Growth, diversification prompts Louisville startup MobileServe to move to bigger office

MobileServe’s new office on Baxter Avenue. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Explosive growth and a diversification strategy have prompted Louisville tech startup MobileServe to move into a bigger office.

The company, which tracks and encourages volunteering, generates about $750,000 in annualized revenue, up from about $200,000 a year.

Co-Founder Ben Reno-Weber told Insider that the company hopes to reach $1 million in annual revenue by the end of the year, which should get MobileServe close to profitability.

Ben Reno-Weber

“We lose less money every month,” he said.

MobileServe, a B Corporation, has developed an app and a web-based platform that enables clients to keep track of volunteer services and enables connections between volunteers and organizations looking for volunteer help. The company was co-founded by Chris Head, who serves as chief product officer.

MobileServe has 260 clients, including 217 schools and universities, of which 190 are K-12. The company has clients in all 50 states, and its users provided three million hours in volunteer service last year.

Private schools like to keep track of how much their students volunteer to provide information to supporters, including the parents and grandparents who are paying the students’ tuition, Reno-Weber said. The MobileServe platform also allows prospective college students to build a “verified service resume” that can help them land scholarships or coveted spots in elite colleges.

MobileServe also partners with Jefferson County Public Schools’ Academies of Louisville to connect classrooms with volunteers from local businesses. Teachers can schedule an event and post volunteer opportunities, while employees of businesses that have partnered with the academies can respond to participate.

MobileServe’s growth has resulted in additional hirings — the company is looking for more sales people — which has required more space. MobileServe’s new 2,000-square-foot office, at 508 Baxter Ave., has more than doubled the available space. The new office features wooden floors, exposed brick, large arch-top windows and six booths from which employees call customers and potential customers. The old office had just two booths.

And, Reno-Weber said, the new office sits in an entrepreneurial corridor, next to a brewery and across the street from Cuddle Clones.

While the private school market, which consists of 38,000 schools in the U.S., still leaves MobileServe lots of room for growth, the company also increasingly is targeting businesses and the health care sector.

An rising number of employers are offering volunteer time off, which provides employees with a certain number of paid hours to support causes that are dear to their heart. Last year, 24 percent of employers offered a VTO benefit, up from 16 percent in 2014, according to the Society for Resource Management. Employers have reported that offering such a benefit helps them recruit and retain employees because volunteerism boosts morale and community engagement, while also improving performance, because volunteerism can help with the development of soft skills such as working in a team.

Reno-Weber said that millennials especially value such benefits because they want to be part of organizations that are committed to their communities.

MobileServe helps companies keep track of the employees’ volunteer activities, and because employees can share the information with one another — and compare their volunteer hours — the data adds a level of competition.

Like a “Fitbit for social good,” Reno-Weber said.

A panorama of MobileServe’s new office, with Co-Founder Ben Reno-Weber at right. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

As companies have come to realize the benefits of encouraging their employees to volunteer in their communities, it has become easier to sell MobileServe’s services, he said.

The company is targeting businesses between 50 and 500 employees, large enough to offer the VTO benefit, but not so large that it can handle its administration in-house.

Reno-Weber, the company’s “chief storyteller,” said MobileServe also expects the platform to find interest among health care providers, especially to help combat social isolation, which is one of the so-called social determinants of health that affect physical health and therefore patient well-being, disease progression and health care costs.

Reno-Weber said he hopes MobileServe can help coordinate volunteerism for organizations that deliver meals or drive patients to medical appointments. The volunteer work would help the patients who are getting visits — but it also would help the volunteers.

After retiring from successful careers, many older Americans still want to contribute to their communities but may not know how to do that. Organizations such as AARP or health insurance companies could reach out to retirees, ask them about their skills and encourage them to participate in volunteer activities.

“We can help address the root causes of social isolation,” Reno-Weber said.

As health care providers increasingly receive a flat per-patient fee, reducing costs associated with social isolation helps their bottom line.