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The One Where Democracy Club Meets A Venture Capitalist

Folks, we’re a third of the way through this accelerator/incubator thing. Yikes.

This week…


Andy Lulham has joined us in Somerset House regularly this week. What a treat. Hi Andy! Andy’s going to help us power through towards victory.

We made some progress

Andy road-tested the prototype elections-in-which-ward finder. He used it to chat with the elections team at Amber Valley, who were helpful. Now we know which wards in Amber Valley are electing local councillors. Hurray! We need to do this across England in order to tell people which elections they can vote in.

Breaking: You can have a play with a very beta version of the tool, right now! This is a World Exclusive!

Help us learn which wards are electing new councillors.

click me!

Give us a tweet if the instructions aren’t clear. (Erm, we might install a comments feature on the blog soon, promise.)

Next, we’re getting some research done in the two areas that might be commercially viable: elections in a box and candidates in a box. The latter looks like too small a market to play with - but is still interesting.

For elections-in-a-box, we actually found what I was imagining, which is an online elections service based in the USA. This does at least prove the model - particularly in third-sector organisations. Perhaps we should compete with them across Europe.

In terms of elections or voting within companies, there’s some really interesting work to be done on capturing records of internal decision-making, providing smart analysis of the processes and hopefully thus making decision-making better. But it’s not clear that this should be a core product of Democracy Club. There’s not a whole lot of interest (we think) in electing people within businesses, though we heard that John Lewis do a bit of this. Need a whole lot more John Lewises.

Lots more chats and interviews lined up with helpful friends and friends-of-BGV who are keen to help us work through these questions, so more to follow.

Lastly, for election geeks, here’s a handy Calendar of the legal deadlines in the run up to the election.

We met more people

Wednesday brought a mildly hilarious meeting with a top-tier venture capitalist - a charming man, who gave one of the most eloquent and interesting lunchtime talks we’ve had so far - but hilarious because it brought home how it all works. I hadn’t quite grasped that the first investors - the ‘VCs’ - are betting not that you can build a successful business, but that you can create enough buzz and hype, or “traction” to create a (much) more highly valued company later on. Because the VC has promised a 10% return to their investors. That’s a high number. This is five-to-seven years down the line, when you’re acquired by an existing billion-dollar-business or you launch your IPO, which is your ‘exit’. And that’s how the early investor makes their money. No attention would be given to social impact, though he acknowledged that a good social story can help get people’s attention.

Reader, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Either would have seemed impolite. The more the chap spoke, the more it dawned on us that our efforts are spectacularly unlikely to appeal to these guys, who expected to be met with crazed entrepreneurs with missionary zeal for up-ending the world. They weren’t worried about business models or routes to monetisation, but simply about user growth. In some fields, we call those things vanity metrics. Anywhoo. Provided good entertainment - and genuine learning for me at least - on a Weds lunchtime.

We actually also met one of those crazed entrepreneurs this week - Gi Fernando won’t fit into a blog post, but is worth following on twitter.

In other news, Sym met with a group of good folks from Parliamentary Digital Service, Cabinet Office and Local Government Association, who are all pursuing a schema for the publishing of election results. Election results is one of those great issues that when you tell people that government doesn’t already publish election results, they look at you with incredulity. But it’s true. It’s different for every council. It’s scribbled down on a bit of paper by the (Acting) Returning Officer and announced in person…then sometimes the BBC or somebody records it and we all hope for the best (and sometimes, hoping isn’t enough - mistakes in recording are easily made at 5am). But there’s no open dataset of election results. And this is pretty fixable. So let’s get it fixed.

Team of the week

I’ve been getting text messages for a while asking how I’m feeling. Or how challenging I found today. And I rate my answers on a 1-10 scale. It’s quite addictive. And at the end of the week I get a chart plotting my results. It’s now getting more demanding, asking me to tell it what one thing I learned today, or one thing I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

These messages are coming from Plexus - the team (Martin, Sam) are sat at the bank of desks next to ours. They want to help people monitor their mental wellbeing - particularly in and around our relationship with work. I can see this sort of thing being really popular. I’ll let you know when there’s a public beta sign up.

Dog of the week.

Also, there was a dog in the office momentarily. That was nice. I failed in my social media manager role to take a photo of said dog. I failed at internet. But its name was Gemima, and it was quite cute.


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