In the most recent episode of our True Connections Podcast, Alan Hooks speaks to serial social entrepreneur Dave Erasmus. Dave shares how he has created businesses to have a positive impact on the world and what he's learned from his woodland and oceanic adventures along the way.
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Having struggled to fully conform to the school system growing up, Dave Erasmus searched for a different path as a young adult that would compliment his natural skills as a team player and creative.
In this episode, Dave shares the inspiration behind his entrepreneurial journey and drive to have a real, positive impact on the world.
Making a living without having an alarm clock
At the age of 19, Dave started his first business, Broadplace Advertising. Having struggled with the early mornings of school, Dave admits his initial inspiration to become his own boss was the thought that he might be able to make a living without needing an alarm clock.
Broadplace helped 200 companies across the UK advertise online more effectively – and by the age of 21 – Dave was approached by a buyer. Following advice, Dave sold the business, cleared his debt and set off on a path to try and help solve broader social problems.
The habit of giving
Dave learned from his experience in advertising how transformational scaling a system such as Google could be to how people behave. He now wanted to use these learnings to drive interactions that mattered. It was from here that Dave went on to create Givey, a charitable donation app. This enabled users to make one-click donations to encourage the ‘habit of giving’. Dave explains that just like eating healthily or exercising regularly, giving is a positive habit – something we know is good for us. He was fascinated by how he could help people strengthen and entrench this habit into their everyday lives.
After facing the disappointment of venture capital firms failing to back his scaling ambitions for Givey, Dave went on a soul searching trip to the most biologically diverse place on the planet – the Corcovado rainforest in Costa Rica.
This trip was life changing for Dave, who, when he returned home, was inspired to live in a way that was closer to nature. He got 25 acres of woodland and a shepherd’s hut to live in and decided to stop doing and start encountering for the first time in his life.
Although faced with the fears of leaving society and his identity behind, a new life in the woods began to blossom. He began making YouTube videos to document this adventure and over time developed an online community of people who were engaging with his story from all over the world. Dave found his sense of identity becoming intertwined with nature during this yearlong experiment and found the value of just ‘sitting and being’ with nature.
Although reflecting on this year in the woods as the best year of his life, Dave now lives in the commuter belt outside London in order to work to encourage the system to embrace and protect nature.
In an attempt to transform our landscape into the most abundant and diverse environment possible, Dave started his next business, Our Carbon. Our Carbon strives to help UK businesses better value nature and understand how the carbon they purchase affects our ecosystems. After this, they help businesses formulate a plan to reduce their usage and impact on the environment.
Dave is a big believer that change comes about when you put the tools in people’s hands. Therefore, he argues, it is important to make it cheaper for businesses to have a regenerative, rather than extractive, relationship with nature.
An adventure on the water – Cop26
Dave embarked on one of the most challenging experiences of his life in order to arrive at Cop26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Starting in Padstow, Dave and a team spent on month sailing to the conference.
Lead by marine biologist, Steve Simpson, the group dropped microphones into the ocean in order to get acoustic readings of the Irish sea to evidence the effect of rising sea temperature on species migration. Dave explains that as sound travels better under the water, it is our primary sense to know what is going on below the surface. Species such as snapping shrimp could be heard up to eight miles away.
Once they arrived at Cop26, Dave and the group shared the stories from their stint on the sea. Shockingly, in the 14 days of Cop26, the ocean was not included on a single day of the agenda. The ocean is ignored by nation states, Dave explains, yet it captures half of all our carbon. He is optimistic that the ocean will be a significant part of the agenda at Cop27, however.
Having learned that all efforts to save the environment will amount to nothing unless we find ways to value the biodiversity stores under the water, Dave created his own R&D department at Our Carbon to help protect and invest in these.
Authentic personal enquiry
Dave’s advice to others wanting to dedicate their lives to having a positive impact on the world is to work on things that have come from a place of authentic personal enquiry.