Brad Pineau’s innovative take on raising money for charity could also help team morale and efficiency
By day, Brad Pineau is a partner and CTO at Timeless Technologies, a full-service website design and software development company based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. After hours, he still has his mind on programming and developing new technology, but it’s for a different cause.
Pineau’s side project was inspired by two adventurous and communityminded sea kayakers who paddled around P.E.I. in the summer of 2012, raising $10,000 for charity along the way.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like that,” muses Pineau. “My mother has chronic fatigue syndrome and I grew up watching her suffer with that disease … I wanted to do something to help, but I never really could.”
Pineau doesn’t kayak, but he does have other talents. “My skills are programming, development, and building products. That’s when I had my Eureka moment: I thought, I’ll start a non-profit company and we’ll make products that people pay for, and we’ll use that money to donate to charity.”
He named the umbrella company Coding for Cures, and the brainstorming began anew. He eventually settled on a first product idea, one he knew he could use within his own company.
Pineau describes WatchTower as a one-of-a-kind online tool that allows managers to regularly collect feedback from their team. It’s easy to use, affordable, and has already proven its value.
“Managers decide what questions they want to ask their team,” says Pineau, adding that WatchTower offers default questions, or clients can customize their own. “The program facilitates the feedback process.”
Every month, or week, or whatever interval is chosen, the program prompts employees to answer the questions, collecting feedback, complaints, and compliments.
Pineau set up WatchTower within his own company of 40 and has already seen the benefits.
“It keeps the feedback process a little more casual. We’ve already identified some human resources issues; we know it works,” he says. “Staff feel comfortable with it; the system is easy to use and staff understand we’re encouraging them to speak up.
“Often managers become disconnected from their team … A feedback system like this can help identify problems, spark ideas, share insights, and even boost morale.”
His own experience with WatchTower has been “absolutely awesome. I’ve had some great conversations with the team because of it.”
For example: he asked his group, via WatchTower, to name one idea or improvement that could make the company more efficient. As a result, “we’ve come up with half a dozen great ideas, product ideas that we’re going to investigate. And process ideas, simple changes we’d never really thought about that are going to make our development process much smoother.”
Now that he has validated the concept of WatchTower, Pineau is ready to scale up and start making some money. Companies who sign up for the product are given a list of partner organizations, both mainstream and smaller charities, so they can choose which cause will benefit.
Pineau is treating Coding for Cures and WatchTower as typical start-up businesses and has the ambitious growth plans of a determined entrepreneur. To date, he’s operated the company on his own donated time, only spending money where required, on items like lawyers and server fees. The launch of WatchTower has been very low-cost; scaling up is going to require investment.
“The investment we put upfront in the team and the culture is going to pay dividends. Not just for WatchTower but, five years from now, I can see Coding for Cures having five to 10 projects, all profitable, adding up to $50-$100 million … All the money that we make after our costs goes to charity.”
Which will go nicely toward meeting Pineau’s long-term goal: “to do something that can raise money year-round and be sustainable.”