December 18, 2013

Communication alum's non-profit chosen for UK Accelerator

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This article was written by Gillian Shaw for the Vancouver Sun, originally posted online on December 16, 2013. The original title is 'SFU grad's 'disruptive philanthrophy' Sport for Food chosen for UK accelerator'. Click here to see the original article.

SFU grad Richard Loat was in the Philippines helping to build shelters for those who lost their homes to Typhoon Haiyan when word reached him that he had won a spot in a U.K.-based accelerator program to help launch his non-profit Sport for Food.

If it wasn’t for finding an Internet cafe late at night and logging onto his email, Loat, might have had to wait until his return home to Vancouver to learn that he was chosen over 160 other contestants from more than 30 countries to earn a spot in the United Kingdom’s Trade and Investment’s Sirius Programme.

Sirius, which is aimed at attracting final year students and newly graduated entrepreneurs to launch startups in the UK, will support Loat and his start up Sport for Food with a 12-month place in its accelerator program, plus £12,000 per team member for the newly launched company.

“It’s really exciting,” said Loat, who has just returned to Vancouver from a three-week sting in the Philippines with ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity. “I applied to the program because it is unique.

“As a social enterprise we can’t offer equity in return for investment to seed and start the ideas. We are a non-profit so the equity piece doesn’t exist.

“The Sirius Programme gives equal footing to social enterprise, they don’t have an equity stake. So I threw my hat in the ring.”

Loat, who has an undergrad degree in communications from Simon Fraser University and is completing his MBA at that university, will be among 19 other young entrepreneurs from 13 countries including India, China, Italy, Germany, France, Kenya, New Zealand, and Nigeria. Seven start-ups in total were chosen to participate in the accelerator program.

Sport For Food had its start in Vancouver, where Loat first launched Five Hole for Food, a cross-Canada fundraiser for food banks.

Unlike many traditional charitable appeals, Loat didn’t simply ask donors for money, instead he based his appeal on experiential giving – inviting people in cities across Canada to show up for street hockey games with the only price of participation a donation to the local food bank. Loat refers to it as “disruptive philanthropy.”

“What we’re about doing is crowdsourcing participation and funds,” said Loat. “It’s not about going after a few deep pockets.  It’s about going after many wide pockets.”

In the past three years, Five Hole for Food has raised the equivalent of half-a-million pounds of food for food banks across the country. And thousands of people, from celebrities to little kids have turned up on blocked off streets and other public spaces to participate in street hockey games.

Last fall Loat launched a pilot in the UK, Footy for Food with soccer (better known as football outside of North America) replacing hockey as the street game for participants. Next spring Footy for Food will embark on a 10-city tour, starting in Belfast and ending in London, where they’ll welcome participants to play soccer in Trafalgar Square.

“What it comes down to is creating a unique giving experience,” said Loat. “How often can you show up on Granville Street and play hockey? How often can you show up in Trafalgar Square and play football?”

Loat said when he pitched the idea for Sport for Food in Europe last fall, it was well received.

“The idea is that if you use football and hockey as an example, it becomes a common language among people.

“You toss a ball down and you don’t need to be able to speak the same language, you can all understand and play the same game and in that way it’s a powerful vehicle for change,” he said.

Sport for Food will be the umbrella organization, which will include Five Hole for Food with hockey, Footy for Food for football and a planned Hoops for Food for basketball.
The UK base will make it easier for Sport for Food to expand Footy for Food across Europe, said Loat.

“The aim is to launch Footy for Food in six countries over the next two years – France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Portugal,” he said.

Loat, whose father is from the UK and whose mother is from India, grew up in Dubai until he was nine years old.  He expects to leave for the UK early in the new year. You can follow Five Hole for Food on Facebook here and on Twitter. And you’ll find Footy for Food on Facebook here and on Twitter.