Gaurav Bhattacharya has a soft spot in his heart for his home country and the streets of New Delhi.
It was there that he first volunteered to help those in need. It was there that he was homeschooled and created his first startup company. It was there that he started coding for the first time.
So it was natural that Bhattacharya, a 2014 alumnus of Cal State Long Beach’s aerospace engineering program, wanted to return to his hometown to give back to the country that helped him obtain an education.
Bhattacharya visited with his longtime friend and business partner Saumya Bhatnagar this past January, and was surprised and saddened to learn that the country’s once efficient and well-organized volunteer organization—the country mandates volunteering for country—was now defunct.
“Their system of organization, they couldn’t do it, using spreadsheets,” said Bhattacharya. The time and effort involved in running the program and matching volunteers to projects became too much, until it was no longer running.
And so, Bhattacharya and Bhatnagar were left without an easy way to volunteer. They were also left to ruminate upon an idea. Very quickly, a seed was planted.
In February, Bhattacharya left his job and Bhatnagar diverted her time as a second-semester master's student to co-found Involve (previously named Glipped), a software application that seeks to match businesses with nonprofits and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), eliminating traditional overhead costs associated with corporate philanthropy and, essentially, giving millennials what they want.
A 2015 article in the Washington Post noted that 84 percent of millennials at small and large firms in the U.S. made charitable donations, and of those, only 22 percent did so through a solicitation from their company.
In fact, a 2014 Merrill Lynch study, titled Millennials and Money, found that values-based investing and other “impact philanthropy” are most important to the generation as it grows older, with a 2012 study showing 60 percent placing social responsibility as one of the most important factors impacting investments. The study found millennials value social giving more than making money, in many circumstances.
Through Involve, and by matching a company’s volunteers to cause-based organizations based on their own unique passions and interests, Bhattacharya and Bhatnagar aim to reduce the time required to manage corporate social responsibility programs, decrease overhead costs and increase participation and giving back across the board at companies by increasing accessibility.
“We want to make it easy to give back,” said Bhattacharya.
Involve's beta test, matching dentists to children in need in India. All photos and images courtesy of Involve (previously named Glipped).
Beyond simply matching volunteers to organizations, the software will also provide “Netflix”-like rankings that will individualize the social responsibility component for employees, ranking potential volunteer organizations based on one’s interest and experience. Essentially, the software automatically remembers one’s passions and preferences.
“It’s like a feedback loop,” said Bhatnagar. “It’s providing a company and employees bursts of information to keep them engaged.”
The software also publicizes charitable events and campaigns, allowing employees to discover and explore additional modes of impact action.
It’s been just six months, but Bhattacharya and Bhatnagar have completed the Founder Institute of San Diego, presented at the IT Forum at the University of California, San Diego and are actively looking for investors and potential clients to expand. Particularly, the startup is in talks with Qualcomm and Boeing, companies with a large employee base that would create an ideal partnership. They've also conducted beta tests in India, matching dentists to volunteer work, something Bhattacharya deemed a "perfect match."
“We have hit our goal of getting off the ground,” said Bhattacharya. “Our ideal goal is to have companies in the U.S. find and work with nonprofits anywhere in the world. We want to have a global footprint. We want Glipped [now named Involve] to help the best nonprofits.”
It’s a big move for two people from New Delhi. Bhatnagar, the daughter of a radiologist father and a “verbose, feminist” radiologist mother, and alumnus of UC Santa Cruz’s Computer Science Master’s program, said she is particularly passionate about starting a business that prioritizes “doing some good in the world.” Bhattacharya, the son of a schoolteacher, said he was driven to use his skill set to reach a profit and help spur change in the world.
The two are eyeing a permanent location for their business in Long Beach or Los Angeles, and see partnerships with the city and Cal State Long Beach as valuable to their growth as a company.
As for next steps, beyond finding investors, the company is looking for two or three sales people to expand throughout Southern California, and continue to build everything in-house.
“We want to find the right people who believe in social impact,” said Bhattacharya.
“People should be able to donate their money or time based on what they’re passionate about,” said Bhatnagar. “It shouldn’t be based on boundaries.”
For more information on Involve, click here.
Above, left: Gaurav Bhattacharya. Above, right: Saumya Bhatnagar.
Editor's note: a previous version of this story stated Bhattacharya and Bhatnagar's company name as Glipped. The company has since changed its name to Involve. This story was updated January 3, 2017.