Santa Monica-based startup Amp is an open-access directory for professionals and students in the sustainability sector to connect and find resources that support their efforts to drive social and environmental progress.
According to co-founder Sarah McKinney, “It’s like Yelp for sustainability resources… a place where people can share, rate and review the links, media, and documents they’re using to inform and amplify their work.”
McKinney saw the need for a platform like Amp while pursuing her MBA at Presidio Graduate School. She spent hours researching multiple websites and tracking down various experts in the sustainability field to find answers and identify best practices, and became frustrated by how disaggregated the information was. She also saw how much work was being duplicated because there wasn’t a one-stop shop for sharing sustainability resources that was open to all, and not hidden behind closed networks. So McKinney used her final-semester Capstone project to bring Amp to life.
After graduation, she took on a few consulting roles but her thoughts kept drifting back to Amp. “I was too obsessed with the problem/solution to let it go. So I became an entrepreneur, and started figuring out what the hell that meant,” McKinney said.
After successfully raising $30,000 through an Indiegogo campaign in late 2012, she and co-founder and classmate John Lehnert, along with their developer, spent the following year building the beta version of the site, which launched in August. The categorization of content is based on need states (e.g., Get Started, Attend, Connect, Find, Hire, Accelerate, Measure) and sub-categories, keywords and search filters allow for quick discovery of information.
There is also a document exchange through which users can upload reports they have authored for free or for sale — with the seller retaining 80% of the sale price and the remaining 20% going to Amp. The co-founders of Amp hope that in addition to becoming a starting place for those interested in the sustainability sector, the site will provide a mechanism for income generation for individuals through content exchange — something that was inspired by the growth of the sharing economy.
So far, McKinney says reactions to the beta launch have been largely positive. “People ‘get’ what we’re doing and believe there’s a lot of value in the directory. We’re seeing solid traffic and profile creation, but we need more engagement in the form of ratings, peer reviews, sharing, starting discussions, etc. It’s a timeshare challenge that many tech startups experience,” said McKinney.
In addition to running a startup, McKinney is a songwriter and contributing writer for GOOD, Pando Daily, Forbes and Triple Pundit — she says it’s one of the ways she finds inspiration for her work. She often writes about entrepreneurship, sharing advice from her own experiences as a first-time entrepreneur. “I used to think not working for an established company was risky. Now I think the riskiest thing you can do is disregard your dreams in the name of comfort. Being comfortable is no longer my goal … Growth is.”