Startup MovingWorlds Helps Professionals Volunteer In Developing World

4/24/13Follow @bromano

Mark Horoszowski wants to make it easier for people with business expertise to help organizations in emerging economies, which he describes with the neologism “experteering.”

He came upon the idea while trying to do exactly that on a year-long trip to countries including Nepal, Malaysia, and Indonesia in 2011. Horoszowski had fallen out of love with digital marketing and was looking for something new.

He saw first-hand how a lack of professional expertise in areas such as marketing, financial planning, operations, and sourcing, was impeding social enterprises in the developing world. Horoszowski (pictured) also found the process of finding volunteer opportunities difficult, expensive, or both.

“I was trying to volunteer, but the only thing you could find was organizations that were charging you $2,500 a week in order to volunteer,” he says.

In Argentina, Horoszowski met Derk Norde, who has worked with entrepreneurs in emerging markets and saw some of the same problems from another angle. The two paired up to launch MovingWorlds.

MovingWorlds is matching volunteers—usually graduate students, early-career professionals switching jobs or on sabbatical, early retirees, and others with professional experience—with verified organizations that need their help around the world. The company works like Match.com, charging $99 a year for a guaranteed placement. Volunteers can pay more for add-ons such as travel insurance and personal trip planning and management.

In return, volunteers can expect benefits such as accommodations, language lessons, and home-cooked meals—not to mention the experience of contributing to a worthy endeavor in a place where their expertise can make a real difference. The company’s slogan: “You will change the world and the world will change you.”

MovingWorlds works with philanthropic foundations that are channeling capital to social enterprises in the developing world. These enterprises can typically benefit the most from professional expertise as they encounter new challenges in scaling up with foundation money, Horoszowski explains.

The company has access to volunteer opportunities in 40 countries and counting. It has placed ten people since December.

MovingWorlds is preparing to launch of an online service, which would automate matching volunteers with opportunities. It would also take volunteers through a nine-step planning process to address logistics and “ensure that the engagements happen, create the desired impact, and are also safe,” Horoszowski says.

The company is also exploring a white-label service for large corporations that are starting to offer international volunteering opportunities as part of their employee development packages, he says.

MovingWorlds has benefitted from startup assistance programs on two continents. In Seattle, MovingWorlds won the Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s Spring First Look Forum.

Last fall, MovingWorlds was one of 105 projects selected for the latest class of Start-Up Chile. The Chilean government gives one-year visas, workspace, and a $40,000 capital grant to “globally-minded, early stage entrepreneurs who want to start their business in Chile.”

Horoszowski says the company—bootstrapped to this point—was attracted to the few-strings-attached capital and access to the international community of entrepreneurs, which is a perfect network for what MovingWorlds is trying to do.

Norde, who has spent a decade working on development in Latin America, moved to Chile’s capital, Santiago, for the seven-month program. Horoszowski says that while Start-Up Chile does “dangle other funding opportunities” in front of entrepreneurs to entice them to stay, the program is as much about building Chilean entrepreneurial talent.

MovingWorlds will remain based in Seattle, though the business model obviously demands a strong international presence as well.

The company is looking for a technical co-founder and is about to begin fundraising, with a lead investor already committed, Horoszowski says.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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