I had a chance to sit down with Mark Horozowski CEO/co-founder of Moving Worlds (UW MS Accounting ’07) to discuss his inspiration and experience starting the company. Moving Worlds (MWs) is building a global network that matches skilled professional with volunteering opportunities around the world. It’s a bit like Peace Crops mixed with Match.com. The mission is to accelerate the impact of social impact organizations around the world while connecting people with life-enriching experiences. Inspiration sprang out of a yearlong sabbatical where he volunteered in multiple countries helping local organizations with marketing. After the experience people in his network began pinging him, asking about referrals for professionals that could help them with different business expertise, i.e., “Do you know someone in Nepal that can help us with a marketing problem?”. The business idea for Moving Worlds emerged from this expressed need.
According to Mark there are 1.6 million people who volunteer overseas every year (his sources included UN reports and academic papers). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 62 million people volunteered in 2013 in the US alone. Over 50% of overseas volunteers have graduate degrees. Only 30-40% associate with Faith Based organizations. That leaves a large market of professionals looking for access to overseas volunteer opportunities. For the overseas market must people are already paying to volunteer. MWs ran a survey to understand barriers. Most people don’t volunteer for three main reasons: (1) family responsibilities don’t allow, (2) job responsibilities don’t allow, (3) cost is prohibitive.
The MW product is positioned as a marketplace for matching skilled professionals seeking meaningful volunteer opportunities with organizations around the world needing access to talent. The value add services provided for the individual include filtering and vetting opportunities and aggregating the search in one place, automated online forms that streamline the process, and 1 on 1 coaching to help place professionals with the best match for the best experience. The value added service for the organizations is access to a ready vetted network of skilled professionals allowing them to find the right match for the need with minimal effort and cost.
For the B2C market, MWs is targeting skilled professionals by resegmenting the existing volunteering market. Sub segments within the skilled professionals include graduate students, sabbatical ready professionals, and early retirees. MWs is reaching these customer primarily through web (website, LinkedIn, online testimonials), email, and word-of-mouth.
For the B2B market, MWs is targeting corporate managers wanting skill based volunteer programs for their employees. Mark arrived at this approach after his initial hypothesis, which was to build a white label B2B solution for organizations. He quickly learned that he was targeting the wrong decision makers in the B2B segment. CSR and HR managers did not want to pay to expand their programs to include volunteer services. He learned later that innovative team managers valued the service as a career development option for their teams so MWs pivoted to target team managers directly. To acquire their first set of customers they connected directly with consultants (via trade shows) already working with employ retention programs at major corporations. This gave them a direct sales channel to reach corporations by working through consultants looking to differentiate their services to corporate clients. These consultant organizations include: Realized Worth, SustainAbility, and Good.is.
People have been volunteering for a while using a variety of tools to identify opportunities, most often paying to do it overseas. MWs makes the process easier by bringing organizations and volunteers together in one place and reducing the cost through a new pricing structure. Typically, organizations that host people will charge $2000-3000/wk to volunteer. That doesn’t include airfare, vaccinations, etc. MWs is changing the pricing structure by using a membership model that charges $99/year for the Do-it-yourself search, and $249 per year for the supported plan. The supported plan offers a personalized search process for those volunteers wanting to find the right fit. Volunteers’ typically still cover airfare but lodging is taken care of.
MWs PR and promotion program is geared more towards the top of the funnel. Since they are an early startup their main goal is to reach new customers by generating awareness and communicating the value of their service to the user. They do this through word of mouth, volunteer testimonials and “opportunity of the week” announcements on their website. For people that sign up to their service they have an email “nurturing” campaign that helps educate people on opportunities and considerations with volunteering. They haven’t gotten to this yet but they plan to start blogging and developing whitepapers to help educate customers on volunteering: the risks of doing it wrong by not doing your homework and picking the wrong organization and what it means to have a volunteer program set up for long term success of the organization that needs help. This will help people better understand the valuable services MW provides. They also use social media, with Facebook and Twitter accounts. For host organizations they are developing a partnering strategy to give volunteer candidates the ability to target a specific organization by giving host organizations a web interface to post opportunities and other information.