By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
After Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the precursor to Google in 1996, they paired it with a business plan that’s proven to be successful beyond any measure.
Jack Kim, 16, has done a similar pairing, but with a unique twist. He started Benelab.org, which he calls a “nonprofit web start-up.”
Unlike industry giants Google and Yahoo, Benelab donates all money raised from web searches and a revenue share with third-party advertisers — about 130 search queries each day at an average of .5 cent per search — to a “unique cause every month.”
Kim is now working hard to gain an “increased user base” so that his start-up will reach his goal of donating $10,000 by July 25.
“We can average around two cents per search, which is huge if you can imagine if we had a big user base,” said the Benelab Chief Executive Officer and King’s High School junior, simply seated in its Library Commons at the end of another school day. Kim, being over six feet, typically towers over people.
His family — father HyunWoo Kim, mother HyeKyung Lee, and older sister Natalie — immigrated from Seoul, South Korea in 2006. Last summer, his mother told him about a three-week business camp at Stanford University.
“I thought it was really cool, so I asked my mom if I could go. That was essentially my 16th birthday present,” said Kim.
After graduating from King’s, he plans to study computer science at the prestigious university in Palo Alto, Calif.
The business camp proved to be the perfect place for him to pursue his interest in websites and start-up businesses. Kim said, “Ever since I was little, I knew that I wanted to work for myself someday.”
He attended a class on entrepreneurship, taught by an instructor with whom he shared something in common.
“His name was Mr. Oh. I actually had a good connection with him because he was a Korean American, and I think I was the only Korean in the class,” Kim recalled. “I thought that was actually really cool that I got into that class instead of the other one.”
Because of the business camp, he decided philanthropy would be an integral part of his business and went straight to work, making a list of talented individuals he wanted in Benelab. His start-up now has 11 employees, all of whom are volunteers and his schoolmates.
“Among them was Devin Caplow. He was my first choice because he’s a really good friend of mine.”
Kim explained his business plan to Caplow last summer.
“We were hanging out at my house, and I had the slideshow on my computer,” Kim said.
“He just turned 17 in December, and that’s actually her son,” he added, introducing Dorothy Echodu, who was seated to his right.
Echodu smiled, then said, “I was impressed with the ambition of their vision, and they’re juniors.”
Concerning her son’s involvement, Echodu said, “I do think he has talents in management as well, which I’ve noticed before this. But I’m really seeing them coming out in this project.”
In addition to being Caplow’s mother, Echodu is also the director of operations of Pilgrim Africa, Benelab’s second recipient and its charity for Dec. 2011.
Pilgrim Africa received $80, almost double the previous month’s donation to its first recipient, Charity: Water.
Transparency is part of Benelab’s website — copies of both checks are displayed in its past donations section.
Echodu said, “The $80 that we got this month from Benelab is enough to keep eight people malaria-free, which, if any of them are under 5, could definitely be the difference between life and death.”
According to the World Health Organization, malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that infect people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2010, the disease caused an estimated 655,000 deaths, mostly among children in Africa.
Pilgrim Africa has provided malaria treatment and comprehensive protection against the infected mosquitoes for more than 172,000 people in its Move On Malaria project. Echodu says its next step is to persuade the Ugandan government “to scale the program up nationally.”
Kim says the results from Benelab’s $80 donation are “amazing.”
“Another amazing thing is that no one donated that. It’s just from website use, and that just shows the idea, and the scalability, and the potential of the idea. Even with the small amount of people using Benelab right now, it is able to save eight people, and that’s what I think is really cool.” (end)
For more information about Benelab, visit www.benelab.org. For more information about Move On Malaria, visit www.pilgrimafrica.org/index.cfm/page/Move-On-Malaria.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.