Scott Beck, Rick Rusaw & Gloo: Building A Global Faith Ecosystem (Part III)

[NOTE: This is the last of three blog posts. To view the webinar interview of March 2, 2022, upon which this series of blog posts is based, please CLICK HERE.]

Scott Beck had considerable experience taking ideas successfully to scale in a business context. He believes that one of his gifts is that he can examine a small amount of data and be able to discern future trends, such as with Blockbuster, Boston Market and Einstein Bros, and other ventures. His career has been focused on trying to get to scale in a business context—but now it is focused on ministry.

In 2010 Scott and his wife, Theresa, decided to put their full effort and considerable resources towards Gloo. Scott describes Gloo as “an intranet for the church and the global faith ecosystem” which allows churches to access technology that would otherwise not be available.

As Rick Rusaw points out, the church has always lagged regarding tech and data. He was part of a larger church of about 4,000 weekly attendees that had the ability to use data—and “it really helped us.” The challenge is that churches collectively have a lot of revenue, but they generally operate individually regarding tech and its challenges. Of course, in a church context you can’t do a “roll up” or consolidation as you would in business in order to get efficiencies. According to Rick Rusaw, however, you could do a “roll down” by showing the value of Gloo to individual churches.

One of the challenges for churches, is that people don’t know that a church meets various needs (i.e., in relation to marriage, depression, lack of meaning and purpose). So, this is a communications challenge. Scott points out that almost every industry gets to scale regarding the promotion of it services via aggregation and there is often an “advertising council.” An example is the “Got Milk?” campaign which was devised on behalf of the entire US dairy industry. “We saw that there was nothing for churches so we created one.” It’s called, “Churches Care.”

The key is to use collective power and scale up. For example, Gloo organizes cooperative advertising. They have devised a marketing campaign in the US under the title, “He Gets Us” (i.e., Jesus can help you). Gloo connects people (they use the term “explorers” rather than “seekers”) with churches. “Now we can aggregate resources. Gloo’s objective is to drive people to churches.” People are asking questions (i.e., regarding divorce). “The problem: people are asking online, but churches aren’t there.” So, if someone search for divorce, rather than having an ad for a divorce lawyer appear, there will be an ad that says, “Restore Your Marriage” along with an invitation to connect to a church.

How does the connection happen? Churches set up a Gloo profile. The closest suitable church will then be directed to connect with the “explorer.” Gloo has run tests in four US cities and they have delivered 20,000 explorers to area churches. Basically, churches sign up, do a profile, and have people in their inbox. This is great for small churches –it’s affordable.

Scott points out that, “we’ve spent a decade working on infrastructure.” The Gloo platform can do a number of things, but this service of directing explorers to churches is their initial focus. With over a decade of effort, thus far US$175m in equity has been invested and the company is in the process of doing a $50m convertible note financing.

What’s the driver for Scott? In 1977 he made a decision for Christ. In 1993 set up his family office, which included donating to many worthwhile causes. As Scott explains, “then I saw the problem that someone’s got to get these churches on a common infrastructure in order to benefit from their scale. I didn’t see anyone doing it and I thought it needed to be done.” He has attracted the support of other influential investors such as Pat Gelsinger of Intel, the Green Family of HobbyLobby and Trident Financial.

From Scott’s perspective the process of building Gloo “is an extension of my calling and applying it to advance the Kingdom. It’s got a giant purpose, it’s got a giant economic opportunity, and it’s an enormous intellectual challenge…so those three things turn me on.”

Gloo is presently attracting churches to the platform with a free offer to use a Barna Assessment to get some relevant data. Already 25,000 churches have joined – which is about 10% of the market in the US.

“Now we are scaling up the paid option (connect to more people).” The annual fees range from US$1,600 – $3,300/yr. They are signing up about 15 churches/day to the platform and hoping to get up to 50/day. They would like to get to 20,000 paying churches by end of the year.

Gloo is a for-profit entity which charges for its services? Why? First, Scott explains that they need to charge to keep building the infrastructure. “We take 50% of what we receive from churches are put it back into the ad co-op.” Second, we need to be able to access to talent and have access to capital.” That requires resources.  Lasty, if instead “we were a NPO then we would be competing with the donors of churches.”

To conclude, for Rick Rusaw and Scott Beck their role with Gloo is an extension of their calling. Rick cites Eph 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He encourages Christian business leaders to “go with your gifting and pursue opportunities.”

Scott highlights the fact that, “We want to serve the people on the front line to help people and allow them to get the benefit of their collective might. The answer is in the whole. Don’t think of a separation of the sacred and the secular—instead, look to integrate them. We are given talents and we should use them to advance the Kingdom.  I would encourage people to go out and make a difference.”