In honor of President Obama’s LinkedIn town hall meeting today — and the impending campaign — we bring you a political startup. Before you gag, give it a chance; I think this is a political startup that might just get your vote. Launching today is Ruck.us: A social and political engagement platform that allows like-minded individuals to find each other, connect, and to take collective action based on issues, not political affiliations.
On the surface, that doesn’t sound particularly earth-shattering. We’re pretty sure both Facebook and Twitter enable this kind of grouping — as does Fox News and MSNBC (and No Labels and Americans Elect). But it does help that the Ruck.us co-founders both have politics in their blood: Ray Glendening is the son of former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and Nathan Daschle is the son of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Naturally, both guys have been involved with the democratic party professionally, having recently worked for the Democratic Governors Association.
However, in a move that will likely strike a chord with many people, both young and old, Glendening and Daschle have since effectively given up on political parties, because, as they told Roll Call, “the two parties have simply failed to keep pace with today’s world”. Sounds about right.
The idea is not just to be antiestablishment or people without a country, but that the two-party system is a somewhat limiting mold for the U.S.’s diverse population and the nuanced nature of many people’s political views. The population is becoming increasingly idea and issue-centric, and the social media generation wants to feel connected and, at the same time, take advantage of customization, personalization — not to be force-fed cookie cutter antidotes.
Of course, this sounds like the rhetoric of many-a-democratic candidate in the past, candidates that often go on to forget those values once they get to Washington. The principle motivation behind Ruck.us, then, is to bring people together around collective action, no matter what party or ideas they ascribe to.
In practice, this means that Ruck.us users simply visit the site, sign up, and select the issues that are relevant to them individually — whether that’s one issue or 25. As the user pokes around the site and responds to the user-generated questions they come across, the platform serves the user with a “Ruck”, which is the 50, 100, or 250 people (the size is elastic) that share the same viewpoints. The Ruck then constantly changes as the site learns more about the user and their political DNA.
Next, the site establishes a communication feed, in which users can see what their Ruck is discussing, what links and stories they’re sharing, etc., as well as what your group is doing — the actions they’re taking, petitions they’re signing, who they’re donating to, and so on. Again, the focus here is on issues rather than political parties.
The idea, Glendening told TechCrunch, is to replicate those core party functions, outside of the two parties, just as Obama for America and the Tea Party paved the way for external organization during the last election. Technology provided the two groups (at great long last) with the ability to so, and Glendening says that, with Ruck.us, they hope to enhance that functionality and take it one step farther.
While there are a slew of non-profits out there seeking to organize people around ideas and causes, Ruck.us is certainly different in that it’s a startup, and it’s definitely for-profit. That being said, Glendening was adamant about avoiding an advertising-supported business model, especially one that would rely on annoying banner ads.
The startup has received a small round of venture funding, but the co-founder said that sponsored actions (if a person indicates they are an environmentalist, then they might benefit from being served with the Sierra Club petition that’s currently before Congress, for example) as well as partnerships.
And on that latter note, Students First, LiveStrong, and Rock the Vote are all currently partnering with Ruck.us in the hopes of using it as a channel to reach their target audience.
While Ruck.us is founded on an idea that many people can relate to (finding a place to congregate around causes that speak to them, outside of party demarcations and agendas), it’s true that many politically-conscious and active people already have plenty of places to express their views and get in touch with people who think the same way. It remains to be seen if, without a target, specific audience, Ruck.us will be able to gain the traction it needs to become a valuable resource.
But the idea itself is definitely worth testing.
For more, visit Ruck.us at home here or check out the video below:
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29282211 w=640&h=380]