Dubai entrepreneur’s 100% Mad scheme to give away $1bn

Tariq Qureishy, a Dubai-based millionaire, hopes to revolutionise the way we donate money to charity.

Tariq Qureishy, the founder of 100% Mad. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Launching a social enterprise that will revolutionise the way we donate money to charity is a tall order.

But the Dubai-based businessman Tariq Qureishy, 50, aims to raise US$1 billion in the next two years, and give the entire amount to charity through his social venture 100% Mad.

“I wear the badge of being 100 per cent mad very proudly, because most innovators are considered mad until people realise ‘that’s exactly what we needed’”, says the Pakistani-Briton. “The leading problem in this world is indifference. Our movement is about saying ‘enough – let’s go end this indifference’. And we can do it, one micro-donation at a time.”

Mr Qureishy is poised to launch a mobile phone app enabling middle-income earners to give micro-donations – typically less than $10, to specific charities – based on the premise that 100 per cent of that money will go to the charities, and none to administration.

He points to Facebook and Google as successful business models where customers aren’t charged but profit is generated by other means. In the case of 100% Mad, operational costs will be covered by money raised from events, merchandising and brand licensing. Donated cash will go either directly to a charity, or be ringfenced in an account supported by a board of trustees which Mr Qureishy is not a signatory to. The purpose of the social enterprise is only to protect the donations and to run it.

“The future of philanthropy is that it should be run like a business. Only the development side should be run by people who understand development. I don’t, so I’m not going to jump into the front line. But I do know about business,” he says.

The spark for the idea was ignited in 1999. Back then, the businessman had risen through the ranks of Dow Jones to become its director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But when he attended a company leadership programme and was asked: ‘how would you write the epitaph on your own tombstone?’, the question stopped him in his tracks.

“At the time I had a big title but I looked at my life and realised ‘this is not me’. I didn’t want to think my life story would be ‘here lies Tariq, dead, a few million dollars in the bank, but didn’t really do anything meaningful.’

“I realised my calling was to find a solution to address the key issues I was touched by – something sustainable, to help people in their millions. I had this yearning to find that solution.”

At the time, Mr Qureishy often sent cheques to children’s charities to give himself an ‘injection of conscience’. But it wasn’t enough. “When I was able to send a larger amount I was helping more children. But when I could only send a smaller amount, a lot went without. That was very unfortunate,” he says.

Then in the early 2000s, the businessman launched a social venture called “mobile aid” – hoping to inspire people to donate through mobiles. While it didn’t take off, Mr Qureishy says: “In my mind, the gem was there”.

So, he turned sights back on to big business. He set up The Times and The Sunday Times in the Middle East in 2007, and his company Vantage Holdings developed a contract with Bloomberg Multimedia to look after the commercial side of their TV and online business in the Middle East.

But he couldn’t shrug off the feeling he should be doing more.

Which is how he came to create “100% Mad which aims to ignite the 2.5 billion millennials around the globe to start a movement away from apathy, and show they do ‘give a buck’”.

Mr Qureishy has invested millions of dirhams of his own money and time in the venture, while his business interests have taken a back seat.

The charities 100% Mad will support also operate on models that enable 100 per cent of donations to go to their causes.

“One charity is ‘Water’, who have corporations donating around $30,000 a month that absorb their costs. Another is the Asha Centre, focusing on cross-cultural education to build worldwide peace.”

The social brand will work with the mind-mapping inventor Tony Buzan’s charity Brain Trust, to improve rates of mental literacy. Mr Buzan is on 100% Mad’s board of patrons, along with the du chief executive Osman Sultan.

“Many of our supporters are gazillionaires and one reason they come to me is because I’m not asking them for money,” says Mr Qureishy. “Their way of helping us is through their companies, offering services and platforms and services to promote the app and the products.”

Fundraising for 100% Mad will begin once Mr Qureishy has completed the process of registering the charity in the UK.

So what of his epitaph now? “I’d like it to say ‘here lies Tariq who was 100% mad’.”

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