Jumo, the social network created by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, and designed to help people find good causes and take meaningful action, has been acquired by GOOD, the media platform for "people who want to live well and do good."
The amount or terms were not disclosed.
Hughes, who launched Jumo (in beta) in March 2010 will join GOOD as a senior advisor. "We’ll stay true to our (c)3 roots," he says, referring to Jumo’s former nonprofit status. "Jumo.com will be the home for our open source code base, so that nonprofits and developers can use it." But the Jumo team will be fully integrated into the GOOD ecosystem. "There’s a lot we’re still working out," Hughes tells Fast Company. "But I’m really excited."
It’s an interesting move for Hughes, who has impeccable startup credentials and somewhat of a do-gooder rockstar status in tech circles. He left Facebook to become the director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. (His nickname at Facebook was "The Empath.") About 15,000 nonprofits and NGOS have created a presence on Jumo.com, and more than one million people have been able to follow issues and connect with organizations that are doing good things through the portal. (The average user follows 12 nonprofits on the site.) And Jumo has been piloting some community fundraising campaigns, like a recent one for victims of the Somalia drought, that have yielded good results. But keeping interest alive in the do-gooder space can be tough. Hughes says he has learned a lot. "People need carefully curated content if you are going to sustain their interest," he says. "Particularly in the context of the not for profit world. People have to be consistently inspired, outraged, or excited. And there are nonprofits out there who are doing noble work in their communities and good jobs with their social outreach, but simply can’t generate enough content, particularly on local issues."
Though acquisitions within the nonprofit world are more common than people think, a 501(c)3 that attracts or accepts for-profit media money is not. But GOOD, which has long strived to be a different sort of beast, seems to be a good fit.
GOOD set out to be about big things from the start. It launched as a magazine in 2006, dedicated to the proposition that people can live a good life while "giving a damn" about the world, offering a mix of technology, health, environment, business, politics, education, and design through a distinct and liberal lens. It was cofounded by Ben Goldhirsh, a Massachusetts native who moved to L.A. to go to film production school, but dropped out to start his own production company. Goldhirsh, a Brown graduate with a weighty inheritance (he is the son of the late Bernie Goldhirsh, the beloved founder of our sister publication, Inc.) avoided being that wealthy kid who dabbled. Instead, he gravitated toward building a communications platform—print magazine, website, films, events, and now a consulting arm—with an entrepreneurial bent and good works built in. They currently get 3 million unique visitors to their site each month, and have more than 648,000 Twitter followers. Jumo helps accelerate their plans. "We are moving away from, 'We’re a media company, we create; you’re an audience, you consume.’ We have always wanted to be more of a community of like-minded people," he says. For example, GOOD runs 30 Day Challenges that ask people to do something to improve themselves, like take on a vegetarian diet. "We got great casual feedback," he said, "but we never had any functional community to really dig in to." In October 2009, GOOD closed a round of Series A funding in the "single millions" as characterized by former GOOD President Craig Shapiro to TechCrunch. This is their first acquisition.
Goldhirsh recalls reaching out to Hughes after the 2008 election, hoping to entice him on board. "We had similar problems that we were trying to solve [in the world], and had similar theories of change." But Hughes, who was weary from the campaign, waved him off. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested," Hughes says, laughing, when reminded of the conversation. "I really needed to figure some stuff out."
Back then, Hughes told me, "I've been in the business of building technology that networks people. So far, the goal has been to make it easier to communicate and self-organize. Depending on what I do next, it may be to make it easier for people to learn about the world around them."
The decision to merge forces came quickly, during a routine touch-base call early this past June. "There was no great scene, our eyes didn’t meet across a crowded room," laughs Goldhirsh. "We just started talking about what we were doing and suddenly, it made sense." Hughes was looking for an unlimited supply of good content, "in the broadest possible sense," he says, and Goldhirsh wanted to add more social tools. From idea to term sheet took less than 60 days.
Goldhirsh says that having Hughes around will add mightily "to the collective neurons" that make up a growing empire that includes GOOD Corps, a social impact oriented consulting arm that works with big brands like Pepsi, GE, IBM, and MasterCard. "We have two fundamental businesses, media and strategy," says Goldhirsh. On the drawing board for additional revenue are membership, transactions, and other products. But for the time being, Hughes remains focused on Jumo’s next act, which will appear under the GOOD imprimatur in some form this November or December. Asked how he will measure collective success, Hughes says he’s looking for a metric that may not exist yet. "How many people are inspired to make a meaningful impact on the world and what are they actually doing?" he asks. "It’s too reductionist to say that meaningful action is just a donation." He talks about people making changes in their lives, organizing politically, and the opportunity he has to capture that. Then he pauses. "You gotta find the right number."
[Image: Flickr user dsearl]