Startup Spotlight: Involved
Startup Spotlight: Involved
Meet Involved, a startup looking to increase civic engagement with roots at BU. Currently in BETA, they are developing ways to make it easy and effective to connect and communicate with the people that represent you.
GH: What is Involved?
JD: Involved is a mobile application aimed at increasing civic engagement by allowing the opportunity to voice your opinion, come to you. What we’ve found is that many people fall into the ‘silent majority’ category where they vote on election day, but oftentimes don’t reach out to their elected officials either because they have trouble keeping track of current issues, don’t know how to get in contact or don’t have the time. However, these people still have opinions and care about what goes on in their community.
Involved makes it as easy as possible to voice your opinion by allowing your elected officials to send quick questions as push notifications to everyone signed up in your district. Through Involved, elected officials can instantly gather a consensus on a local issue, while you can feel validated that your voice is being heard, in the time it takes to answer a text message.
GH: What is your name and role?
JD: My name is Jacob Dansey and I am Co-Founder and CEO of Involved.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Involved get started?
JD: Involved was an idea I actually had four years ago as a senior in high school from the DC area. It was a 2am moment where I was questioning why a consensus couldn’t instantly be gathered on an issue since everyone had smart phones (found out later it’s more like ~80%). I’m personally not very politically involved, but I think this actually helped because if I was interested in taking thirty seconds out of my week to have my opinion heard then there’s got to be others like me.
GH: How did you build / are you thinking about building your team?
JD: The Involved team was really built around the concept of “how can I help”. This was a solo project of mine initially where I actually switched to computer engineering going into my junior year in order to start learning how to develop the prototype myself. Just from working on the project I was able to attract amazing members to the team from the BU community who believed in the mission and just wanted to help. This process was very organic and really relied on people approaching me, which had the benefit of self-selecting people who fit our culture and passion.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
JD: Our company philosophy is that we exist because we believe that what we provide should exist. It’s not about us and it’s not about money, it’s about making the world a better place and driving democracy through technological innovation.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
JD: We fail all the time, whether that’s the Facebook ad that wouldn’t run because of too much text or the missed partnerships and funding opportunities. However, I can’t point to one specific instance where we have felt a missed opportunity or mistake was insurmountable. There’s a general resilience and optimism running through the company backed by great feedback that has allowed us to learn quickly from our early stage failures and continue pushing forward.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
We are starting our beta test in the beginning of June with a few elected officials from the Massachusetts State House and their constituents, and what we’ve learned from our early interactions with elected officials is that the pain point we are after is a real thing. From the one mass mailing we sent out, we were able to get twenty meetings with different offices who all share similar problems related to the low levels of public participation.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
JD: Boston is the best place for us to start as a civic technology company due to the deep political history and rise of this startup ecosystem. Our school, Boston University, has been incredibly helpful through all the different programs we’ve taken advantage of (BUVA, Spark!, Pitch & Pizza, BUzz Lab, BU Legal, BU Summer Accelerator) and the network that has given us. I feel like my senior year is when we really understood the benefits of college through the opportunities and resources made available. We are just starting to dip our toes into the programs outside of college, like Greenhorn Connect and the Cambridge Innovation Center, as a way to make connections and gain guidance as we move forward.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
JD: Honestly, I don’t think I’m qualified to answer this question because from my perspective it seems like Boston has so many resources to help us succeed. I do wish that more of my colleagues had an entrepreneurial mindset, but that’s not due to a lack of support structure in Boston; I just feel that many people aren’t aware of what’s out there because they aren’t looking or willing to step out of their comfort zones.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
JD: I don’t know if this necessarily counts as advice, but someone pointed me to this 45 second video of Steve Jobs discussing his vision of the world (highly recommend checking out on Youtube). Essentially he says that people grow up believing that the world is how it is, however everything around you was created by people no smarter than you and you have the ability to change it. This has really resonated with me as I’ve transitioned from just being a computer engineering student to having a more entrepreneurial mindset and wanting to make a real difference.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
JD: Very early on before we even really started development, we were approached by a startup business consultant who absolutely loved the idea. He had government relationship experience and spoke about how successful this would be and how he would help us get off the ground and make it a reality. This was an incredible spark for us that made us really start to take everything seriously. We never actually were able to partner with him, but that was our first outside confirmation of the idea which has led us to where we are now.
GH: What does the future hold for Involved?
JD: As mentioned before, we are starting a beta test in the beginning of June and we are currently working out of the BU Summer Accelerator. Our goals are to better understand our value proposition, marketing and the strategy to tackling this two-sided market. We recently launched our social media accounts which has led to some great feedback as well as friends and family who want to invest, so an equity crowdfunding round is in the near future to allow us to continue to work full-time. We are planning on launching on the app store during the fall so that users can download and invite their elected officials onto our platform.