It put a smile on our faces when ChartMogul approached us to make a corporate donation. Born in Berlin, this international subscription analytics startup was looking for a not-for-profit organisation to connect with and support its work.
After exchanging a couple of emails, we knew that we would like to learn more about ChartMogul. We talked to Ingmar Zahorsky, General Manager for North America and Vice President of Customer Success, to understand the company’s motivations behind donating to GSBTB and discuss possible collaborations in the future, but our conversation actually went beyond that.
Ingmar told us about his life in Germany, Canada and other countries, the experience of living abroad, how corporate giving meets with supporting and giving back to the community. We also talked about how both NGOs and companies can benefit from such a partnership.
Hi Ingmar, thanks for accepting our interview request. Can you tell us about yourself?
I grew up in Northern Germany on the outskirts of Kiel with my grandparents. I left in my late teens to live and study in California and subsequently built a career in media and film in San Francisco, contributing to various web projects and film productions. After completing work on the film Tales of Maya Skies in Mexico, a journalist covering our project inspired me to become a freelance photojournalist. This led me on an adventure that lasted several years and took me to many countries all over Latin America and Asia. In 2015, the circle closed and I found my way back to Germany to help a college friend run a small startup in Berlin that has since turned into a global company.
As a Kieler working in Toronto at the moment, you count as a migrant too. How has been your experience of migration and integration?
Migrating to a new country during a global pandemic certainly had its challenges and uncertainties. My partner and I arrived in Toronto last November and have been living in various states of lockdown since then. I was impressed and surprised how organized the government services were here that we needed to access in our first few months in the country. The government staff we encountered were so friendly and patient with us. Many of them were also recent immigrants. This made us feel welcome and accepted. I hear this is the experience of many newcomers in Toronto. After many months in isolation, I am very much looking forward to the post pandemic life to be able to experience more of what Toronto has to offer.
You have a background in Peace and Conflict Studies but work in a global start-up in the IT sector. You have previously worked for larger IT companies as well. How did this change happen? Are you still active in social and political terms in addition to your daily work?
My friend and serial collaborator Tatiana Philiptchenko and myself developed a hands-on social media course for peace building practitioners that we taught for a few years at a masters program at the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. We are currently taking a break from teaching and instead are working on a concept for a documentary film that we want to work on after the pandemic. Both of us are passionate about visual storytelling, magnifying social issues and community empowerment.
Can you tell us about ChartMogul, the company you currently work for?
At ChartMogul, we help companies of all sizes measure, understand and grow their recurring revenue. Amongst our customers are all types of subscription businesses. Many of our customers sell software but we also work with lifestyle, education and media companies. Many businesses have switched to a subscription model and there is a need to analyze this data. We see it as our mission to democratize this space to give small and medium sized businesses the same revenue intelligence that a large business with significant resources would be able to put together.
We know that you have started a new program/priority area to donate a part of your company earnings to NGOs. What was your motivation behind this? Why would a for-profit company donate?
Having worked with a number of NGOs myself, I have seen the importance of donations from private individuals and companies to help fund social causes. To me NGOs are a bit like startups as they are often more efficient and flexible than the government or a big company to deeply understand a problem and to come up with a solution. Many employees today care about their business becoming socially responsible. This was something of high importance to me personally so I tried to advocate for it as soon as the resources became available.
ChartMogul has recently become a donor of GSBTB and you have personally been an advocate for this donation. What prompted you to donate to GSBTB?
I felt deeply moved when reading about your projects. At our company we primarily employ foreigners. Hence, I had quite a lot of exposure to the challenges our staff faced when coming to Berlin. I wanted us to support a project that our employees could identify with and that is in line with our company values. I also thought it was a plus that GSBTB was in Berlin so that it would be possible in the future to potentially connect in other ways beyond just making a donation.
Do you think there are other ways of collaboration and partnership between for-profits and nonprofits? What can IT & software companies offer to NGOs and civil society that can go beyond financial donation?
One important element is to make software and training available to NGOs for an affordable price or even for free. I believe that having access to the latest technologies can empower NGOs to streamline their operations. There are many transferable skills used in a commercial setting that can help an operator in an NGO. For example, what a skilled marketer does to get a product in front of an audience might work just as well when trying to fundraise for an NGO or when trying to draw an audience to pay attention to a cause. I find people working in startups are often quite socially conscious, generous with their time and love sharing their skills when they are connected with an opportunity to do so.
You know, a collaboration is always about giving and taking. What can NGOs provide to for-profit establishments?
I really liked your idea of having an NGO run team building events which might expose employees to the vision and mission of your organisation in a more tangible way while also having the opportunity to connect with people of various backgrounds they might otherwise never encounter. Perhaps this will inspire the participants to get involved with the NGO in their free time or through a company sponsored volunteering program. I think this will result in a stronger partnership between the NGO and a business and extend the reach of your mission to connect migrants, refugees, and locals.
What does ChartMogul take from its engagement in GSBTB? How does it affect your employees and organizational culture?
When we announced the initiative to the team, we received many positive responses that signaled a strong interest in continuing to build and expand on it. The projects GSBTB are working on really resonated with many of our team members. We are currently thinking about how we can make the process of donating more participatory in order to support causes our team cares most about.
We have already discussed that ChartMogul and GSBTB can collaborate on several occasions in the near future and we look forward to seeing them become a reality. Thank you so much for joining us, Ingmar. We’ll be in touch!