Running for trees: Those who use the Active Giving app add a higher purpose to their movement: They convert exercise into forest. Its founder says: Do it for yourself and for the planet.
The consequences of the climate crisis are already noticeably – and there is more to come. But can’t we do something about it? Yes, every single day, says Laurent Petit who founded the Startup Active Giving together with his colleague Till Harnos. The fitness app, which was launched on June 1st, 2020 connects being active with climate protection by planting trees as a reward for exercising. Laurent inspires people to increase their personal well-being through fitness and sport and to make a contribution to social and ecological projects. He is also not only one of the two co-founders who startet the app Active Giving in 2020, but also launched the Urban Art Run, an event that brings running and urban art together.
About your app ... whose problems or needs are you solving at the moment?
In general Active Giving is targeted to everyone. The first problem we are trying to solve is the main one the whole society is facing at the moment: The loss of forest is beyond imagination. There are so many trees that need to be planted for future generations to come. On the other side, there are too many people, especially young people, that are not active enough. What we decided to do, is to bring these two aspects into one place. So by being active you contribute to a better planet. People, who are not yet very active, therefore have maybe another trigger: Don’t do it just for yourself, but do it for the planet.
Laurent and the idea of fitness with a higher purposeHe came to Berlin a couple of years ago to be at the center of the urban art movement. Through that, he got also involved in the local running community. And that’s where he started to combine two passions: He took people for a run and showed them street art. But he always thought that there could be another way to actually do something good with an event like that. He came to the point, where he thought: "What about purpose?"
Just with this idea in mind, he went to the FittechSummit in Munich 2019. "But basically what I discovered was, that this aspect of sustainability and doing good for the planet was missing", he remembers. That’s where the vision of „Active Giving“ was formed: to bring sustainability into the world of sports and fitness. "Because I believe that, we can’t be healthy, if the planet is not healthy, and the other way around. So it’s very important that both are connected."
What did you learn about your target group? How do they use your app?
To be honest, we don’t ask for so much personal data from our users – that’s what we like about our app. Rather we are more interested in converting their activities into a tree. But what we do know is that our users are connected to different kinds of sports - it’s nice to see this holistic approach to sport and fitness. However, we know that around 60 % of them are runners. Second, comes cycling, and fitness as a whole, including workouts or gym, takes third place. Besides, we discovered that 47% of the app users are from Germany. This is of course due to the fact, that we started in Berlin, that our app is also available in German, and that most of our partners are in Germany. But the app got worldwide: the concentration however is from Germany, France, Belgium, UK, and the USA.
On the B2B aspect, we work with companies that are looking to make an impact with their marketing budget.
Please tell us about your product. Which business model do you work with?
We are a solution B2C and B2B. So B2C, it’s very easy: Our users can download our app for free and create a profile. The app tracks the users’ activity and converts it into contributions for instance to our tree planting project. When on the B2B aspect, we work with companies that are looking to make an impact with their marketing budget. With us they are going to reach a target of people who are eco-conscious and active and the money they invested in us is going to help the planet. So basically we are connecting the consumers with the company: the users open the app, choose the activity and already see the company that is supporting this exercise. After the users finish the activity, we are telling them „Thank you for your run! You have planted one tree. This is supported by xy!“ and they have the opportunity to share their activity, where the sponsor is also mentioned, on social media. For those impressions, our sponsors are financing „Active Giving“ and we use those revenues to plant the trees. It is a really different marketing approach, but from the beginning on our intention was to be a social business.
Which next feature of your product are you currently working on?
The vision of Active Giving in the future is to become the first social fitness platform for good. So not only we would be able to track activities, but bring people together and build a community. For instance, you could see in a feed what your friends have done today to make the world a better place, as well as you could interact with them. It’s very important to us to always make sure that the community knows about the impact they are making. We want them to see, that it’s really working and the trees are really getting planted. It has kind of a motivational aspect too. At the moment we also want to improve our function called ‚teams‘. It’s an own page, where you can collect trees only with a group of people like your family, friends, or employees. Because these teams are still made manually by us, we want an option that allows our users to create their own teams directly inside the app.
Let’s talk about the market, you are operating in. Where is the market of sustainable fitness heading – and how do you know?
When we started two years ago we felt like we were almost the only ones. But now we are talking a lot more with different partners that are related to the fitness industry, gyms, nutrition providers, and all of them say, we need to do something, but they often don’t know how. We want to help companies in their transition to a more sustainable business. Because without them it would be also difficult for us to finance the trees. So I think the market of sustainability in sport and fitness is growing, also because more and more users, consumers, or members are starting to ask a lot of questions. As a company in the fitness industry, if you can’t answer these questions, you are in trouble. I think it’s very exciting to be in this field right now and when people are understanding that now is the time to change.
What kind of partnerships are you currently looking for?
Since the beginning, we are believing in collaboration. We don’t want to compete against anyone, we just want to provide something that we believe is good. We not only work with businesses but also with sports clubs, sports organizations, sports federations, or sports events. We are looking for any kind of company that wants to achieve the transition to be more sustainable and want all of those customers to have a positive impact, whatever they do. In the fittech industry, I was thinking about Freeletics for instance. Every day millions of people are working out with their app, that’s amazing! But also every day a million chances to do something good are lost. Imagine the impact we would make together if Freeletics would be connected to Active Giving.
What aspect of your work did you think completely differently about 12 months ago?
Before I started „Active Giving“ I was the guy, who was always outside, doing events, entertaining the crowd, and being surrounded by people. Now I’m the guy sitting behind my desk, doing finance, doing business development. It’s different, but I enjoy it very much. Sometimes I even surprise myself, like when it’s 6 pm and I haven’t done my 10 thousand steps (laughs). But now and then I still get the chance to go out doing events. So I’m trying to keep this social aspect in my work life.
What headline would you like to read about your company at the end of 2022?
That Paris 2024 selected „Active Giving“ as the official app of the Olympics. That Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams created their own team on „Active Giving“ and we have been able to plant a trillion trees. As I said before, it’s very important to make people aware of the fact that they have to move. That’s basically how I would imagine „Active Giving“ to move forward in the future. We want to become an app that is integrated into the daily life of people. The most important thing is, that no matter what you are doing if you walk a kilometer or you train for Iron Man, it has an impact.