each day, share your opinions and give back and earn a dollar each time you do that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m on it now. Does the same thing go for GoodTravel, GoodDining? If we book our travel or dining through you, are we engaging in philanthropy also? SCOTT GARELL: Travel works the same. Dining is just slightly different. Dining is the first ever national dine out for charity program and what we have is a network of 10,000 restaurants in the U.S. and what you do is you register a credit or debit card with us and then when you pay with that debit or credit card, automatically the restaurant knows that you’re part of our program and up to 6% of the bill including tax and tip goes back to your charity or school. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. You know, we’re down to the last two minutes, unfortunately. Scott, you’ve had a big history online. You’re very ambitious. You’re massively successful. Talk about your long term vision for GoodSearch. Where are you gonna take it in the months and years ahead? SCOTT GARELL: Well, I think our long-term vision for the business would be to be able to transform every moment of your life into giving. If you think about it right now, there’s something like $300 billion of advertising spent each year in the United States. What if some of those dollars, some of those brands that wanted to reach people would somehow redirect those dollars to good? So, you can imagine a world, for example, where you’re walking down the street in your neighborhood and through a mobile app, we would alert you if you walked by one of the restaurants that’s part of the GoodDining program and if you walked in, you would know that you could get a donation there. Using mobile technology, we really can transform not just the time when you’re on the web into giving, but when you’re on your phone using great location-based things, like I mentioned with the dining example, to make the world better, so we really want to give people a way that they can do the things they’re going to do anyway and make a big difference and importantly, feel good about it. Our research says that when people give back, not only do they help the cause, but they help themselves. They feel like they matter. They feel like they’ve accomplished something and so we think that’s an important part of philanthropy as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so true. People want to feel good and people don’t want to be told anymore that things are going bad in society. They want to feel part of the solution and this is just an easy way to feel part of the solution. SCOTT GARELL: Well, that’s right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Scott, we’re gonna have you back. We want to hear the continuing story here. We want to help continue to promote all the great work you’re doing. We’re so thankful you came on today and you shared with our listeners what’s going on with GoodSearch. For our listeners out there, please go to GoodSearch.com or GoodSearch.com/GoodGames. There’s so much we all can do. Like Scott said earlier, this site makes philanthropy simple. Scott Garell, you are a philanthropic rock star and truly living proof that green is good.