Gabriele Donati and longtime friend Karim Varini launched an alternative online monetary system and turned it into TimeRepublik, a global phenomenon. For these formidable business leaders, the innovative company is about launching a digital platform and seeing a monumental vision come to fruition. TimeRepublik uses currency called, TimeCoin, worth 15 minutes of time, which users exchange with each other for a myriad of services. TimeCoin, worth 15 minutes of time, which users exchange with each other for a myriad of services. TimeRepublik has over 100,000 people in more than 100 countries.
Gabriele, Tell us about TimeRepublik.
I started TimeRepublik with Karim Varini, a childhood friend back in Switzerland. The idea came about while watching a local news station where they were featuring a proto-timebank happening in a condominium. Basically, the tenants were exchanging favors and the superintendent was registering every time transaction in a book. He was also acting as a facilitator matching tenants’ needs through a rudimental sheet of I NEED and I OFFER posted on the hallway wall.
This caught our attention, because for years we’ve been talking about creating an alternative space that could value relationships rather than transactions. A place based on reciprocity and abundance rather than hoarding and scarcity. A place where money is out of the equation. We immediately knew that time banking was the solution and back then we set a fairly ambitious goal: to create the biggest time bank in the world.
We believe money is an expensive tool, plus when you use money it is a little bit like gambling, since you are trying to estimate the value of something that most of the time loses its value right after you purchase it. With time it’s pretty different just for the fact that everyone has 24 hours a day to spend no matter who you are… that’s it; that’s what’s given to you. Also, interesting enough, time is the most scarce resource that everyone has access to. That’s the key. So, equal access to a scarce resource makes everyone rich in a way. That’s what TimeRepublik is.
TimeRepublik has over 100,000 people in more than 100 countries. Take us through the process.
It seems that we live in a society that is increasingly demanding an impossible level of competition. It seems that even for a modest position people need superhuman skills and biblical years of experience. Don’t get me wrong, competitiveness is extremely important for the advancement of the human race, that’s how we get to Mars and that’s how we cure diseases, etc. But where can we go if we just want to take it a bit easier and maybe leverage on empathy, dignity, and trust instead? Is there such a space in the current economic system?
As Edgar Cahn (the godfather of modern time banking) said: “All the current economic planning omits an economy that is much more important.” It’s called home, family, neighborhood, community, civil society that raises children, keeps neighborhoods safe and vibrant, raises strong families, takes care of the elderly, gets involved in things like elections, tries to make democracy work, holds officials accountable, fights for social justice and tries to keep the planet sustainable.
This is a long introduction to explain why TimeRpeublik is gaining momentum, and why all around the world people are looking for complementary solutions. I feel that people are craving a place where they can exchange what they really love to do, their passions!
When you register on TimeRepublik you don’t need to be Mark Twain to teach English, because there are thousands of people around the world that just want to converse an hour a week with someone that speaks English. That’s what we mean when we say that everyone has a talent and everyone can find purpose.
Once you sign up and you fill out your profile, the system will automatically gift you 20 TimeCoins (which it’s just a fancy way to call time. 1 TimeCoin=15min). And with that you can immediately post a request for whatever you need. Once you do that every person that has the skill you are looking for is notified. Multiple people will answer to your request, so now it’s up to you to choose your favorite person (by looking at their profile and history) and start the exchange. After the exchange is done the system will automatically credit the provider and debit the requester.
TimeRepublik’s goal is to generate more trust among people. This was more urgent for us, because once you are able to create trust with another person, only then do you see the spectrum of possibilities opening up. Once I trust you, I will suddenly open many more doors for you, I will go the extra mile to help you. TimeRepublik is trying to recreate what is already happening in healthy communities, in circles of friends, and in healthy families. Places where reciprocity and mutual help are happening organically.
The reality is that everyone sees TimeRepublik differently, and that’s beautiful. Once you abandon the monetary mindset you start to realize that new worlds are possible.
Tell us about the community. How is it building friendships across the globe?
TimeRepublik might look like a typical service-exchange platform but the service-exchange is just the beginning rather than the goal. The service-exchange part is the ice breaker that usually leads to a more meaningful interaction. Once this happens you might experience a “Faith in humanity restored” moment (to put it in an internet meme-like way). By providing a fertile ground for those types of interactions you automatically provide ways to build community and friendships. To be perfectly clear I am not saying that every exchange leads to that, but once you have a glimpse of its potential you’ll quickly change your approach towards human interaction.
What are the services bartered on this platform?
We have about 150 types of skills that people are sharing. From dog-walking to translation, from all sorts of design work to yoga teaching, legal advice, tutoring, etc. Unfortunately, during the pandemic we’ve seen a decrease of physical exchanges, so for the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in online services.
The most exchanged categories of all times are:
Languages & Translations
Child Care & Babysitting