POLCO

Connecting citizens and governments for positive change in the community


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Polco innovates public sector civic communications. In a time when citizens are frustrated by public representation, and those same representatives desperately seek citable sentiment data to bring the community together, Polco solves both problems. Polco provides government officials with a platform to post questions and informative background materials, and helps share those questions and e-ballots on Polco's site and through other channels to meet as many citizens as possible where they already are and successfully balance the vocal few.  Respondents are cross-referenced against the voter-registration database and other data sets to both verify responses and organize feedback by districts, demographics, and other dimensions before being presented to officials.  

Citizens get a verified voice, government officials can proactively collect broader, better balanced and organized sentiment; and the community gets stronger through better communication.

Successful launches in Polco’s first 26 cities and counties are leading to more leads and a faster moving funnel, and also to additional customer segments. Campaigning candidates have started using the platform to get constituent feedback during campaign platform formation. News media and individual legislators and departments at various levels of government are also now using  the platform for verified and better organized townhalls and constituent surveys. Commitments this quarter already put Polco on track to double customers and revenues for the third quarter in a row. 

We’ve all seen them before on TV: poor quality live-cast city hall meetings that consist of a few citizens voicing their opinions to local government officials. We usually fly by them while flipping through channels - but if you stop and watch, a problem is unveiled.  

Large municipalities run operating budgets in the billions of dollars / year, and even small municipalities are run annual budgets of $10M-$20M.  Many important decisions are decided every Tuesday night at city council and county board meetings around the country with no easy way for citizens to learn more and cast usable input per issue. Citizens are frustrated by this civic environment, are hungry to have a voice, and are starting to become a non-dismissable factor on social media.  Citizens are starting to deluge traditional social media, which was not structured to facilitate verified citizen input and commentary on important topics such as public policy, and the resulting uncivil environment is feeding into today's growing partisanship and migration toward extremism, echo chambers, and confirmation bias. Municipal officials are wisely hesitant on engaging their online audiences in these forums even though they are desperate for more citable sentiment data to balance the vocal few, and improving data-driven operations. 

Despite how complacent they may seem regarding their outdated communications, local governments are starting to realize the mulitple issues their communication structure is causing, the growing groundswell of social engagement noise, and that they need a modern way to communicate effectively and efficiently. Public officials are now finding themselves struggling to manage social, email, phone, press, and in-person conversations.  Polco unifies these fractured communication channels, provides a environment structured fo civil public input, and verifies and organizes feedback into useful dashboard and reports helping them tame this daunting space. 

The reason Polco works (and others who have tried to tap the enormous public sector opportunity have failed) is that Polco simultaneously addresses the challenges of citizens and local governments.  Polco operates simultaneously in the CivTech and GovTech spaces. Citizens can be heard, and government officials get the ease and breadth of an online survey with the citability and rigor of a door-to-door campaign.

Impacting positive change within your community is now possible for the thoughtful moderate and busy broader majority thanks to POLCO. Polco not only helps educate people, but also gives people a direct and verified line to their government.

Almost every municipality uses either SurveyMonkey or Facbook polls occassionally, but these are not verified and not citable. Officials can't feel confident that citizens didn't create 10 accounts, and that the results aren't being "astro-turfed" by advocacy organization respondents or bots possibly in another state. Since those results aren't citable, citizens stop participating, and disporportionate influence returns to the squeaky wheels and special interest attending council. 

Polco’s verification ensures that even though the government is collecting input from more peole, it's useful data, less noise, better balanced, and more moderated.  It shows citizens that their voices can and should be heard, and also makes government officials more confident to solicit input through multiple channels they know no one is responding more than once. Prior to Polco, influence was disproportionately held by those with time, clout, and political means.  Polco introduces better transparency, democratizes accessibility, and ushers in the decentralized crowd-sourced wisdom for a transformative new public experience.  

Polco helps municipalities:

  • Innovate their municipal front office much the same way OpenGov innovated the municipal financial back office
  • Pose important questions and background materials
  • Mitigate misinformation and better inform the community
  • Get more participation and better balanced engagement on core issues
  • Identify gaps in their outreach to more efficiently reach the under-represented 
  • Cite the results and feel confident in their decisions
  • Stand up to the vocal few with data and get back to municipal business with efficient data driven decision making

Polco helps citizens:

  • Access more information and context on new city initiatives more easily
  • Voice sentiment, suggesting solutions, and weigh in on proposals 
  • Get empowered through simple, easy access to a verified voice on key issues

At its core, Polco’s civic engagement process can be broken down into 3 main elements:

Providing municipalities the resources to optimally leverage our technology is a primary focus - and once we do, it works beautifully.  Polco provides government officials draft press releases, draft social media posts, and access to an often-used question bank to help cities employ best practices.  As for citizens, account creation on Polco is made quick and easy - and they start getting notified on new issues right away based on their address.  A feature that allows citizens to comment on issues only after they’ve responded to questions helps keep the dialogue civil.  Finally there’s an easy way for officials to share outcomes or just say thanks to the community for their input on an issue.

Here are just a handful of additional ways Polco helps open better lines of communication between cities and build strong communities:

A data breakthrough - The political social graph and preference information flows that Polco provides represent new data fields that elected officials have never had at their disposal before.

Analytics - Making optimal public policy decisions has never been easier.  Through the Polco admin dashboard, officials can access analytics driven by poll results that allow for a verified, balanced perspective of the public.

Omni-channel capability - Polco e-ballots can be easily embedded onto any 3rd party website, in addition to dissemination via email, social media, and local media.

Enterprise user versatility - Polco has been crafted to serve practically any organization.  Cities, counties, school districts, state legislators, campaigning candidates, advocacy groups, universities, and more can all benefit from the transparent input we deliver.

High input volume - In addition to cross referencing respondent input against voter registration databases, we can also allow these organizations to upload their own member, student, employee, or subscriber lists.

Custom results - Individual users can view verified results broken down by age, gender, and other key metrics.  This will eventually result is an increased usership - which means more accurate results and even more informed decision making for officials.

Arriving at the promising position we sit in today was hard work - and it's been a rewarding journey.  We've endured months of customer research, message testing and iteration, product research and development and iteration, customer segment sequencing and prioritization, and have identified our most efficient path to each.  The experiences have resulted in a polished, fully-functional platform that’s ready for enterprise use, and a confident mapping of our market and most efficient paths to fully capitalize on the opportunity. Here are a few highlights from efforts to date:

Municipal officials are loving us.  26 municipalities - and counting - are on board as Polco users, with populations as high as 1,000,000.  4 local and state campaigns are also using the platform as well as individual municipal legislators and departments.

The wheels are turning.  Monthly recurring revenue is on track to double again this quarter. With municipal traction comes big follow on markets with campaigns, states, news media, and advocacy organizations.

Getting some serious recognition.  We won the Wisconsin Innovation Awards 2016 “People’s Choice Award”, the Madison Chamber of Commerce’s “Pressure Chamber” winner in front of an audience of 400, the nationwide VETCON Pitch Competition in Silicon Valley, the Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Competition IT Category winner, and were recognized as a Notre Dame Social Impact and Business Plan Competition Irish Angels award winner.  We graduated the Seed Sumo Tech Startup accelerator (7 accepted from 1,300 applications) in 2015. 

Key partnerships.  We signed an agreement with PoliticalBank and we are working through a similar arrangement with NationBuilder, two key players in the campaigning candidate resource space. In the works are partnerships with state and national-level local government organizations: the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Counties.

 

Municipal traction not only delivers users and high-value follow-on customer segments, but the users generate valuable usage data we can leverage to create additional space between us and our competitors. Data science, given our team's extremely strong background in this area, is one of our key comparative advantages. While we have a mature product and conservative product roadmap, we do intend to focus some effort to demonstrate the incredible power of the rich data Polco generates:

  • Real-time dashboards of breakdowns along key dimenions
  • Vote histories, better data and analytics visualizations including map-based, leading indicators of outcomes, predictive polling, and social graph mapping

Polco's Co-Founders bring a mix of economic, tech, and public policy experience. Their military backgrounds give them the courage and passion for tackling an undertaking of the public sector magnitude. Their experiences also include time at Amazon, Google, the White House, and top universities.  Let’s meet them!

Nick Mastronardi, CEO - Before starting Polco Nick served as a Senior Economist for Amazon leading data science initiatives on the east coast, served as a Senior Economist in the White House on the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and served 10 years as an Officer in the Air Force. Nick earned honors with two technical degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and a PhD in Economics from the University of Texas Austin. During his time in the Air Force he served as a technology program manager at the weapons lab, on the faculty at the Air Force Academy, and in the Pentagon. Nick is as passionate today about bringing better data-driven decision, like he used at Amazon, to the public sector. His dual government/corporate experience, along with his technical proficiency, gives Nick the ideal skill set to make key business decisions as CEO.

 

Alex Pedersen, COO - The second half of the Polco duo also has experience as an Air Force Officer; in fact, the two met while faculty at the Air Force Academy.  Alex taught Political Science after receiving his Masters in Public Policy from Harvard. After his time in the Air Force Alex he served as a Strategy and Operations Analyst position at Google - opening his eyes to a unique technological perspective to public policy issues.  Alex works side-by-side with Nick to oversee Polco’s day-to-day operations.

Want to learn more about Polco and how they’re creating investor value?  Make sure to request access to the Business Plan tab of this profile to find out how you can get involved!

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