It’s easy to forget, but every American citizen has a team of representatives — from their city council up through the Senate — that’s supposed to be working in their interest. We’re their constituents, and while they won’t always do what we ask them to (after all, there are a lot of people asking them for different things), they’re at least supposed to hear us out. Votizen is a new startup that’s looking to make this somewhat idealized notion a reality, and today it’s announcing that it’s landed $1.5 million in funding in a round led by Founders Fund, with participating investors including 500 Startups, David Cowan, Keith Rabois, Ron Conway, Mark Goines, Founder Collective, Felicis Ventures, PivotNorth, Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Shervin Pishevar, and Tom Shields.
Votizen cofounder David Binetti says that representatives are often overwhelmed with the number of inbound messages they receive, especially as political activists use astroturfing strategies to mimic grassroots campaigns — and the problem is only getting worse. To combat this, Votizen’s service will authenticate users to show representatives that they are indeed actual constituents, so that their Facebook messages and tweets don’t get lost in the noise.
The authentication process varies from state to state, but Binetti says it generally involves entering your real name, email, date of birth, and sometimes your address. Votizen takes this information and crosschecks it against its list of registered voters, then ensures that your message is sent to the correct representative, who has the benefit of knowing that it came from an actual person and not some Twitter bot.
The startup sprung, in part, from the success of a Votizen-powered Twitter campaign earlier this year that was held in support of the Startup Visa. Thousands of people tweeted their support for the bill, and Votizen actually delivered their messages by hand to the appropriate people.
Binetti says that Votizen’s service is still taking shape, so it may ultimately differ from what was used in the Startup Visa campaign (obviously delivering messages by hand won’t scale so well). But he says the company’s goal of delivering authentic messages to government representatives remains the same. The company was founded by Jason Putorti, the lead designer of Mint.com, and Binetti, who cofounded USA.gov. They have also hired Matt Snider as their first engineer, who was previously the first engineer at Mint.