Kim-Mai Cutler is an operating partner for Initialized Capital, an early-stage venture firm and was previously a journalist covering technology, finance and policy issues at TechCrunch — best-known for her long-form work on the Bay Area.
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OpenVote, the political startup from early Facebook designer Bobby Goodlatte and Sean McCann, is unveiling a larger publishing platform where people can debate policies and pledge their votes.
Before becoming a prominent designer at Facebook, Goodlatte grew up with politics in his family. For almost all of Goodlatte’s life, his father has served as a Republican Congressman. While he and his father don’t necessarily align on every political front, Goodlatte ended up having an inside seat for seeing political discourse and policymaking evolve over the last generation.
OpenVote comes out of the concern that political communication hasn’t really evolved or been fully translated into online or social networking mediums. People see news stories, they get enraged, but that doesn’t exactly translate into votes or political commitments. Youth voter turnout in presidential elections fell below 50 percent between 1964 and 2012. Today, Baby Boomers outvote millennials by a full 30 percentage points.
“The idea is to amplify your own impact and commit to a vote, then recruit friends,” he said. “We’ll track that number and see how many people you brought to a campaign.”
With today’s launch, the startup is adding a self-publishing interface. Think Medium, but centered around politics and with widgets that let you pledge and recruit votes. Goodlatte brought on different political bloggers to do hot takes on issues like marijuana legalization or the 2016 presidential race.
“Hopefully we can get this drummed up enough so we can get people active on OpenVote. We’ll have an opportunity to guide a system where evidence-based and fact-based work rises to the top,” he said.
So far, much of the content involves pretty short, fast takes. The top articles are pieces like, “AP calls Democratic nomination for Clinton” or “Are Protestors Helping or Hurting Trump?” Goodlatte said he found interesting the model of Bleacher Report, which relies on user-generated sports content to grow a large-scale media network. However, that company eventually had to add layers of applications processes and trainings to surface higher-quality writers.
Goodlatte said OpenVote will eventually add quizzes to figure out who a person aligns with politically. He said they also wanted to promote more neutral content beyond the opinions and hot takes the platform will inevitably attract.
“What our goal long-term is to have you come here, find out everything on a ballot and read everything on both sides,” he said.
OpenVote’s seed investors include Greylock Partners, Upside Partnership, Adam D’Angelo, Brian Armstrong, Zak Williams, Aaron Sittig and Justin Shaffer.