*APAC Heritage Month* Project Galileo Spotlight: Impact Guru
Cloudflare Program Manager Jocelyn Woolbright and Vikas Kaul, Chief Product Officer and Founding Member at Impact Guru, will discuss how the crowdfunding platform provides solutions to raise money for health expenses for people around the world. As India's largest crowdfunding platform, learn how they use Cloudflare's Project Galileo during COVID-19 to stay online and secure their remote workforce to support NGOs, social enterprises, startups and individuals.
Hi, everybody. My name is Jocelyn. I'm the program manager for Project Galileo, an initiative that we have at Cloudflare, where we provide a ton of free types of security services to the more vulnerable types of organizations.
So we protect a lot of human rights organizations, journalism groups, organizations working in health.
And I'm really happy to have Vikas join us for, we're celebrating APAC Heritage this month.
So kind of the month of May, we've been having a lot of different organizations and sessions kind of dedicated to the influence of Asian Americans and also Indian Americans, but also kind of going into different regions and showing kind of our reach at Cloudflare.
But I'm really happy to have Vikas join.
So Vikas, do you want to do an introduction and kind of give a background of what you do at Impact Guru?
So thanks a lot, Jocelyn, and I appreciate the initiative that Cloudflare is taking on this APAC Heritage Month.
So hi, everyone. This is Vikas Kaul.
I head the Product and Technology team at Impact Guru. We are a healthcare and nonprofit-focused crowdfunding platform.
Kind of a go-fund -me if you're in APAC in India.
And about more background about me, I'm a computer engineer and also a software engineer.
And also a business grad. I started my career back as a software developer while I was working for some large MNCs.
And I handled some large teams of product and technology folks at some of the companies back in India.
And I've also been an ex-healthcare entrepreneur. I ran a venture that offered software solutions for doctors and for patients.
And I have been associated with Impact Guru for more than four years now.
And we started with a very small team of interns that has continued to grow into a larger organization that is helping people raise funds for different causes, and especially for funding medical expenses, because that is something that we see as a very big problem, especially given the scale of critical illnesses, not only globally, but especially in India as well.
Yeah, that's great to hear.
Did you have any type of, like, how did you get specifically in the medical kind of sector?
Because, you know, you came from a technology background, and it's always interesting to hear organizations say, like, oh, yeah, like, I studied computer science.
I was trying to figure out a way to help people and, like, had some friends who started an organization.
But how did that, like, you know, the trying to help people in the health sector kind of enter into your life?
So, some more background about me. I come from a family of doctors, but, again, technology was always my thing.
Even from a very early age, I was introduced to something around software development or something, because that was something that interested and intrigued me.
I remember picking up video games and opening them completely just to see what all is going inside a particular system.
So, while technology intrigued me, it was always my choice and also something that I dreamt of.
But I wanted to create something which is very, very impactful, which is helping the people at large.
And while I mentioned to you that I had started my own venture, I wanted to create some solutions for patients and doctors so that they could collaborate easily.
And this, I felt, was a very big opportunity so that people could get the kind of care they deserve and also move towards a digital platform which helps them to be much more secure and having more control over the kind of treatment that they're receiving and in a much more transparent way.
So, while I ran that venture, it was back in June, 2017, that I met Piyush Jain.
He's the co-founder and CEO at Impact Guru. And he shared this exciting journey that he wanted to embark on to create even further impact by helping save multiple lives.
I understand that there's so many people within our country who do not have the kind of healthcare insurance coverage that they should have and that there's kind of a lack of social security for a majority of the population.
And this is something which was a really huge problem to solve.
And it is, in fact, a very big cause of increasing poverty in certain segments of the country.
In fact, funding medical expenses is kind of pushing more than 50 million people into poverty annually.
So, while I try to understand this problem statement, this was something that I could really create an impact because I understood technology.
I understood how we can provide a huge impact leveraging technology, leveraging the kind of platform we wanted to build.
And that is where the journey started. So, while it started from a very humble beginning of creating a platform that was meant to help nonprofits, meant to help social causes, and also to other people who wanted to raise funds for other causes, we saw that funding the medical expenses itself was something which was a very, very big problem itself.
And we wanted to tackle it first because this is something which helped us save someone's life immediately.
And we have created some significant impact over time, but we do have a very big mission of helping a huge number of people as possible.
We'd be happy to share more details.
Yeah, it's interesting to hear kind of how technology plays such a huge role, specifically in the health sector.
Because it is, for example, like if you're handing a lot of really sensitive information or especially like money where people are donating, you want to make sure that people have trust in your platform when you're sending these types of transfers.
But seeing kind of the intersection between public health and how technology can be such a growing aspect of being able to provide that support to people is really interesting.
So how far like is the reach of Impact Guru?
Like you mentioned, specifically in India, but have you seen, have you expanded to other countries?
Like, what does that look like kind of outside of India?
Oh, and just a very important point that you shared. So while we are a hit product in India, a lot of audience in India, but it is actually the entire global community that is coming forward to help people.
And this is something which is very, very exciting.
We have people who have donated across more than 200 countries across the world.
And this is something which makes me much more confident and have made more faith in the kind of community that we're catering to.
In terms of the kind of scale that we have reached, we have helped fundraise for more than 15,000 patients to date.
And it is our mission to help more than a million patients in the next 10 years.
So while I mentioned to you that we started with very small business, and in fact, Impact Guru was incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab, where we started with very small resources and wanted to ensure that we create a platform which is much more secure.
But at this point of time, we have been fortunate enough to help save lives of patients.
And we've been crowdfunding really huge amounts, which have kind of created records in terms of the kind of scale our crowdfunding platforms can reach.
So I'm very happy to share with you that very recently, in fact, in this year itself, in 2021, Impact Guru has been able to help raise more than $2 million each for three different patients who needed the world's most expensive drugs, which is organ XMA, to treat a disease, a rare disease called spinal muscular atrophy, type 1.
So it was Baby Pira, Baby Diary, and Baby Ayansh that have successfully raised this entire amount, $2 million each, from more than 400,000 generous donors across the world.
Now, this is something which is a really big amount.
In fact, this is something that would not even seem to be true to someone, because this is such a huge amount.
But I'm really thankful to the entire donor community that believes in Impact Guru, that believes in such fundraisers, and who have supported not just these three kids, but who have also supported more than 15,000 such patients on our platform, and have always helped me make belief, my belief, made even stronger and stronger that hope and hope and hope.
And faith in humanity can never be lost. So while we are helping be a part of this journey by creating such an impact, it is also important to know that there's so many people who are on our platform, just trying to help someone else, help someone else's life.
And you would be surprised to know, Jocelyn, that the average donation on our platform is just less than $15, which is very small contributions coming from not many people.
Generally, what we have seen is when, let's say, fundraisers for very huge magnitude, very high magnitude actually happen, these are contributions from very limited set of people.
But we are talking about a crowdfunding platform, where people across the globe are coming together with very smaller contributions.
But collectively, these smaller contributions are resulting in something which has even higher impact than anything else.
So at this point of time, us at Impact Guru, the entire team, we want to ensure that we are providing the best world-class solutions to our customers, to our donors, and to the entire patient community that is coming and looking forward for such support, and ensure that this entire system is very, very secure in nature, because we are talking about transaction data and some data which is very, very important and confidential, especially to the donors who are coming and contributing and helping save such lives.
That's really amazing to hear about the two million raised.
And it actually is very, it's so positive, because you think that even the idea of people donating, they may not necessarily know, specifically personally know this person that they're donating to.
But the idea that you can raise that much money to go to one person to really save their lives is so just a positive view of people and humanity in a way.
And the idea that it's coming from many different people is like you, you don't have to have lots of money to donate to really make a difference.
You can donate a little bit of money, and like many people donating a little bit is sometimes better than one person donating a lot of money.
So it's actually really great to hear that story. So thinking about COVID-19 and the pandemic, how did that change your mission of your organization?
Did you see a lot more people trying to donate? Was there more COVID-related types fundraising?
Or was it more just existing conditions that people needed medical attention to?
Very, very important question and something which the world had never even thought of, like COVID-19.
So let me give you some background about how it impacted not just the fundraisers, but the entire processes at Impact Guru, how we used to work and how we're working right now.
So as I mentioned to you that Impact Guru is headquartered in Mumbai and most of the staff, most of the volunteers were in Mumbai, but also spread across the other different cities in India, while they were interacting with let's say some patients who wanted to get the fundraisers done.
Now, since the time COVID hit, the entire workforce is working remotely from their homes.
Now, this is a new style of work that everyone had to get accustomed to.
However, the transition for us was relatively easier, since we are an Internet firm and that we leverage technology for our day-to-day operations.
But again, COVID itself had multiple other challenges.
We wanted to ensure that even if people are working remotely, they're able to access the systems in a much secure manner.
And at the same time, while people are working remotely, they're not facing issues in terms of contributing their time or support or the entire set of processes that are involved in functioning of this fundraise.
And talking about another aspect, when you mentioned about the kind of generosity, the kind of fundraising that happens on Impact Guru right now.
So again, I'm really happy to share that we have seen an increase in the level of generosity.
While more and more people are coming to the platform, they're coming to contribute not just for medical fundraisers, but also coming to contribute to other causes.
There has been very high level of generosity that we've seen across COVID-specific causes.
We see that there's so many people who have lost their jobs, there are poor people across the country who worked as daily wage workers, who are not able to support their families, so people have come forward and supported.
And we're also working with multiple other social enterprises, nonprofits, other non -government organizations to help and provide some sort of support in such cases.
We also have seen people who have come forward in support of fundraisers that are being created to purchase oxygen concentrators or to provide oxygen support to multiple hospitals, because we see that the system is also stressed under such a condition.
It's not something that someone had even thought of, but yes, this is something that helps us stay together, helps us be strong, that there is an entire donor community on Impact Guru platform that is coming forward to support such fundraisers as well.
So both important things, while there is increased level of generosity, it is again our responsibility on the Impact Guru team to make our systems even more secure, not just for our customers, but also for our internal team, our users, to ensure this entire process is running very, very smoothly and securely.
Yeah, no, it's interesting to hear about kind of how COVID-19 has shifted, and it makes like these platforms even more important for the ability for people to, especially I know for me being at home during the pandemic thinking, you know, how can I try and help people when there's so much, you know, suffering that's happening in the world.
Your platform gives people the ability to make some type of change and try to create, you know, some type of positive good even in a really, really terrible global pandemic.
So it's really interesting to hear that. So thinking about like the more technology side, like, so how did you become familiar with Cloudflare?
Did you know about Project Galileo? Like what types of issues were you having where you were looking at like, hey, like, we need to have some type of secure platform because, you know, we're handling, you know, more than $2 million at a time sometimes.
What did that look like, you know, before you joined Cloudflare?
So, about Cloudflare, I did know about the different services that Cloudflare was providing.
In fact, some of the folks in my network or from the startup community had recommended Cloudflare for managing multiple things, whether it was DNS, firewall, CDN services, and some of the services that Cloudflare platform provides.
But it was, in fact, the Cloudflare team that had recommended us about Project Galileo, understanding about the nature of services that we're providing and that since we were providing a crowdfunding platform to support nonprofits, to support patients and those who are in need for any fundraising assistance.
So, I'm really thankful to the Cloudflare team that it was, in fact, them who have recommended this.
And since we have been associated with Cloudflare, we were able to further strengthen our security infrastructure by multiple applications within the entire product suite for Cloudflare.
And, in fact, at the beginning, since the start, when we started from the humble beginnings to the kind of scale that we have right now, we always ensure that we provide the best and the most secure platform for our customers, and at the same time, keep the highest standards for information security.
So, multiple firms continue to face challenges, whether these are threats from cyber attacks, whether these are threats from any internal kind of data, kind of a security perspective.
But an additional challenge that we faced, especially during COVID, was when people are working remotely and then when people are trying to access the systems.
And as I mentioned to you, while we keep our systems secure, any level of security can always be further strengthened.
So, while we're growing in scale, we want to also ensure that we keep as much restriction as possible internally.
This is something that we want to provide our customers the comfort of maintaining the highest level of security standards.
But COVID-19 itself was posing some challenges for us to broadcast and for us to keep these level of measures would also mean that our team is much more restricted in terms of the kind of accesses they have.
So, while they were in the office, while they were at the headquarters, they were able to access all of these securely because we had put in all world-class processes so that any kind of information that is there in the system is completely secure.
But once you're moving out, once you're starting to work remotely, if you restrict this, what it meant was that people have limited access, people have limited kind of functionalities that they're able to serve.
And it also meant some kind of lag in the kind of quality or delivery or the support that we could provide to our users in real time.
So, we wanted to make sure that all of this is something which is balanced.
And that is why we thought of moving on to Cloudflare. And in fact, Cloudflare access was one of these solutions that was really, really interesting.
In fact, one of the most user -friendly solutions and very easily compared to any solutions that are out there.
Apart from that, there are continuous concerns that we have seen.
But this is something which always stays in control because we are putting multiple processes and applications in the system.
But things like excessive bots running, some data scraping kind of activity happening, DDoS attacks trying to be put on impact gurus, servers, some attempt at some sort of a script injection, RCEs, trying to discover some sort of vulnerability.
So, these are things that happen on a continuous basis. But as I mentioned to you, one thing which we wanted to ensure was that our internal teams are also as secure as the way we were securing our customers.
So, that's some background about how we started on Cloudflare and how we wanted to use these services.
Yeah, it's great to hear how Cloudflare access specifically has been useful.
Whenever the pandemic first started, we started offering our Cloudflare for Team products under Project Galileo.
Because like you said, you have organizations that were used to being in the office and they had their secure internal systems there and employees could access them really easily.
But then when you go from an environment like that to going from working from home in sometimes less than a week, it's like, oh, how do you keep these systems going, especially for an organization that is doing really important work during a really stressful time in the world?
How do people have access? How does that secure? How do we make sure that there's not any attacks that are hitting your website that are trying to steal sensitive information?
So, it's great to hear how access was a tool. We're trying to get more organizations to use it.
And do you mind talking a little bit more about the user-friendly aspect of it?
How many employees did you have to move directly from working from home to get on access?
At a very high level, what did that process look like for you?
Sure. So, the kind of strength that we wanted to, let's say, have access to such applications, which were already accessible just from the Badguru headquarter, which was about 40-50 odd people.
We started with like about 20 members who needed to get this access and then we moved on to 50.
But the entire process of onboarding these to, let's say, a solution like Cloudflare Access was literally that took us 15 minutes straight.
So, that's how it was really, really easy for us to get onboarded. But yes, it did take us time first to understand and evaluate some other solutions that we're looking at till the time we got to know about the very deadly feature on Cloudflare Access.
We're looking at Zero Trust network, Zero Trust kind of a security for applications.
But the major challenge that we saw was there was so much integration that required to be done within the same time application.
Because if I were to be a bit more slightly technical and explain to people who might be doing this, that keeping two -factor authentication along with a strong username and password might not be the most secure thing that we would want to do.
It still does not eliminate some of the time to get into the system or try something which can cause some kind of a threat to your system, your application, your data.
But what you want is another layer of security. And the way we have built our entire security infrastructure is one layer on top of another, on top of another, which is something that continues.
And this is ideally the way you start creating more and more layers to ensure that the system is becoming much and much secure.
And when we talk about Cloudflare's entire security, so while it was easy, but from a technology perspective, all it wants to do is to ensure that your entire infrastructure is secure from a one-stop solution, creating those multiple layers within Cloudflare itself, and also providing your comfort of, let's say, signing in from a Google account.
So, for us to configure Cloudflare access, all we did was move some of the configurations that we're having internally to Cloudflare.
And within 15 minutes straight, we were able to get logged into our system with another layer on top of our internal logins via Cloudflare-based authentication.
So, that was really, really quick.
And we were able to do that in just a matter of minutes. And it did not require any piece of code to be added within our system.
It was pure configuration.
So, even someone who does not have any background on technology would be able to go through those steps and documents.
This is something that I really like.
But another important thing to note about the entire Cloudflare suite was that while it is very user-friendly, while it is something that can be used by people just starting up, and people who do not have that kind of technology background or teams that can support this kind of an infrastructure being built in -house, the entire Cloudflare system is much more secure, much more configurable, and much more, what I would say, stronger, as you want it to be.
So, while we also approached Cloudflare team and while we were part of Project Galileo, it was very helpful for us to start using many of these functionalities, which were much more robust in nature.
So, we wanted to go deeper and deeper and deeper. And Cloudflare did provide us these functionalities.
So, while it is 15 minutes straight to get onboarded, you can go really deep to ensure that even if you're looking at very high levels of security standard, all of these things are available.
And I would thank the Cloudflare team that they were also there to support us in whatever way was possible.
Yeah, I like how you explain kind of the layers of it, because I think about whenever I think about security, I think about it kind of as like an onion, like you have many different layers and at each layer, you should be having to authenticate, or it should be difficult to get to that second layer, because, let's say, somebody who's trying to hack into that system, like making it more difficult for them is way easier than, you know, making it, you know, easy for your employees to get in.
So, having those like authentication layers is really important in the grand scheme kind of security.
So, thinking about, you know, like the future, like what are you, like for Impact Guru, like how do you, what are some of the lessons that you learned during the pandemic?
Like, where do you, where do you go from here? Sure.
So, there have been incredible amount of learnings that we've had. And at the same time, with every learning, we have become really humble.
So, COVID-19 has taught us a lot of uncertainties, whether it is uncertainties of cyber attacks, whether it is uncertainty in the way we work, or whether it is uncertainty that can be life-threatening in nature.
Right. So, there are so many uncertainties that are there.
But what is something that held us together was the confidence that we had with the team that we're having, the confidence of our partners, and most importantly, the confidence that was brought in by the entire donor community and the customers who come on Impact Guru, try to leverage the platform in whatever way they would want to help the society, their friends, their relatives, or themselves.
So, this is something that has really been an incredible amount of learning.
And as I mentioned to you about Impact Guru, the kind of scale that we reach, the kind of fundraisers we're able to deliver with the support of this entire donor community, this has been a very big learning for us.
We did see not many patients without support, as I mentioned to you, but there have been more than 15 ,000 patients that we've been able to support for multiple such causes, for multiple medical emergencies, and have saved lives.
But again, the kind of learning that I had with these incredible fundraisers is that when it comes to people supporting others, there is no amount of fundraisers that is unattainable, that is unachievable.
And this increases the confidence to people, this gives them a lot of hope.
And that hope is the biggest learning that we've had, especially during this pandemic, and there is so much uncertainty all along.
So, looking at such a scenario and being part of such an organization, working with such a team, makes me really, really confident and really humbled that I'm part of this entire journey.
I really appreciate the kind of work CloudFit and the impact that CloudFit has done to support us in this journey.
Yeah, it does make you think about how having a job like that, like I told you, I've worked in the non-profit sector, and know what it's like to raise money for a cause, and it does make you very humble and thankful for the goodness of people sometimes.
Because, you know, it can be difficult, especially when there's so much happening in the world, to kind of lose faith in people, but it's great to hear that there's platforms that people can donate and do these types of things.
So, I know you were getting into the health sector, but now you have a lot of non-profits that use Impact Guru to fundraise money, so do you see any other types of organizations that you might help in the future?
What does expansion look like? Do you go to different organizations?
Maybe you start doing company fundraisers for technology to help other non-profits?
What does that look like? Absolutely. So while we wanted to ensure that we're providing the best support for healthcare fundraising and for non-profit fundraising as well, we do see a lot of things that look at working at scale.
So, we wanted to ensure that this entire infrastructure is something which is ready to handle thousands of donors, putting in their valuable generous donations on the platform at the same point of time, and the technology systems that we're working on with the team at scale, we are very, very confident in supporting multiple other initiatives as well.
So, in terms of what we plan, we're definitely creating more customized solutions, more options, and constructive solutions for non-profits across the globe, and we'll be looking at scaling that in the future.
We see a lot of generosity towards multiple causes, and we want to ensure that we're creating such systems where we get other non-profits on board and provide such solutions so that they're also able to raise a significant amount for the causes that they want to support.
In fact, there are multiple leading non-profits throughout India, as well as some non-profits globally who have been partnering with us or have created fundraisers on impact and are continuously running for such causes.
And as I mentioned to you during this COVID-19 pandemic, that there have been multiple such non-profits who have fundraised for different causes, whether it is for hunger, whether it is for daily wage workers, whether it is for oxygen support, or any other natural calamities that have been happening during this COVID time as well.
So, we have been supporting them, but yes, we will be creating some new exciting solutions and more customizations and working much more closely with the larger set of organizations.
Yeah, that's great to hear.
So, it looks like we're at time, but thanks so much for joining, and if anybody's more interested in Impact Guru, definitely go to impactguru.com and donate some money.
So, it was great to have you on, Vikas. I will definitely talk with you later.