MobileServe, a local tech startup that has created mobile and web-based platforms for organizations and individuals to track community service hours and volunteerism, is quickly expanding its reach after a recent $525,000 investment.
MobileServe’s co-founders, Ben Reno-Weber and Chris Head, said the funding allowed them to market their products more vigorously and to hire more staff. They recently hired US Chia’s Jacy Cruz as director of communication. In total, they have four full time, two part time and a number of contract employees. They plan to bring product development in-house.
MobileServe says its products are being used in 48 states and that four national Greek organizations are using its app on some 250 campuses. What’s more, the app is being used by high schools, including Mercy Academy in Louisville, which helped test the beta, as well as universities and corporations.
Locally, Northwestern Mutual is trying the platform out for its employees. The University of Louisville Honors program and the College of Arts and Sciences are also clients, MobileServe says.
So far, the Louisville YMCA has used the app to track 20,000 volunteer hours from 1,200 children, a service that is valued at $400,000, Reno-Weber said.
The app only became available in September of last year. Reno-Weber and Head expect the number of users to skyrocket as schools and Greek organizations start on-boarding student volunteers this fall. “Chris could sell ice to Eskimos,” Reno-Weber said.
The company’s home is in a beautiful shared office in Shelby Park above Scarlet’s Bakery, in a building owned by its lead investor Access Ventures. Access Ventures is an impact investment firm focused on investing in businesses that are doing social good.
MobileServe has been years in the making. Reno-Weber and Head first proposed the business when Head was an undergraduate student at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Reno-Weber has extensive experience as a nonprofit executive and a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. He stepped down as chief executive from the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association in May to work full time at MobileServe. Head is a serial entrepreneur and volunteer. He’s also a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Entrepreneurial MBA program.
Since its inception, the co-founders have taken advantage of all of the resources that Louisville has for startup companies. They secured a Kiva Loan, an Access Growth Loan, they went through both the Lean Startup program and were in the final cohort of the Velocity Accelerator program. They bootstrapped the company, took second mortgages out on their houses.
Reno-Weber said that the company had “great local mentors,” adding that even the investors who chose not to invest in the company gave them terrific advice.
MobileServe helps nonprofits track and appreciate volunteers and allows organizations and corporations to track, certify and encourage the service hours logged by members and employees.
Reno-Weber thinks people underestimate the nonprofit market. Access Ventures says there are 1.4 million nonprofits, with annual revenue of $2.2 trillion and $5.2 trillion in assets (as of 2013).
“For the 62 million people volunteering each year, the experience is fairly uneven,” Access Ventures said. “Most organizations use pen and paper to check-in volunteers, sign waivers, and perform background checks.”
The MobileServe products address those issues, it said.
You don’t have to be affiliated with a Greek society or an enrolled corporation to use MobileServe. You can track your own hours for your own enjoyment. There are over 2,500 users doing just that and collectively they have put in 15,000 service hours, the founders said.
Head let me try the app to log fictional service hours. He started to explain how to use the app and then stopped and had me try it with no explanation. It was intuitive, and it took me less than 60 seconds to log my hours, post photos of my fake service and have a fake supervisor certify my hours with an online signature.
Reno-Weber said that MobileServe is in Louisville to stay.
“Our clients are national, so we can pay national salaries,” Reno-Weber said. “And people want to live here.” He believes that on the coasts a company like MobileServe wouldn’t get the kind of support it has from organizations like GLI, the entrepreneurial community, even bankers.
Reno-Weber, a Louisville native who relocated from Washington, D.C., in 2010, said he likes Shelby Park and loves the renovated building that they’re in.
Like MobileServe, the neighborhood is rapidly growing. The offices are just a stone’s throw away from the Park co-working facility, which currently has 75 members, and the future home of Good Folks’ coffee roasting facility.
On the West Coast, MobileServe would be “literally one in a million tech companies,” Head said. Here, they’re looking like one of the stars.