In 2009, Joshua Ross and Adam McCurdie — Australian Jews who became friends on a Birthright trip to Israel — made a pact while hiking in Sri Lanka: they would work together to turn an idealistic vision of changing the world into reality.
When “all your friends…get their mortgages and have their kids, and it’s you who don’t win anything because you’re working on a crazy idea, it’s mentally very difficult, ”said Ross eJewishPhilanthropy. “So we promised each other on this journey…so that at least loneliness wouldn’t be a limitation.”
After college, McCurdie was a management consultant and Ross worked at a hedge fund. But in 2016, they put those careers aside to found Humanitix, a tech charity and booking platform that donates booking fee proceeds to philanthropic causes. Now the non-profit organization is on track to donate $1 million to charity this year and is expanding across the United States – a testament to the philanthropic support of Australia’s Jewish community that has helped l ‘incubate.
In his early years, Humanitix raised funds from the parents of McCurdie and Ross’ Jewish day school friends and received pro bono legal and accounting support through Jewish connections. Through a New South Wales Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) program called Jumpstart, which held a “Shark Tank”-like event for Jewish entrepreneurs, Humanitix also secured funding and free office space.
“All this ideato be a light to the nations was the motivation; [Jumpstart] wasn’t just for ideas that affect the Jewish community,” Ross said. “The Jewish community seeded us to get to a point where we could really take off.”
Ross sees Humanitix as an essential part of philanthropy and Jewish values, even if the non-profit organization does not only serve the Jewish community (thanks to reduced prices for non-profit organisations, some Australian Jewish organizations use Humanitix for event reservations).
“Go to a Jewish school, you’re encouraged to volunteer, you’re encouraged to give, there’s a huge culture of philanthropy in the Jewish community,” Ross said. But if Jews don’t help the wider non-Jewish community, then “what’s the point of being a light to the nations?” It’s not true if we don’t give out either.
Humanitix is also an example benefits that can come from philanthropists investing in technology solutions, Ross said. Today, most nonprofits don’t have the budget to create their own technology, and many philanthropists don’t like to fund risky ideas.
“Technology is the biggest driver of change; it’s not good or bad per se, it’s how we use it,” Ross said. “Most philanthropists aren’t open-minded when it comes to funding things that are out of the box…it’s a lot easier to give, you know, $1 equals two meals in this community , [or] this hospital needs a new wing. Very tangible, low risk and the technology is risky.
Ross hopes for the success of Humanitix can convince philanthropists in the Jewish community, and more broadly, that the risk of technology is worth taking on the charitable causes they care about. “I don’t know what the right answer is, but we’re trying to prove a case study; that it can work,” he said.