Here’s an update on a formidable, pandemic-inspired pivot from Samir Aroras Sage, the company I wrote about earlier this year that hopefully will build a next phase of the web: an expert-based web.
With the pandemic and travel all but ending, I was particularly concerned about the business of two friends because each was focused on travel. One of them is Samir’s Sage, who built his network of experts with expertise on travel destinations – hotels, restaurants, places. I’ll tell you in a moment how he reacted.
The other was Rafat Ali’s Skift, who covers the travel industry and builds his business on in-person events: a double blow. I interviewed Rafat for the Newmark J-School leadership program about the painful decisions he had to make to keep the business alive. I think you will find it informative. Since we had this conversation, Skift has offered a daily news subscription service and Rafat now says, “Subscription first is the way forward for us.”
Now to Samir and Sage. He has built his career developing tools to support creation: while developing an early web authoring tool, NetObjects Fusion, he gained valuable experience helping my friend Rick Smolan put together his amazing project, One Day in the life of America “to help. Glam, Samir’s future company, was inspired by creating networks of bloggers to help them build their businesses. I blogged about it 13 years ago. His newest company, SagePlus for Experts, which I wrote about here, wanted to bring tools for travel and food experts to the public in order to build their online presence and business with networks around them.
Before the shutdown, Samir had been introduced to celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson by William Morris Endeavor, who was excited to use Sage to build his digital presence – on books (he’ll have one soon), restaurants and events – and the voices of too reinforce experts who cannot be heard in the mainstream media.
During the pandemic, Samuelsson began working with celebrity chef and food philanthropist José Andrés to help communities and restaurant workers. Samuelsson’s CEO Derek Evans called Samir about a dozen weeks ago and asked him to expand the Sage platform for charitable projects and contributions: a campaign management system. In no time, Samir’s team volunteered to make this possible, and on July 18, they went public with a platform for Harlem Serves Up. A staggering $ 100,000 in contributions were processed in 24 hours.
This became Project Bento, an end-to-end campaign platform that now includes Black Businesses Matter. Hand in hand a Daniel Boulud Fund; and the Project Bento Fund, which in turn provides funds to Citymeals on Wheels and World Central Kitchen, in addition to funds to support restaurant workers. As of this writing, the team has raised $ 5.1 million in donations for charity and meal preparation. 100% individual donations go to charity.
Now the Sage platform has more features. The mechanisms were already in place for inviting experts, inviting others, and creating online presences and apps with multiple business models. Thanks to Samuelsson, the platform now has the means to support charitable campaigns and contributions from major sponsors and individuals.
After this work, Sage returns to its start. Now not only travel experts but also writers, entertainers and experts in other fields that have been verified by people are included. I wanted Samir to get around travel because the internet needs to build mechanisms and institutions to discover, verify and support expertise: to pay for their work. As I said in my last post, this is what I think the web needs next: platforms not only to speak, but also to listen and find what it’s worth from experts and people with authority, intelligence To be heard, education and experience, erudition, good taste and common sense. “
I will never say that the dark and deadly cloud that COVID has due to the negligence of the current American government has a silver lining. But I am impressed by the good people who emerge in times of need: Samuelsson and Samir recognized a need and built it up.