Jake Wood, Team Rubicon Founder & CEO, joined The Final Round to discuss how Team Rubicon is implementing its disaster relief efforts when it comes to the recent wildfires, hurricanes, and COVID-19. He also discusses how Team Rubicon is utilizing Microsoft's technology when planning these efforts.
SEANA SMITH: Focus on one organization that's helping Americans at this time in the midst of the pandemic, because like we were saying, it is very far from over. Team Rubicon pivoted its operations very early, repositioning its teams to really serve those vulnerable populations. So here with more on this, we want to bring in Jake Wood. He is the founder and CEO of Team Rubicon.
It's a veteran-led disaster response organization. And, Jake, it's great to have you back on the show. We last spoke to you in May when we were only, what, two months into the pandemic here in the US. Now we're six or seven months into the pandemic. Just talk to us about your efforts and how your response has evolved over the last couple of months.
JAKE WOOD: Yeah, well, I think we can agree that May seems like five years ago, not five months ago. But I just-- yeah, let me start by saying that, you know, this situation has only gotten worse since we last spoke. Obviously, the economy remains in shambles. We've seen the unemployment rate. And one of the things that we knew early, even as we were positioning our organization to respond to COVID specifically, was that Mother Nature wasn't going to care about COVID-19.
It wasn't going to hit the Pause button, and we've seen that play out. You know, this has been one of the worst hurricane seasons in the last several decades. We're on the verge of another category 4 storm making landfall in Southeastern Louisiana here shortly. And that means that Team Rubicon has been responding in these communities having to battle not just COVID-19 while doing it, but the effects of Mother Nature.
And the one thing that's important for people to remember is that, you know, nothing-- nothing makes that-- that line between the haves and have-nots starker than a disaster. You know, many people have been able to weather this pandemic financially. They've had stable jobs. But for those people that are, you know, hanging in on the brink, you know, losing your roof, having six inches of water flood your home, that can be a devastating event financially from which you never recover.
MELODY HAHM: And, Jake, as I understand it, Team Rubicon does use Microsoft and its technology for disaster relief. Tell me in sort of a meta way, right, the way that you're trying to stay afloat as an organization that you're trying to optimize and streamline your own operations during this really tumultuous time.
JAKE WOOD: Yeah, well, our organization has been all in on-- on Microsoft and their-- their migration to the cloud over the last 3 and 1/2 years. We've made some major investments in all of our IT systems, consolidating literally dozens of cloud-based platforms down into, you know, Microsoft, their Azure platform, Dynamics 365. We've seen marvelous efficiencies gained from that.
We're also, you know, being able to, you know, in that partnership, leverage their expertise along with their tools to help us begin implementing things like artificial intelligence to drive our operations more efficiently and effectively, which ultimately translates to us being able to help more people faster and for less money. And-- and really, that level of efficiency is what's critical right now when, you know, philanthropic dollars are-- are hard to go around.
SEANA SMITH: Jake, how are you deciding-- just because the numbers in terms of cases for coronavirus specifically and for the pandemic continue to climb. A number of states here over the past 7 days are reporting record numbers. When you're deciding with your team-- because you scaled your business, but there's only so much you can do-- how are you deciding at this point where to go and who needs or what states need the most help?
JAKE WOOD: Yeah, well, we've had over 300 requests from assistance come in from communities across the country since the pandemic hit. You know, our philosophy from the beginning has been get to yes. And so, you know, really, it's been relying on our, you know, training and experience as military veterans to decentralize our operations, empowering our-- our leaders at local levels to, you know, pivot the organization in a safe and effective way to meet the needs of those communities.
That's found us doing things that we've never done before. You know, we had never worked in food banks prior to COVID-19, but we've-- we've moved almost 10,000 volunteers into food banks over the last six months to augment efforts of great organizations like Feeding America and Meals on Wheels. And we've only been able to do that because we were-- you know, we've got a-- a structure, a system, a culture that allows us to move quickly and adapt to these really fluid situations when the stakes are high.
SEANA SMITH: And, Jake, real quick, just in terms of-- because responding to a pandemic is very different than a wildfire or a hurricane just in terms of the fact that we were just speaking and the pandemic, it's nowhere near being over. So when you're trying to, I guess, determine how long you're staying in an area or how to best address a certain situation in the shortest amount of time, how are you going about that?
JAKE WOOD: Yeah, I mean, every situation is different. You know, every flood, every hurricane, every pandemic, they're all-- they're all different. The nature of the damage they cause, the resiliency of the community they hit, all of those are factors that we-- that we plan. I will tell you that, unfortunately, tragically even, the biggest factor that we're facing right now is financial.
You know, the reality, again, is that in this economic environment coupled with an election, when a lot of philanthropy is being diverted to political contributions, we're simply seeing our resources depleted. We kind of feel like Brian Chesky at-- at Airbnb, right? We haven't burned through a billion dollars this year, but, you know, we've burned through a substantial amount of our reserves by continuing to say yes to these communities. Because again, the stakes are so high for these homeowners, these citizens, these neighbors of ours who are on the verge of losing everything.
SEANA SMITH: Yeah, well, Jake Wood, we wish you all of the best. We know it's a very, very challenging time, obviously, for so many Americans, and especially for your team helping those Americans in need right now. Founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, we hope to have you back soon.
JAKE WOOD: Thanks for having me.