has grown membership by 1,000 percent for four straight months. Having partnered with 40 media sites and secured more than $750,000 in investments, the civic-engagement startup is moving fast to keep up with upcoming federal elections and their own ambitions. They are hiring data scientists and engineers.
According to Dave Zega, National Director and CMO of ElectNext, political campaigns operate like a corporate marketing agenda: They purchase personal information, available via internet, and deliver highly tailored messages to individual voters. So how do you know who you’re really voting for? ElectNext turns the tables by collecting data on the politicians from multiple sources, including interest group ratings, campaign finance records, and politicians’ websites, to reveal candidates’ true stance on various issues. Members sign in, answer a series of issue-related questions, and receive their best voting ‘match.’
“What do we know about our politicians?” Zega asks. “Most of us can’t even name them and that is a huge data divide. That is why we are building the big dataset on your politicians and putting it together with a recommendation engine, so that anyone, anywhere can use our data and technology to engage on their most important political issues, every day.”
As elections approach, voters seek the company’s partner news sites, which include national and local outlets, driving traffic to ElectNext. Upon discovering their match, new members can publicize their results on social media platforms, sparking political conversations and civic activity while creating more potential members.
Collectively, the answers members provide illustrate the policy positions of the voting public. ElectNext generates profit by leasing access to this aggregated data to broadcast media, search engines, and educational nonprofits, without revealing anyone’s personal information.
So far, the “big dataset” accounts for federal elections, but ElectNext expects to build state and local elections into their platform in 2013.
“Some of our most important issues happen on a daily basis in our communities,” Zega says. “Think community centers and public parks, property taxes and the neighborhood school. So that is where we most want to help you engage.”
Co-founder Keya Dannenbaum, worked on several campaigns before entering Wharton’s demanding MBA program and losing all civic awareness—it’s difficult to balance political research with real life. ElectNext aims to better connect estranged voters with authentic politics. They’re continued success could help make super-packs and fact-checking frenzies a thing of the past.
: Dave Zega, ElectNext
: Dana Henry