29th December 2016 · By Lee Jacobson

An interview with Saf from Helpfulpeeps

Over the coming year I'm planning to conduct a series of interviews with local startups around the Bristol and Bath area. This week I was very happy to speak with Saf from the Bristol based startup, Helpfulpeeps.


For those not already aware of Helpfulpeeps, who are you and what are your company goals?

Helpfulpeeps is a new social network built on the principles of 'paying it forward' where people share their time, skills and knowledge to help each other for free. Each time you help, you earn karma which acts as your social capital on the platform. We call it the Karma Economy! We are on a mission to bring back community spirit in an increasingly disconnected world.

How did the idea for Helpfulpeeps come about?

The idea came about as I looked to address some of the challenges we were facing as a society. The first was that it's becoming increasingly apparent that there's a lack of a sense of community in most cities these days. Secondly, I also felt that as a society we were becoming too focused on money, to the extent that that we were starting to measure value purely in terms of financial currency. I wanted to highlight the value of 'human capital', our time and energy because every individual has something to offer to each other and society at large based on their skills and passions. So this led to the initial idea for Helpfulpeeps as a website where members can ask for help and repay to the whole rather than the individual and can trust that when they need help the community will provide it.

A problem many founders face when building a social startup like Helpfulpeeps is an initial lack of users - often referred to as the chicken and egg problem. Has this been a challenge you've faced at Helpfulpeeps? Especially as you expand into new cities?

I think that is always going to be a challenge but we found that the early users who joined Helpfulpeeps were doing so because they believed in the concept and our mission and they actually helped us spread the word by inviting people to join through word of mouth. Where we lacked a critical mass of users in the beginning we more than made up for in enthusiasm of early users as we got daily emails from members asking how much they loved the concept and if there was anything they could do to help us grow the community. In terms of cities we've been primarily focused on Bristol as we recognised that in order for Helpfulpeeps to be truly useful we needed to build up some kind of critical mass in a given location. However we recently launched into Bath and the uptake has been fantastic.

Do you have any interesting examples of ways Helpfulpeep's members have helped others in the community?

In terms of recent examples that come to mind the Helpfulpeeps community got together and donated over 100 gifts for disadvantaged kids in times for Christmas and this was off the back of one post from one lady who proposed the idea as she had worked in social services and knew how to get the gifts to the right people.

Having said that we've had over 1200 requests posted, which have been met by over 900 offers of help so there's been many interesting ways in which people have helped each other in the community. Some recent examples include help with changing a car battery, teaching guitar, help building a wordpress site, volunteering for a mock interview day at a school just to name a few.

What lessons have you've learnt while working on Helpfulpeeps? And do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting their own companies?

I've learnt many lessons in the last couple of years but the biggest one for me so far has been patience and persistence. I've never been great at being patient so that's been particularly challenging but I'm starting to realise that it takes time to build anything meaningful and that the reward is directly linked to the amount of challenges you've overcome.

The only advice that I can give is to make sure you start a company for the right reasons - i.e. you're passionate about solving the problem. Ask yourself would you work on this if there was no financial incentive? Because if you're just in it for the money chances are you'll give up when the going gets tough (and it's definitely going to get tough both psychologically and financially). The statistical likelihood is that your startup is going to fail. So to paraphrase Elon Musk - is it important enough for you to try - even if the most likely outcome is failure? If you answer yes then you are on the right track.

What's next for Helpfulpeeps? Have you set any goals for 2017?

We have huge ambitions for 2017 where we hope to take Helpfulpeeps from 10k to 100k+ members and to launch in multiple cities across the UK. We want to be part of the narrative when it comes to removing the stigma around asking for help. We also want to encourage more people to volunteer and get involved in their communities.


Lee JacobsonHello, I'm Lee.
I'm a developer from the UK who loves technology and business. Here you'll find articles and tutorials about things that interest me. If you want to hire me or know more about me head over to my about me page

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