Friday, March 27, 2015

ElectNext signs Economist, Constitution Center

Incubator firm 'shocks' voters with candidate matches

ElectNext signs Economist, Constitution Center

ElectNext, Keya J. Danenbaum's start-up company that grills you about your political preferences, then tells you which candidates match them, and don't, has signed a deal with the Philadelphia-based National Constitution Center, has been added by The Economist to its U.S. smartphone app - and has raised the first $100,000 of its planned $750,000 capital campaign, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.

(ElectNext is one of three small firms currently "in residence" for six months at the Project Liberty Digital Incubator, here at Philadelphia Media Networks, which publishes the Inquirer.) 

"The Economist just launched this new app, Electionism, and we're on it," spokesman David Speers told me. "They're offering 'an outsider's approach with an intimate knowledge of American politics,' they are looking for tools and experiences for their readers, they love our data, and they integrated us into the platform. They are pushing traffic to us."


The National Constitution Center on Independence Mall has contracted to set up touchscreens featuring ElectNext to help visitors define where they stand. "We are focused on 'productizing', so we can keep advertising off ElectNext and not clutter it," Speers told me.

By April the firm hopes to have a "widgetized" version suitable for Web sites - something like SeeClickFix, a service used by Yardley-based Journal Register Co., which publishes suburban daily papers in Chester, Montgomery and Mercer counties, "so a community can report potholes." (Sort of like new Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon's Bad Neighbor Map.) 

ElectNext assigns Presidential candidates ratings based on their public stands on dozens of issues, and matches them to users' self-described poltiical preferences. Sometimes it's a shock for users, who they best match.. "People are aware of the issues," Speers said. "But when asked a direct question about where they stand, they're like a deer stuck in your headlights. Or like a legislator, when he has to make a decision."

Speers, a Downingtown native and Penn State grad, contrasts ElectNext with political tracking sites like Fort Washington-based CampaignGrid. (see here too.) "They're scraping Facebook, they're tracking the Websites you visit, building massive data profiles, and using government records to build these intricate profiles" and sell them to Republican candidates, he noted.

 Speers has worked for his share of Republicans - including Steve Welch, the Chester County IT businessman now running for U.S. Senate, and PA Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley - but he said ElectNext "turns the tables, building a profile" of the electorate "using the collective power of the community. We don't tell people who you should vote for. We give you a starting place to find someone who shares your values." 


Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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