How Innovator Gabriele Donati’s TimeRepublik Is Forging Bonds to Promote Community

TimeRepublik eager to turn skills, talents, and time into lasting connections

Originally from Lugano, Switzerland, Gabriele Donati, the Co-Founder and CEO of TimeRepublik, started his life as a musician playing the upright electric bass. The avid jazz lover moved to New York at age 21 to pursue music at the New School University, where he studied with big-name performers and graduated in 1999 with a B.F.A. in performing arts and music composition.

Got a minute? How about 15 minutes? Or an hour?

If you do, then Gabriele Donati would love for you to take your infrequently-used skill and share it with TimeRepublik, a global community of 100,000 people in 100 countries, and in return, would like you to benefit from the vast resources of talents and skills.

Donati and his long-time friend and business partner Karim Varini, understand that TimeRepublik is both simple and genius: anyone in the U.S. and around the globe can get the services and instruction they need, build projects, or portfolios using time as a currency instead of money.

“For me, this is a dream that is materializing, because it’s more than little exchanges,” explains Donati, who is considered to be a visionary and business leader. “It’s about the things that make a genuine difference in people’s lives, which makes it a miracle for me.”

This is the idea behind TimeRepublik, an innovative time banking platform, “now re-launching in the United States. Based in New York, Time Republik is the first purpose-driven social network that was inspired by the concept of time banking.

TimeRepublik offers a global online platform for users to provide services in exchange for Time Coins, worth 15 minutes of time, which users exchange with each other for a myriad of services – anything from music lessons, planting a lush garden, to graphic design work and how to cook a perfect plate of pasta. Donati is intensely proud that “the projects available on TimeRepublik attract such a positive user base, and that members are so much more apt to help each other than they are to make demands,” he adds.

“The ultimate goal of this platform is creating relationships that lead to trust. Once you reach that level of trust, the spectrum of possibilities becomes endless, and you become part of my family,” Donati says. “It’s been proven that what makes us happy is to help someone else, and this is something that you cannot buy.”

(L to R) Karim Varini and business partner Gabriele Donati

What do you love about your company? 

Gabriele Donati: I have spent the last 10 years of my life on TimeRepublik, so I have this unconditional love for it. I think what keeps me so attached and so positive about this project is that every day I see strangers helping each other. I see that what we have created is useful for people, and it’s putting people together that before TimeRepublik wouldn’t have a chance to get together. So, we have these strangers all around the world that through TimeRepublik are able to connect and cross paths. 

Please tell me how becoming a member of TimeRepublik works.

Gabriele Donati: Once you sign up and you fill out your profile, the system will automatically gift you 20 Time Coins, (which it’s just a fancy way to call time. One TimeCoin equals 15 minutes).  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 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.

Talk about the community that is building connections across the globe?

Gabriele Donati: 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 more meaningful interaction. Once this happens you might experience “a faith in humanity restored” moment.

By providing a fertile ground for those types of interactions you automatically provide ways to build community and friendships. I’m 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 your TimeRepublik platform?

Gabriele Donati: We have about 150 types of skills that people are sharing. Unfortunately, during the pandemic we’ve seen a decrease in 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, therapy assistance, computer support, photography/video production, graphic/web designer, writer/proofreader, dog walking, tutoring, child care and babysitting, programmer, and more

What life lessons have you gained personally and professionally from TimeRepublik?

Gabriele Donati:  For the most part I’ve learned that little by little that if you really want to change things, or to make a little dent, it’s the individual responsibility. So, it’s really up to you. So, at one point I stopped being negative about things, and I just pulled up my sleeves and started working on it. I discovered if you really want to do something and change things, it takes a lot of time and effort because you have to be able to move mountains. So, I would say to roll up your sleeves and make it happen!

 How important is spreading your strong work ethic to the next generation, especially your six-year-old son?

Gabriele Donati:  Extremely important. That’s how I was raised and the ethic that I am trying to teach my child. My family gave me this foundation, and since I fully adopted these principles, I’ve seen immediate results. 

 Who has inspired you over the years? Who said, “Gabriele, the sky’s the limit if you work hard”?

Gabriele Donati:  Well, I have had tons of inspirations, but what was the key for me to pursue my dream was the support of my family. I moved to New York to do a BFA in the performing arts jazz program. I think it’s extremely important to have a person, or a community, behind you who really supports your crazy ideas, and of course, who challenges you as well; because without that, you find yourself alone, and then it’s very hard to keep pushing.

Business leader and jazz musician Gabriele Donati playing the Upright Bass

I know that you studied music, recorded music, and collaborated with some jazz greats. Is it still a big part of your life?

Gabriele Donati:  Yes, yes, absolutely. I still play the upright bass, double-bass, jazz, jazz music. That’s what keeps me sane as well. I still do gigs in New York and that’s the other side of me. So, I am all about TimeRepublik and music.

Do you have certain musicians, whose work you enjoy?

Gabriele Donati:  Oh, plenty, yes.  I’m interested more in the traditions, so 40s, 50s, and 60s.  So, more the swing, bebop era. So, I have many heroes from that era.

When they are speaking to you, do people bring up the practice of bartering a lot when talking about your company?

Gabriele Donati:  Yes, I mean that for sure is a misconception that people have, because time banking is not mainstream, yet. Bartering is great but it’s very limited.  And, of course, with bartering, you need to find somebody with a skill that you need, and you have to do this matchmaking, and it gets limiting. 

How is Time Banking different from bartering?

Gabriele Donati: While with time banking you can do something for anybody, and then you accrue the time and then you can spend the time for any other service you need.  So, it’s an uncoupled exchange, while bartering is coupled exchange, so it’s a little limited. Time banking takes a step forward and uncouples the exchange, and creates like a digital wallet of time that you can collect and then you can spend wherever you want and whenever you want.  So that’s the biggest difference.

Expand on the phrase you often use, “Goodbye cash, hello community.”

Gabriele Donati: Once you stop thinking about money, scarcity, and all of the strings attached to money, you can start to relax and you can start to basically relate to people as fellow human beings basically. That’s where the beauty of relationships starts to reveal itself.  But it’s amazing to see how people communicate on TimeRepublik. Once you know that money is out of the equation, then you’re there, you’re asking for something and somebody’s replying, then money is not involved, people start opening up. It’s incredible. 

Because if you do an analysis of the word count of the messages that people exchange, it’s like five times longer than any message of any other social media platform. So, we’re saying, forget about money, when you come here because we are trying to leverage something else. We are trying to really bring out the community and this is what we think when we say “Goodbye cash, hello community.”

Why is the exchange an hour for an hour no matter what skill you are offering? Conventionally speaking a lot of people would think the time of a doctor, dentist, or lawyer is worth much more than a writer, an artist, or a gardener.

Gabriele Donati:  Yes, and again this is one of the issues that I explained before, like tracing the parallelism with the market economy. So, in TimeRepublik we’re not so concerned with measuring the value of people’s skills. The most important thing is to create relationships. The ultimate goal is to try to reach trust.  So that’s why it’s very important to maintain the equation, one equals one.  Because the nature of the un-flexibility of the currency actually permits us to create that relationship. 

Why have many of your TimeRepublik members stayed involved in the platform for eight or 10 years?

Gabriele Donati:  Because it’s working. Because it proves that we need something like this and because there is not much out there that fulfills our hearts like this. Basically, 99.9 percent of Silicon Valley is developing apps that actually have nothing to do with relationships, and with best human practices, and get people together for what really makes us happy. 

So, we are increasingly sitting on our couches, not seeing anybody, and creating these virtual worlds where everything seems perfect. But at the end of the day, once we meet in person, we become so awkward that you cannot even answer a simple question, “How are you?”  Do you know what I mean?  It became such an automatic response, “I’m fine.”

Do you see yourself, as others see you, as a visionary and a leader?

Gabriele Donati:  I don’t consider myself a great leader nor a great visionary. I think my strength is that the original vision was never compromised.  As a startup, of course, you have to constantly negotiate and compromise on things. But I think if you have a vision and you really believe in the vision, that vision should never be spoiled or compromised.

Again, I still have the vision that TimeRepublik and time banking can change the world. That you can scale empathy, dignity, and trust to an equal exchange based on the inflexibility of time: one equals one. I believe that my strength was to keep the vision and no matter how our team changed and how many players we have involved right now, I was able to maintain that vision and pass it along!

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