Scott Harrison is the founder of Charity: Water an organization he founded after waking up to the realization he was living a “dark, kind of decadent selfish existence” as a nightclub promoter whose life revolved around getting “people wasted for a living.”
After drenching himself in the party planning business for 10-years, Harrison sought out opportunities with a bit more substance, but tells Founder Stories host Chris Dixon he was ”turned down by every” humanitarian organization he applied to. Eventually he was accepted by Mercy Ships to volunteer in Africa – on the condition that he pay them $500 monthly, plus airfare.
During his two year journey as a photojournalist with Mercy Ships, Harrison says he ”learned that almost 80% of disease on the planet came from bad water.” The entire experience stirred something deep inside him and he tells Dixon at the age of 30 “I wanted to change the whole world and thought I could end the water crisis in my lifetime and I could also reinvent charity.”
Upon launching Charity: Water, Harrison notes he ”made the promise from day one to always use 100% of the public’s money to directly fund water projects and have a second bank account where I would kind of scrap to pay for our eventual staff, and our office and our operations.” He also made the promise to “never fund a water project unless we could be guaranteed to know that it existed.”
Guidelines established, Harrison raised his first “$15,000″ after throwing himself a birthday party that attracted 700 of his best friends who each paid a $20 cover. The funds went directly to Northern Uganda where he tells Dixon, “we built three wells in a refugee camp [and] we fixed three wells.”
Those wells were just the beginning of what has since become more than 3,500 Charity: Water projects around the world.
Harrison shares plenty more insights in this video. Make sure to watch the entire clip to hear them all, including his thoughts on building “an epic brand” and why he continued hitting the nightclubs at 4:00 am – long after leaving the party scene behind.
Episode II of this interview is coming up – until then check out past episodes of Founder Stories featuring leaders of Turntable.fm, Bump, Dropbox and many other startups here.
charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Founded in 2006, it has helped fund over 8,000 water projects in 20 countries. When completed, those projects will serve over three million people with clean drinking water. Overall, the organization has raised over $95 million from 400,000 donors. http://www.charitywater.org
Harrison was born an only child in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Joan Harrison. His family relocated and he was raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. When Harrison was four years old, his mother was exposed to carbon monoxide from a cracked furnace installed in their new energy efficient home. His mother’s immune system was destroyed and she became an invalid. As a result, Harrison grew up taking care of his mother and the household. He credits his family’s...