Facebook Co-Founder Launches New Startup

Chris Hughes, who co-founded what became one of the world’s largest social networks and then just a few years later orchestrated a social-media campaign that helped put Barack Obama to the White House, has launched a new, non-profit startup that he says will create an “online platform to connect individuals and organizations working to change the world.” He launched the new entity, called Jumo, not on Facebook simultaneously on Facebook and through a post on his Tumblr blog and on Twitter. He didn’t provide many details about the venture or what it intends to build, but said:

To do this well, I’m firmly of the mind that we have to foster relationships between everyday people and issues and organizations that are personally relevant to them. It’s now possible to provide each person with information and opportunities for meaningful action tailored specifically to who they are. If Jumo can make sure that happens and offer opportunities for meaningful engagement alongside it, I think we can speed the pace of global change.

Hughes told The Huffington Post in a phone interview that he was looking for something to do after the Obama campaign ended, and knew that “I wanted to do something at the nexus of what I call global development and technology.” By global development, he said he meant a “broad umbrella including everything from health care and education to agriculture. He said he spent the past year “traveling and talking to people — researching, studying, learning everything I could in the space.” Jumo is opening an office in Soho next week, Hughes said on his blog, and is also looking to hire a developer, a design director and an “outreach director” who it says will require a “wide-ranging, nearly unparalleled command of the global development field and the ability to see through ideological constraints fairly and analytically.”

To some extent Jumo — whose name means “together in concert” in a West African language called Yoruba — may wind up competing with Hughes’ former company once it launches. Not only do many charitable groups use Facebook pages to gather support for causes, but former Facebook president Sean Parker has a Facebook application called Causes that has attracted millions of users. There are also several other Web-based platforms that are trying to connect people interested in global development, including Ushahidi, which pulls together information to help in crisis situations such as the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

Hughes left Facebook, which he co-founded with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and fellow classmates Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin, in 2007 to lead the social-media efforts for the Obama campaign, including helping to develop My.BarackObama.com, and was the subject of a number of flattering profiles in mainstream media outlets such as Fast Company magazine — which called him a “boy wonder” — and the Wall Street Journal. After the campaign ended he became entrepreneur in residence at General Capital Partners in Cambridge. It’s not clear whether General Capital has funded Jumo or not — a spokesperson said it is “a non-profit venture and we’re raising funds from both foundations and individuals.” Hughes told Fast Company he is looking to raise about $2.5 million.

Hughes said in an email sent to friends that he believes Jumo can “leverage the participatory web to foster long-term engagement with the issues and organizations that are relevant to each individual. Jumo has the potential to unlock a great deal of time, skills, and financial resources previously unavailable to organizations around the world.” After the “soft launch” of the startup, Hughes got a number of congratulations on Twitter, including one from Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital in New York, who said that he was “excited @chrishughes is back in the making the world a better place business.”

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Steve Rhodes

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