Just in time for the Presidential and general elections coming up later this year, Votizen, the social media site that helps like-minded voters get together and influence how those elections go, has raised $750,000. And while that may sound like a modest number, in true influencer fashion, it’s the backers that are going to count here.
They include Sean Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, A-Grade Investments (Ron Burkle), and Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter — a group whose value in raising a voting startup’s profile in an important election year could carry more currency than even actual money.
This puts Votizen’s total funding at $2.25 million, including the $1.5 million Votizen raised in 2010.
That will all be going to help expand Votizen’s footprint and usefulness — and its staff, particularly in the area of engineering talent. (Read more on that in the update below.)
So far, Votizen says that over 480,000 voters have been connected together by its services, a base built up through the ranks of Votizen’s active members, which number around 20,000. The services can be used via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The company has also started to amass a big trove of voting data from the U.S. and is ramping up activities in line with the presidential election in 2012.
We’re just about to talk with the CEO of Votizen, David Binetti, and will update this post with more detail after that.
Update: Binetti says a good portion of this recent, convertible strategic round will be used to support hiring efforts, especially in the area of engineers, to expand Votizen’s 11-person team. He says that his company is in the lucky position of solving a “real problem” at the center of its business, which is attracting strong candidates who want to do something to make a difference:
“There’s no question startups have been quite challenged to find good talent, and that’s because they’re not working on real problems,” he said. “This is not just a social game. We’re helping to connect individuals to solve big problems. That’s going to attract a certain kind of person and puts us in a strong position.”
Some of the investor interest, he said, came from the fact that voting and elections are two areas that have yet to be truly disrupted by the Internet and social media – although there have certainly been a lot of grassroots efforts, such as the protests around SOPA/PIPA, that have demonstrated the potential.
The plan, said Binetti, is not just to focus on the presidential election but to also get people engaged in the “long tail” of politics: Senate and Congressional races, and “all the way down to school boards,” as it looks to make more direct connections between people and move them away from the influence of 30-second attack ads. If all works out to plan, Votizen wants to “reduce the influence of money in politics,” he said.
There is also a lot of scope for growth outside of the U.S. and when Votizen makes that move it will likely first be to other English-speaking countries such as the U.K., Canada, Australia and India, “the world’s largest democracy,” said Binetti.
Votizen is a consumer technology company that harnesses social networks to create a connected electorate of voters. Votizen provides a new way to focus, measure, and exercise political influence by bringing voters together. As opposed to existing tools that help elected officials campaign, Votizen empowers its users to leverage their own networks to self-organize in voting blocks and advance their causes and interests, redefining the political system with the voter at the center – not the politician. The company has engineered...
Sean Parker is a serial entrepreneur and a managing partner at the Founders Fund. As one of the three founders of Napster, Sean helped architect and manage the peer-to-peer file sharing application to become one of the largest on the net. Parker subsequently helped found and manage Plaxo, a VC-backed contact management application company. More recently, Parker worked as the Founding President of Facebook before moving on to join up with Peter Thiel at The Founders Fund,...
Ashton Kutcher is an actor, tech investor and producer. In 2011, Kutcher created a venture fund, A- Grade Investments, with Ron Burkle and Guy Oseary. A-Grade has invested in multiple tech companies including Spotify, Airbnb, Foursquare, Fab, Uber, Dwolla and Path. Kutcher is also co-founder of Katalyst, a media company creating original content for digital media, television and film. In 2010, Kutcher was named one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People. In that same year, his company, Katalyst,...