Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder, and the engine behind the MyBarackObama community organization site, is back in the start-up business.
His new enterprise is called Jumo, (jumo.com) which soft launches today. Jumo–a Yoruba word meaning “together in concert”–is a non-profit that aims to help people find ways to help the world. “We’ll be matching people based on their skills and interests with organizations around the world that need their input,” Hughes tells Fast Company. “It’s a discovery process that first matches then helps people build relationships then lets people share their resources.”
Hughes was inspired after a post-campaign year of thinking, a bit of work as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the venture firm General Catalyst Partners, and by his experience at his alma mater, Facebook. But it was seeing the current state of the world that helped him decide his next move. “I traveled almost too much,” he says. He visited some of the poorest and most politically divided areas of Latin America, India, and Africa. He was moved not only by the need he saw but by the good works of people, who were often working on small projects and niche issues. “There’s a nurse somewhere in Indiana who would love to know about the nurse in Africa I met working on obstetric fistula,” a devastating condition caused by unrelieved, obstructed labor, a common occurrence in poor regions, Hughes says. He envisions a scenario where people with real skills can share their resources in truly meaningful ways. “This is not just a click on a banner ad and give $10 to a needy child,” he says. “I believe people really want to engage.”
The site goes fully live this fall. The team is lean and focused and includes Hughes, Kristen Titus, a non-profit expert, and the Obama campaign’s former designer Scott Thomas–which explains its elegant interface (full disclosure: Thomas is designing a site for Fast Company too).
Visitors to Jumo will currently be walked through an intriguing list of questions designed to better match them with interesting opportunities later on. True to form, the site expects to soon offer profiles and ways for Jumo members to interact with each other. And Jumo is hiring. “We need Web developers,” Hughes says, laughing.
Hughes has some high powered advisors at his side: Jeffrey David Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the non-profit Acumen Fund that specializes in “base of the pyramid” investments; and Linda Rottenberg, CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, a non-profit that identifies and supports “high-impact” entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Jumo is in the process of raising about $2.5 million in hefty chunks from a few individual donors, Hughes says, and eventually he’ll be asking visitors to donate as well. (The business model as well as the Web site sounds like a work in progress.) Although he struggled with the notion of developing the business as a non-profit–“More than one person told me that there were too many limits to scaling a business with that structure,” he says–he ultimately decided that was the right move. “We’re not in this to make money, we’re in this to make sure that no individual can ever say ‘I want to help but I don’t know how.'”