WeNaturalists Story: Digital Ecosystem for Nature Enthusiasts

Jeenal Jain Jeenal Jain
Aug 13, 2021 13 min read
WeNaturalists Story: Digital Ecosystem for Nature Enthusiasts

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by WeNaturalists.

The world’s focus for the next 50 years is going to be on nature and climate crises. This community needs a place to belong. WeNaturalists meets the needs of the nature community with a three-pronged approach – by bringing Social, Content, and Tools together on a single platform to make it an ecosystem.

Founded by Amit Banka and Punam Kanodia, WeNaturalists is the one-stop solution for nature professionals. It will bring people, organizations, and opportunities together. WeNaturalists is not a social media platform - it’s an ecosystem for all-things-nature.

StartupTalky interviewed Mr. Amit Banka (Founder, WeNaturalists) to get insights on the Startup Story and Growth Hacks of the organization. In this article, you'll get to know how WeNaturalists started, what it does, its business model, future plans, and more.

WeNaturalists - Company Highlights

Startup Name WeNaturalists
Founding Team Amit Banka, Punam Kanodia
Industry Environment
Headquarters Mumbai, Maharashtra
Website wenaturalists.com

WeNaturalists - About, Product & USP
WeNaturalists - Target Audience
Journey of WeNaturalists - How it Started
WeNaturalists - Founders and Team
WeNaturalists - Name and Logo
WeNaturalists - Business Model and Revenue Model
WeNaturalists - Startup Launch
WeNaturalists - Challenges Faced
WeNaturalists - Growth
WeNaturalists - Funding
WeNaturalists - Advisors/Mentors
WeNaturalists - Competitors
WeNaturalists - Future Plans
WeNaturalists - FAQs

WeNaturalists - About, Product & USP

WeNaturalists is the one-stop solution for nature professionals. It will bring people, organizations, and opportunities together for the first time. Its vision is to create a digital space – an ecosystem that is the go-to place for everyone associated with nature. The startup is aiming to bring in more than 500 million nature professionals and 10 million organizations worldwide together at its platform.

The core belief of WeNaturalists: To create the largest ecosystem for people working in nature from around the world where people from respective environment sectors working towards nature can share their views, concerns and initiate activities - do whatever it takes for nature conservation.

People working in Nature have very different needs related to their work, profile and portfolio building, livelihood, learning, communication, and funding. The evolved needs of the nature community are not met by any other social network or platforms today. These include:

  • Frequent and consistent livelihood opportunities
  • Access to continuous learning and upskilling
  • Quality engagement with a relevant audience
  • Recognition and visibility for work and contribution
  • Easy and recurrent access to other professionals and experts globally
  • Lack of funding environment for opportunities created

Solving the pain point and why it’s required

The world’s focus for the next 50 years is going to be on nature and climate crises. This community needs a place to belong. WeNaturalists meets the needs of the nature community mentioned above with a three-pronged approach – by bringing Social, Content, and Tools together on a single platform to make it an ecosystem. The solution is a package of:

  1. Network of Nature professionals, aspirants, experts, and organizations
  2. Tailor-made tools like:
  • Experience Showcase – for detailed portfolio building and project management
  • Project Board – with postings for jobs, assignments, events, and training globally
  • Circles – exclusive, gated community for targeted engagement
  • Explore – nature-related news, stories, and opinions from 100+ leading global publications
  • Other social tools like forums, polls, messaging
  • Research – collaboration tool for researchers
  • Funding - to meet their for-profit and not-for-profit goals

The confluence of customized and social tools will lead to commerce at multiple levels in form of:

  • Work prospects and learning opportunities for individuals
  • Easy access to professionals and partners for organizations
  • Funding opportunities for projects, research, and eco-businesses
  • Targeted reach through sponsored content and sponsored gated communities for organizations and businesses

Currently, no platform provides a one-stop solution for nature professionals. WeNaturalists will bring people, organizations, and opportunities together for the first time.


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WeNaturalists - Target Audience

  1. Individuals directly working in nature, globally
  • User Persona - Conservationists, Wildlife Professionals, Field guides, Researchers, Wildlife and Bird Photographers, Nature Film and documentary makers, Policymakers, Climate Scientists, Climate Change Professionals and Activists, Eco-entrepreneurs.
  • Market Size - 500 million+ and growing more than 5-7% per annum

2. Organizations directly working in nature globally

  • User Persona – Eco-businesses, Investors, NGOs and Charities working on conservation, Educational Institutes, Associations of Nature Professionals, Government bodies, Policymakers, jungle, lodges and resorts, Destination management companies.
  • Market Size - 10 million+

[Calculation of this market size was conducted through various government sources and online data from organizations that track nature/ NGO activities]

Know how to do Target market selection for your business.

Journey of WeNaturalists - How it Started

Amit Banka's journey towards making his passion a purpose started in 2019 but seeds were sown much earlier. He has been gravitating towards this world all through his adulthood and professional life. Working on agri-businesses ranging from farm-to-fork models to agri-solutions advisory to finding eco-friendly substitutes, Amit has always been overwhelmed with people's dependence on nature. The biggest stepping-stone in Amit's journey was his time with Swades Foundation, Zarina, and Ronnie Screwvala’s philanthropic initiative to uplift rural Western India.

All his lived experiences made Amit realize that people's relationship with nature, especially in the rural, under-developed geographies, is a fragile one. Every minor imbalance in nature causes a major imbalance in lives. The relationship with nature needs work, to strike the right balance and to coexist. But finding this balance is a huge task that the whole world is grappling with today and he couldn’t help but think of ways to contribute to the movement. That’s when Amit found the answer. WeNaturalists - An ecosystem to build meaningful relationships, collaborate globally for work and learning, spread awareness, make education more effective, and contribute to the greater good.

WeNaturalists

For product and business validation, both online and offline research was required across various categories of nature professionals and organizations. The team spoke to about 100 people in step one to understand their lifestyles, approach towards their work, and how they plan their work and life. Then they set out to find the key difference between their passions and purpose in what they do towards nature, environment, flora and fauna, conservation, sustainability, etc. Using those learnings, they created a small prototype of around 20 pages in Adobe XD to showcase the plan.

WeNaturalists approached some of the biggest names in the industry across geographies to test the product and get their feedback towards acceptance, scale, key features, tools, and most importantly, revenue model. Here's an excerpt of some responses WeNaturalists received from them:

  • David Houghton, WildLandscapes: "This should have been done by National Geographic two decades back"
  • Bittu Sahgal, Sanctuary Nature Foundation: It is a very welcome step, and I would be happy to see you flourish. My instant reaction is, I wish you strength. At this moment, as I have gone through the facets, it hit the right note…"
  • Julian Matthews, TOFTigers: "In a world with global issues that need tackling on a global scale, this is a fabulous way to connect and unite disciplines and like-minded communities. WeNaturalists becomes a single destination for anyone interested in nature. It is a social and professional network for nature lovers enabling collective action! Kudos to the idea and effort for bringing everyone in the natural world together! TOFT and I are in! Whatever you need"
  • Michelle DuPlessis, Field Guides Association of South Africa: "Wow what a brilliant platform! Love the look and feel and functionality. It is definitely something that we need and FGASA would be happy to be a part of this"
  • Theresa Sowry and Jeanne Poultney, Southern African Wildlife College: "Congratulations on having gone live! Some incredible work has gone into setting up this platform. Lots of exciting work ahead and here we also appreciate the offer to assist. There are a number of aspects discussed which are of particular interest, including circles which as chatted will work really well for our alumni groups, forming its own gated community and then also being part of the bigger WeNaturalists community"
  • Caroline Nyamamu, IUCN ESARO: "This is so much more than I expected. It is what we need and I find it very exciting to help you bring this to the right people and help in its growth"
  • Graham Verceuil, Nature Guiding Veteran: "WeNaturalists, as I see it, fills a major void that has existed for years. There was a missing link between the people and enterprises contributing to nature and the potential for them to engage with the world. This platform brings everyone together under one umbrella. Outstanding prospect for the community!"
  • Kartikeya Singh Chauhan, Naturalist & Wildlife Management Professional: "With the increasing focus on nature, many opportunities are emerging for naturalists globally, but access and awareness are limited to personal connections. This is where, I think, WeNaturalists makes a difference. By connecting naturalists to opportunities with the potential to help them grow beyond their existing capacities. If someone is a wildlife researcher, why stop at that! Having opportunities to be a wildlife interpreter or eco-entrepreneur or sustainability professional is all possible easily now!"
  • Alastair Kilpin, Mammoth Safaris, SA: "Thanks for showing me the WeNaturalists concept this morning – looks like a lot of thought has gone into it. It is different, clean, and neat and should be a powerful tool for connecting our collective passion"

After speaking to nature professionals from across the globe, the team @ WeNaturalists realized that they can be hugely beneficial for this community. Its tools are designed specifically for them and there is no such offering in the market.


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WeNaturalists - Founders and Team

Amit Banka is the founder of WeNaturalists. Punam Kanodia is the co-founder of WeNaturalists.

WeNaturalists Founder Team
Amit Banka - Founder, WeNaturalists

About Amit Banka | Founder, WeNaturalists

An Ardent Nature lover, bird photographer, diver, and wildlife enthusiast. Professional Experience involves 20+ years of experience in running a business in sectors such as Media, Gaming, Hospitality, Agriculture; and leading various strategic initiatives for large corporates, global M&A, corporate finance.

About Punam Kanodia | Co-founder, WeNaturalists

Product development into gaming, a pioneer in gaming technology in India. Presently, she looks after the product and technology requirements of WeNaturalists. She is an alum of IIM-A.

How did the Founders meet?

Amit knew Punam Kanodia for more than 5 years before he discussed the idea of WeNaturalists with her. Due to her passion and understanding of product development and technology, she immediately started discussing ideas with him. One thing led to the other and after discussing the overall plan and the need of the product going forward, we decided to work together on WeNaturalists.

Team Size and Work Culture

  • Company size: 25+ employees
  • Work culture: The startup runs a flat structure, quite similar to other startups. This in turn means direct access to leadership. Flat structures help cut the time of deliveries and execution significantly. It’s a healthy environment - people are able to talk freely and express themselves within a small team and everyone grows personally and professionally. Here are 5 Simple Steps to Evaluate a Company's culture during Remote hiring.
  • Hiring Funda: It’s simple - since the team is working in a very new segment, a fresh outlook from everyone is required. Hence, they need someone who is ready to walk the extra mile to learn and explore new things regularly. Someone who is quick to implement learnings and doesn't mind failing and doing better the next time. A person who could channelize their energies into these different directions and juggle several roles rolled into one.

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The name ‘WeNaturalists’ was primarily to cater to a specific passion-based community working in nature. ‘Naturalists’ as a term came closest and was the most universal. And, the team wanted this product to be the voice for all people-of-nature… hence, they prefixed it with “We”.

WeNaturalists Logo and Story
WeNaturalists Logo

Once the brand name was decided and locked, the team figured out the right color that resonates with the community. Hence, a very fresh green was chosen, which led to finding the perfect contrast, and thus green and teal colors were chosen.

Then they went on to define what the brand stands for. It was absolute teamwork, which started with drawings on an iPad using these colors and then led to their designer coming up with a logo that evolved into a multi-faceted “call out” - that signifies collective action, a voice, and togetherness all in the backdrop of nature.

WeNaturalists - Business Model and Revenue Model

The world is moving towards creating more stickiness and what better way to cater to the niche community which is so scalable. Hence, WeNaturalists has adopted a model largely driven by - ‘Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool’. It has integrated customized tools for this community to go deep with their requirements on a day-to-day basis.

Typical Revenue Source of WeNaturalists: Tiered Subscription model, Pay-per-tool, and Sponsored content for targeted reach.


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WeNaturalists - Startup Launch

The first 100 is always exciting and for WeNaturalists, it was merely few phone calls for its beta testing. However, it has largely been through their conversations with organizations and individuals along with robust communication through social media. Webinar and events where people understand the concept of WeNaturalists and thought leadership helps the team. WeNaturalists' Conservation Day webinar helped it reach newer audiences and was well-appreciated by naturalists from across the globe.

Customer Retention Strategy

The product offered by WeNaturalists is unique and it offers its members limitless opportunities to grow. WeNaturalists is not a social media platform - it’s an ecosystem for all-things-nature. As such, the relevant audience has much to gain from it. Its product has been well accepted by every single nature professional. So the team doesn’t need to do anything additional to retain customers - Its product offering is enough.

Partnerships/Tie-ups

Since the time of its launch, WeNaturalists has partnered with several organizations in South Africa, the USA, UK, Indonesia, India among others. Some of them are EcoTraining, South African Wildlife College, International Rhino Foundation, Gili Eco Trust, Wildlife Conservation Trust, TOFTigers, and more.

WeNaturalists - Challenges Faced

During the initial stage of its platform, the biggest challenge in front of the team was to understand the needs of its target audience. From planning to execution with the team to build a platform that breaks stereotypes and meets the expectations of this community was a challenging task.

The other major challenge faced by the team was working in a remote environment during the pandemic.  The journey was in November 2019, right before Covid-19 hit the world. But, the team somehow managed to work harder and kept up the momentum, and launched in October 2020. All credit goes to the team members who have worked relentlessly through the entire period of the crisis to ensure that WeNaturalists achieves its goals.

WeNaturalists - Growth

Since the global launch, WeNaturalists witnessed web traffic of over 20,000+ users from over 100 countries on its platform. Primarily it is focused on the English-speaking geographies and maintaining a physical presence in places such as the US, South Africa, Tanzania, Indonesia, and India. In the coming year, the startup is planning to increase its bandwidth to reach people in every geography and reach more than 1 million people altogether.

WeNaturalists - Funding

Currently, WeNaturalists is a bootstrapped startup, but it is in the process of raising funds. The team is communicating with investors about its sustainable business model and is hopeful to hit the milestone soon.


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WeNaturalists - Advisors/Mentors

Shailesh Haribhakti | Advisor - Impact Measurement

A veteran in the Indian Financial sector thought leader on the Indian economy and public policy, ESG evangelist, author, and on the Board of some of the country's most preeminent companies.

Julian Matthews | Advisor - Community Outreach

Eco-entrepreneur, conservationist, eco-tourism advocate, and founder of TOFTigers, an eco-tourism alliance campaign set up to save tigers

Donna Goodman | Advisor - Community Outreach and Education

Expert with the United Nations with 25+ years of experience in global initiatives for Awareness about Water, Education, and Child Participation

Kartikeya Singh Chauhan | Advisor – Community Expert

Wildlife and conflict management expert, researcher, and trainer to 500+ naturalists and forest officers across geographies

WeNaturalists - Competitors

Technically, WeNaturalists cannot be compared with any existing platform available across the world. It is an ecosystem that caters to the specific needs of a particular community and the team is yet to find anything similar worldwide. Currently, no platform provides a one-stop solution for nature professionals. WeNaturalists will bring people, organizations, and opportunities together for the first time.

WeNaturalists - Future Plans

After receiving remarkable feedback from its members as well as from partners, dignitaries, and contributors, WeNaturalists is hoping to reach over 1 million users globally within a year. The team is constantly adding improvements and features while they learn more about the community through feedback. Some of them include funding for capacity building and projects, eco-entrepreneurship to name a few.

The major area of focus is on community outreach and increasing engagement across different levels with the help of unique features and tools. WeNaturalists has already established a global presence with offices in 3 major continents - the US, Africa, and Asia. The startup is working towards growing its team and building it to align with the organizational goals.

WeNaturalists - FAQs

What is WeNaturalists?

WeNaturalists is the one-stop solution for nature professionals. It will bring people, organizations, and opportunities together for the first time. Its vision is to create a digital space – an ecosystem that is the go-to place for everyone associated with nature.

Who are the founders of WeNaturalists?

Amit Banka is the founder of WeNaturalists. Punam Kanodia is the co-founder of WeNaturalists.

Has WeNaturalists raised any funding?

As of 2021, WeNaturalists is a bootstrapped startup, but it is in the process of raising funds.

How does WeNaturalists make money?

WeNaturalists has adopted a model largely driven by - ‘Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool’. It has integrated customized tools for this community to go deep with their requirements on a day-to-day basis. Typical Revenue Source of WeNaturalists: Tiered Subscription model, Pay-per-tool, and Sponsored content for targeted reach.

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