Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Stevan Simich, CEO of Mogli, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Stevan had a far-ranging conversation that touched on the mission of Mogli, their work in the nonprofit space, and how that translates to data-driven forms use cases for Salesforce in nonprofit and education. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Background on Mogli
Zak: I know from our conversation at Midwest Dreamin’ that Mogli is a fascinating company. Can you share some of the background around your business?
Stevan: Mogli was created in 2011 with a pretty clear goal of accelerating the nonprofit and international development sector with strategy and technology. We quickly realized that the way to support these organizations was to go directly to Salesforce.
We learned about the characteristics of those organizations. They operate in countries around the globe, necessitating requirements around multi-currency, multi-language, time zones, and incredible security.
Our goal was to first build a services business for cash flow to support these amazing organizations. We focussed on a certain type of impact entrepreneur—they have unique DNA and human composure that we love to support. They are willing to take huge risks to break the model. They have a voracious appetite towards solving massive world problems—from carbon reduction, to women’s health, to clinics for basic healthcare in developing countries, to microfinance, to agricultural programs.
The approach worked. We found these entrepreneurs, they found us, and we understood them as human beings.
In 2011, we started to put together our first application. It was an offline mobile application. The brand Mogli stands for Mobile Global Impact. I’m a big fan of “The Jungle Book,” and we literally have people working in jungles, working offline, and making a big impact in the world.
Zak: How did you get into the text messaging?
Stevan: In 2012, Nuru International worked in challenging poverty-stricken environments in the world and bringing in really good agricultural practices and finance programs. They needed to be able to connect to 5,000 Kenyan farmers. They were dealing with bad corn crop diseases. They were challenged with how to communicate to these farmers.
Interestingly, these farmers were living in mud huts; they had no running water and no electricity, but they all had flip phones. So Nuru International came to us and said, “Is there a way inside of Salesforce that we can send bulk text messages to communicate?” That took us down our first version of Mogli SMS, which has evolved to be the fuel for our growth.
Zak: What does the go-forward motion now look like for the business?
Stevan: We have two sides of the business. The Mogli app side of the organization is led by Rob Blatchley, our VP of Product. Underneath that is sales, software development, and client success. And then we have a services side specifically dedicated to international development, with sales, client services, and implementation.
We’re going to stay true to our client base. At the moment, about three-quarters of our business is nonprofit and education—school districts all the way up to higher education. The priority of our company is to evolve and serve those verticals.
We want to be really good in these verticals, and be the go-to communications app for these organizations. We want to be a step ahead in terms of offering suggestions that customers can be doing with their communications programs to solve big problems and save time.
We also want to maintain our internal company culture, which is the engine to our success. We hire the right people. We have incredible staff. The team is awesome.
Zak: How are you typically spending your days?
Stevan: I spend time running business development for our services business, and running and leading the business. The focus may vary depending on the moment, the month, or the quarter. We just redid some of our operational systems, and we have a new CFO, so that has been a recent focus for me.
I spend time on strategic design and assessments with clients, as well as on our application side, so that when we touch technology we are making good decisions around architecture.
And I’m taking out the trash, getting the mail, whatever needs to be done.
Zak: It’s clear that Mogli is a very special company and you are an incredible leader. What is your backstory that led to what you’ve created with Mogli?
Stevan: My life experiences have been everything from selling and configuring Sun Microsystems to working at international ski camps for kids. I’ve been an entrepreneur with a woodworking business where I might be designing a dining room table for a family. And I’ve gone to business schools and found myself in investment banking, private equity, and venture capital.
These life experiences came together as knowing how to run a business. I became a COO for an ISV. In finance you are analyzing hundreds of businesses per year, so you start to see what works and doesn’t work. I could identify ways to improve and quickly solve problems. It sets the stage for how we work at Mogli—quickly assessing situations and bringing the appropriate technology forward.
Stealing the Show at the Midwest Dreamin’ Demo Jam
Zak: I’ve been waiting this whole time to ask you about the Salesforce Demo Jam. Your team stole the show, and I’m predicting Mogli is going to rip off a long streak of Demo Jam victories. Can you share how this came about?
Stevan: We had been managing the voting process via text message for Demo Jam across the globe. We were intentionally not competing in it because we didn’t want to have a conflict of interest. In doing so, we built a lot of pent up energy towards competing in it.
Recently, we said, “Let’s go for it.” We wanted to show who we are as a company. We thought the demos were generally way too dry. So Malorie on our team created a rap to relate to what’s on the screen. When we saw you at Midwest Dreamin’ in Chicago, that was our first time going for it.
Zak: I can attest: Malorie absolutely won over the audience with an amazing vocal performance.
Stevan: Yes. She wrote the lyrics, she organized it, and she lights up the room. We’re not done. We’re going to keep innovating our Demo Jam presentation.
Changing the Game for Collecting Data into Salesforce
Zak: You and I met at this Salesforce Chicago event, but you had been working with our Formstack Salesforce app for some time. Do you remember when you first came across us?
Stevan: I do. It was a pretty big aha moment. There were so many survey tools out there that were so convoluted. The mapping had to happen between that app and Salesforce. You had to figure out the objects and the relationships, and manage the sync of data, and troubleshoot it all. We were spending a lot of time and money trying to do simple things for clients.
Formstack changed the paradigm. Now it was all right there in Salesforce, and we could drive the data to or from any object that was right there to work with. You can create records. You can update records. It was a game changer for us. All of the sudden, we could send out a survey that could propagate all these objects from a single form.
Zak: How did that end up helping your Salesforce consulting team and your customers?
Stevan: A key process for our nonprofit customers involves working with external partners to collect data. And it’d be really hard to have to say to someone, “You need to learn a multi-object database structure to manage your information.” They’d have to know to create an account over here, and then create a contact over there, and then in a different place enter impact data on how your nonprofit is doing around the world.
All of the sudden you can now send out a survey that they can fill out and propagate all of those objects from a single form. It was a game changer for us from a user experience standpoint for those external partners.
Our clients could use Salesforce Communities to view their reports and access their information, without overwhelming them and having to worry about understanding things like accounts, contacts, and opportunities. It greatly simplified the user experience for people needing to enter data into Salesorce, and more importantly, it greatly reduced our implementation cost and made the lives of the administrators and implementation teams easier. We could now focus our money and effort on higher value activities or save our customers money that they could then put into their program work.
Zak: We’ve been capturing use cases throughout this year to better learn about how customers are using these kinds of native forms and data collection capabilities. Do any specific customer examples come to mind?
Stevan: Here’s a good example for you: Big Green is changing students’ attitudes toward healthy food through its learning gardens installed at schools across the country. These are going into inner city schools with a high percentage of free lunch students. They are creating a program where the students can now grow lettuce and carrots and tomatoes, and they get to take home these foods to eat and experience fresh vegetables.
We used Formstack to gather massive amounts of application information—stages, contacts, files, images—all from one place. We were asking for information such as the principal, the head of facilities, the lead teacher, and then it all got created in Salesforce in the right way with very little effort.
Before, we had built a lot of custom stuff using process builder and workflows, and it was really complex. With Formstack, we could automate creating all of this data in Salesforce with very little effort. It greatly simplified it because we let Formstack do that work for us.
Zak: The theme I’m hearing from you is making it easier to collect data and put it to use inside Salesforce, across these various data objects.
Stevan: That’s right. And I’m excited about what’s next with Big Green. We’re working on a new form-based process whereby you can have a teacher in the learning garden and they can use a Formstack form to capture a short story and a picture of a remarkable event, as it’s happening. These are the special moments that tell the story of why their nonprofit is in existence.
Imagine getting that picture of a little girl eating a carrot that she grew, with a big smile after she got to taste it. That may drive more donations because now it’s human, it’s not a statistic. It’s the essence of how they are influencing the lives of young kids.
Engagement & Conversion for Higher Education
Zak: You mentioned that in addition to nonprofit, higher education is your other focus as a business. How are you pairing your text messaging application with our Salesforce data collection forms for colleges and universities?
Stevan: The aha moment for us in higher ed came with one of our clients, Trinity Western University. They had sponsored a concert series across North America with many high school students. At intermission, they told people to text in to a certain number if they wanted to learn more about the school, and that fired back a URL. They weren’t getting any response rate—literally 0%—with that approach.
We changed it so that when people texted into a number, it immediately texted back asking gradual questions. “What’s your first name?” “What’s your last name?” “What’s your program interest?”
All of the sudden, literally everybody was replying to these texts. From 0 to 100% response rates. We shifted the engagement process into the text thread, and they were connecting with these students.
Zak: Wow 0% to 100%. That is incredible.
Stevan: Where Formstack comes in is you can’t keep the text thread going forever. People have short attention spans. Once you get five questions deep, you want to route them in the right way with a form whereby they can complete their most relevant action. What do we want them to do next?
Sign up for Program X, or sign up for Program Y. So use text messaging for light data gathering, and then branch based on what we learn.
Zak: Right, and then the power of form prefill comes into play as well.
Stevan: Yes. So because Mogli is creating records in Salesforce based on the text responses, when they get to the Formstack form, all of their information is prefilled. So they can verify that data, fill in the remaining info, and complete the form. Then the data is populated across all the various spots within Salesforce where it needs to end up.
We’re coupling Mogil for engagement via text, and Formstack for conversion based on the next best action.
Zak: Powerful stuff.
Zak: You’ve been full of stories and very gracious of your time. Let’s wrap up with a few lightning-round questions.
What is your favorite productivity tip?
Stevan: There’s a simple question I ask myself, which is: What’s my best use of time right now? That philosophy is how I start the day and how I end the day.
Zak: Any book recommendations?
Stevan: “The J Curve” by Ian Bremmer
Zak: And it wouldn’t be a Formstack partner interview if I didn’t end it with this: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Stevan: Definitely not a sandwich. There is a reason it is called a hot dog bun or a roll… And that’s coming from a person who will someday have a store called Simiches Samiches. I will not be serving hot dogs at Simiches Samiches (even though I like hot dogs)!