February 23, 2018
Luc Berlin featured on CauseArtist’s List of Social Entrepreneurs to Watch For in 2018
Life of a Social Entrepreneur The life of an entrepreneur has been written about, philosophized, broken down into dos and don’ts, talked about in motivational speeches…Read more
July 11, 2017
Miigle+ Browser Transforms E-commerce into a Force for Social Good
The AI-enabled web browser extension helps socially conscious consumers shop socially and environmentally responsible companies. Download the PDF version of this press release: Miigle+CSRNewsRelease_11July2017 LONG BEACH,…Read more
July 9, 2017
The Miigle+ Indiegogo Campaign is Live
The past couple of days have been quite eventful here at Miigle+ and today we are excited to announce that our Miigle+ Indiegogo campaign is now…Read more
April 2, 2017
Social Good Brands: Get Listed On Miigle+ For FREE For ONE YEAR!
On the 22nd of April 1970 a small group of Americans took on the streets to demonstrate for a healthy and sustainable environment. Since then, Earth…Read more
December 17, 2016
Make It a GOOD Holiday Season: Introducing The World’s First Directory of Social Good Brands
2016 has been an amazing year for me and in the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to give back by contributing to a cause I…Read more
Medical Mission in Africa Inspires Launch of Social Impact Tech Company
( 6 minute read )
As far as Luc Berlin could tell, he was headed for the middle of nowhere. Jostled for miles along a dirt road that appeared but a shadow somehow winding its way across the flattened landscape of rural Mali, he imagined this must be what it felt like to snake across the neighboring Sahara Desert. All around him, a chalk-like dust rose from the cinnamon earth, and the farther the driver bumped and rolled amid the haze and brown shrubbery, the more Luc questioned his motorist’s ability to find his way.
Berlin, a 20-year-old pre-med student from the California Bay Area, was in the West African country to assist with a research program to develop the world’s first anti-malaria vaccine. One of six students chosen by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he traveled the country’s rural villages for two months. There, he and a team that included faculty and students from the University of Bamako in Mali’s capital city, alongside experts from the World Health Organization and National Institute of Health, educated the residents about fighting malaria while studying blood samples drawn from their children.
The remote village of Donéguébougou was their first stop.
When Berlin and his colleagues arrived, he was assailed by the despondency of his surroundings: the mud huts, dimly lit without electricity, barefoot children running around in tattered clothes, some already put to work carrying baskets on their heads… But when he heard the children’s laughter, a bright bubble burst over him.
“I realized I was sad only because I was comparing their standard of living to what I had in the states,” says Berlin.
“There are many paths to happiness,” he continues. “The sadness I felt for these people was overwhelmed by their infectious cheerfulness. They were always smiling and exuding so much joy. It was impossible to be depressed when they so graciously welcomed us into their homes.”
The 12th poorest nation in Africa, Mali is one of the least developed countries in the world. The life expectancy of adults is 55, and more than half the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.
Despite this, Berlin was inspired by their extraordinary resilience and their generosity to one another as well as to him and his team. He also was stirred by the dauntless commitment of researchers and doctors from Bamako to the work before them. Never mind that the hospitals they visited were nothing more than rundown clinics with meager supplies and even scantier staff, that they often slept on the floor, and spent many afternoons rambling from village to village in the back of a pickup truck to “catch mosquitoes”—a process of trapping them on a white blanket in a closed hut with a hefty spray of bug killer.
“Some of these people literally devoted their lives to cracking the malaria epidemic, spending months in these villages every year. That touched me profoundly,” Berlin recalls. “And the villagers’ unwillingness to be victimized by their situation—that reinforced my conviction that more can be done to alleviate poverty, provide health care and protect our environment. These are problems we can and must solve.”
Galvanized by that awareness, Berlin made a radical decision about the path he’d follow for his future. A few years later, he would quit UCLA, where he was pursuing his biochemistry degree, and trade the path of security and comfort for a riskier, uncharted course.
“I wanted to solve the world’s bigger problems and help others do the same,” he says.
A Privileged Youth Troubled by Social Disparity
Berlin’s desire to be a change agent goes back even further than his transformative experience in Mali.
Reared in an upper-middle class community in Cameroon, Africa, he had only to cross the road rimming the development where he lived to encounter shanty towns with multi-generational families crammed into one or two-bedroom houses where they had to share public bathrooms and showers. Many of the kids who lived there were among Berlin’s best friends, and he was struck by the disparity in their circumstances.
“Even as a child, I asked questions like: ‘Why do some people have more than enough while others barely survive? Why does it have to be that way? How can we solve that?’ says Berlin. “I believed I was meant to have a positive impact on the lives of many people.”
Until the age of 16, when he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area of California to be with his mother and further his education, Berlin was inspired by his father, who grew up poor and doggedly forged a path to success. Through words and example, Berlin’s father taught his son that the measure of a great man lies in his ability to grasp the issues affecting the world and to seek opportunities to make an impact.
So, Berlin, who now splits his time between London and L.A., is living into that purpose with the launch of Miigle+, a tech company dedicated to transforming consumerism into a force for social good. Its mission—to empower ethically and socially conscious consumers to transform “business as usual” into business for a better world―Luc believes, will encourage more companies to incorporate social and environmental goals into their foundational DNA.
“It’s so strange that the social issues I was thinking about as a kid are the same things fueling my passion for what I’m trying to do now,” says Berlin. “The one thing that keeps me going through hard times is knowing this is coming from the deepest part of me that always believed I should make the world better.”
Tech Immersion Hatches an Idealistic Idea
When he dropped out of UCLA, Berlin intended to find work with UNICEF or the United Nations. But such jobs were not easy to come by and he soon realized that idealism alone was not a sufficient foundation on which to build a dream. Two years of soul-searching followed, from which he emerged to take a job with the former shopping comparison website Shopzilla.
“I had absolutely zero interest in tech, really none whatsoever. I got the job because I spoke French, and they were looking for fluent French speakers,” says Berlin, who also has a passable proficiency in Spanish and studied Mandarin Chinese. “It was a necessity kind of thing.”
Yet, to his surprise, he found immense satisfaction in the field of tech marketing.
“Everyone was jumping on this medium and it was literally changing lives,” he recalls. “I was able to use my left and right brain, which was immensely satisfying. I thought, ‘I can be creative, I can be analytical and there’s a future in this.’ Eleven years later, here I am.”
That’s 11 years in which he also worked for digital outfits like LegalZoom, Crownpeak and HackerRank. He got his MBA, traveled throughout Europe, Asia, parts of Central and South America — wanting to grasp the problems other countries faced and the solutions they used to solve them. Along with two friends, Josh Fester and John Pavlick, he developed his first digital platform. Miigle’s first incarnation was as an algorithm to match social innovators across the globe with the resources necessary to support their entrepreneurial vision.
“People didn’t buy into it. That was pretty depressing,” says Berlin. “It was my first attempt to try to solve a big problem.”
Undaunted, he decided to apply his concept to an area with broader everyday appeal: what people consume and how they consume it. And then he remembered falling in love with his first pair of Toms shoes.
“I love brands like that and I love products like that. I love knowing that every time I buy a pair of shoes, I give a pair to a child who doesn’t have any. I thought, ‘Why do I only know about Toms? Why don’t I know about other social good brands?’ That’s because there isn’t a platform that gives me the choice to use my money to support ethical brands.”
With Miigle+, now there is.
Miigle+ matches social good companies with conscious consumers
While he followed a rutted, detoured path to get here, Berlin finally found a vehicle for his altruistic instincts. Berlin assembled an impressive team with collective expertise in digital marketing and design, sustainable business development and brand strategy to launch Miigle+.
“At the core, what we all share is that we really see technology as a tool to improve the lives of others,” he says.
That shared vision molded Miigle+ into something more than just a business. “We’re going to create a community where like-minded individuals are empowered to use e-commerce as a force for social good.” Users will be able to set up profiles and follow each other, as well as social good influencers, share information about their purchases and the causes their favorite brands support. Even Berlin’s plans for a crowd-funding campaign stems from his desire to build a grassroots movement.
“More than raising money, we want people to see that others care about the same things they do. We want them to understand that their actions matter and to expand their perception about what is possible,” he adds. “We want people to take ownership of the ‘business for a better world’ concept, to nurture it and make it grow.”
Berlin already established partnerships with organizations like 1% For The Planet and Water.org. He jokes that it’s more than a coincidence that his “b-earth day”—April 22—is also the international celebration of Earth Day.
He also pledges to commit 4 percent of Miigle+’s annual revenue toward social and environmental causes worldwide and up to 22 percent of staff time to volunteer efforts. He envisions eventually hosting global events where people come together to help communities solve their most pressing issues. Berlin looks forward to the day when Mali will be among the places that benefit from that pledge. Before his departure, all those years ago, he promised the people of Donéguébougou he would return.
“I think about that promise often, even though it’s been 14 years, and I’d really like to keep it. I’d like to show them how their generosity and courage inspired me to do more with my life,” he says.
“For me, it’s always been about utility. You’ll meet a lot of people who tell you, ‘I want to change the world.’ For me, it’s about how can I make it easier for a lot of other people to change the world.”
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