Henry Ludlam is the CEO and founder of Percent, a seed-stage charitable payments company working to power purpose in every business worldwide. Percent’s API first approach is setting out to support a world where purpose is built into every financial transaction and equally helping to get the cost of donating money to charities globally as low as possible. Before starting Percent, Henry co-founded S&C Productions, a music festival production company that would produce one of the largest music festivals in England. He and a co-founder would go on to grow S&C to over $1M in annual revenues before selling a majority stake to Sony. We sat down with Henry to learn more about why he founded Percent and how he has generated impressive early traction in the U.K. and Australia.
Henry: “I founded Percent in 2017 because I had a huge interest in the charitable giving space, and at the same time I was part of a good cause that was massively underfunded and having tried several failed attempts to raise money, including running an extremely slow marathon, I realised that most current methods for raising money for small charities were broken and useless.
To try and solve this problem, I created an app with the money that I had received from the sale of my first company. The app was developed to allow users to raise money for the charity of their choice when they spent using their debit or credit card at any local participating retailer. As I scaled up the app beyond my football team, who I was originally fundraising for, to all the teams and societies at my university and then to 23 different cities across the UK; I noticed that the charitable payments infrastructure was completely fragmented and broken.
While the app was really cool and served its purpose, I discovered that we had created a very innovative charitable payments system whereby we were taking the money raised from local pubs, retailers, delivery services, and other major high street brands and quickly and efficiently transferring those funds to small local charities. It was at that moment that I realised yes, the app was a wonderful way of drinking beer and raising money for good causes, however, we could really make a huge social impact by becoming the global charitable donation payments rails, allowing people to easily, and transparently donate money to any charity of their choice, anywhere in the world.”
Henry: “The charity payments space is extremely complex in one country, then becomes incredibly complex when you try and make a global charitable system that has to comply with the rules and regulations in every country. It has to be tax-efficient; you have to make sure you are donating to a non-profit – but what is a non-profit in Vietnam compared to the UK. The technologies we can rely on now were not available even 5 years ago, and that just made it absolutely impossible for businesses to create an economical service to facilitate donations at scale. Today, a vast majority of the charity payments and onboarding are manual and very labour-intensive processes creating significant barriers for charities and good causes to gain access to funding.
We are trying to remove the barriers to funding by bringing together the best technologies that are available today in the fintech space and weaving them together into a fabric that allows anyone to be able to donate money globally.”
Henry: “When I was running my music events, I found that if I gave tickets to sell to a group of individuals who were fundraising for a charity, they would outsell the individuals that were fundraising for themselves by a magnitude of 10x. So, the first lesson I learned is that incentives matter and people are incredibly motivated by philanthropy. If you can align people to good causes, you can provide a platform to build a successful business.
Building culture within the company is also critical. When starting a company, the one thing about culture is, they never really tell you anything about culture. Culture is tough to measure, and anything hard to measure often gets overlooked or heavily discounted. Building a culture of empowerment is a must-have at Percent; by hiring the very best talent and giving them autonomy to work in the way they want, and to not micromanage every situation, problem, or person – I learnt that the hard way in my last business.
Finally, focus above all else is so important. Not only focus on the problem you are trying to solve but focus on your customers, product, team, and core values. Having a small surface area and owning that area has helped build Percent into the company it is today.”
Henry: “Percent has many of the problems Stripe did in the early days trying to scale up a global payments’ infrastructure. The core difficulty is scaling up into multiple countries where there is a lot of complex logic around the charitable tax receipting, onboarding, KYC, compliance, auditing, and payment regulations. Scaling to the U.S. for example, is very difficult because as you know, America is made up of 49 different states or ‘countries’ and each state has its own regulations around charitable donations. I see this as the largest challenge while trying to scale Percent and given we are a small yet flexible company, we have made sure to partner with the right customers that are aligned with our mission and will ultimately become our largest advocates and help us scale globally.”
Henry: “We’ve created a company that is encapsulating what every single talented person, millennial, Gen Z want to work for, which is a purposeful company. When we put out a job application, we get thousands of applicants because our mission is to power purpose in every business worldwide and to get the cost of giving to $0. We believe that having a business with purpose as one of its core values is an incredible motivator for attracting great talent.”
Henry: “The ability to work along side every single business that has lots of customers that are focused on donating to good causes. We have seen a significant amount of traction in businesses such as Facebook, Netflix, Spotify; those that have massive customer bases and want to show those customers that they are a purposeful business. Recent events have really opened the eyes of c-suit management that have now identified that they need to empower their customer to do good.“
Henry: “I believe that by 2030 every single financial transaction in many countries around the world will incorporate social good and because I think that will be the future there needs to be a company that can power that future and hopefully that is Percent. The goal for Percent is to not only build a large impactful and purposeful business but equally provide the technology, compliance, and regulatory infrastructure to enable all business globally to provide the same level of positive change and ultimately allow capitalism to have social good built into its core.
If you have any questions about Percent or would like an introduction, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kristian Blaszczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org