Seattle teenager Jack Kim has created a search engine that donates all of its revenues to charity. This web-based philanthropy has attracted a lot of attention for the 17-year-old, as well as giving him a crash course in entrepreneurism and web design.
Kim’s first foray into building websites during his freshman year in high school resulted in a basic search engine that gave him between $200-$300 from 2,000 monthly visitors. “That’s when I learned that the search engine was the way to go — you can make a lot of money for such little traffic,” says Kim. Though his first search engine is now defunct, Kim was made for bigger things as he decided that the next step was to combine his interests in web design and charity to create Benesearch.
“Benesearch was a good idea — I really like charity work, and I like giving a present to somebody,” Says Kim, whose search engine rerouted to Google and generated revenue through CPM. In late 2011, after attending a business summer program in Stanford, Kim decided to relaunch the site as Benelab, though this time 100% of revenue was earmarked to be donated to various charities. Since November 2011, Benelab has generated almost $2,000 which has all been donated to worthy causes.
On the Benelab site, the smart introductory video “Benelab in a nutshell” explains how if 0.0001 of all internet users (i.e.: 1 in a million) switched over to using Benelab then there would be approximately $250,000 in revenues donated to charities every month.
The website has come a long way since its original mock-up in Microsoft Paint and neither Kim nor his high school friends who were helping him knew how to use Photoshop. However, Kim has recruited 9 other classmates to complete the Benelab team and turn it into a fully-fledged non-profit organisation with a startup vibe. Filling positions from marketing to web design jobs, Kim’s classmates demonstrate that it’s never too early to develop a good idea.
Benelab may have humble beginnings but the spirit of philanthropic entrepreneurialism in one so young has given its designer some high profile exposure, which could well lead to a marked increase in Benelab searchers in the near future. Kim says: “You can get a lot more attention for what you’re doing when you’re young. The reaction is, ‘Oh this kid is a 16-year-old CEO with braces.’”
As well as providing experience for himself and voluntary IT jobs for his friends, Jack Kim’s Benelab stands as an excellent example of how revenue can be generated online for good causes. Even with a tiny budget, an idea that captures users’ imaginations can attain enough exposure for it to outstrip its initial monetary investment.