Q&A with PolitiPick founder and CEO Mike Sweeney on political “matchmaking” and his vision for the political social site
SUB: Please explain what PolitiPick is, and the value proposition you offer to voters and politicos.
Sweeney: PolitiPick is a free website that matches voters to candidates based on opinions each gives about how government should be run. If you’ve ever wondered who to vote for, this site is for you.
It gives voters an easier way to determine which candidates will best represent their views in office. Campaign slogans can be vague and researching all candidate platforms just takes way too much time, especially when there may be a dozen or more candidates running for a single office.
Voters and candidates give their opinions on short statements about a wide range of election issues and how a society should be governed. There are three opinions: Disagree, Neutral, or Agree for each statement—which becomes the user’s PolitiPick “DNA.” Voter DNA is matched to candidate DNA.
Statements cover election issues, current events and philosophical foundations on how a society should be governed, such as government’s role, individual’s role, rights, privileges, and entitlements. There are 14 statement categories including the economy, taxes, education, housing and health care.
The matches are added up and candidates are displayed from highest to lowest by the number of matches. Voters can learn more about each candidate’s opinions on the candidate’s profile page. Candidates can embed YouTube videos and other hyperlinks to provide voters with more information explaining their opinions and platform.
Voters have complete access to PolitiPick’s matching engine without having to sign up. Entering a zip code and giving a minimum of ten opinions is all that’s required to be matched. However, the more opinions given, the better the match results will be.
Signing up allows voters to save their opinions to be matched with future candidates for years to come and to be notified as new candidates in their area create profiles. Voters can choose favorite candidates, send a “Like” to a candidate to show support, and request more opinions from a candidate. Sign up is free and only requires a valid email address.
For candidates, the site offers a new way to build their voter base by connecting them with like-minded voters who will support their campaign and show up at the polls. With the costs of running a campaign drastically increasing, especially advertising, PolitiPick opens the door for candidates who may not have otherwise run for office.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competitors?
Sweeney: There’s no other site out there exactly like this that I know of. I’ve seen a couple of sites with questionnaires that match you to candidates but not in the unique way that PolitiPick approaches the problem.
SUB: What do you offer that differentiates PolitiPick from the competition?
Sweeney: What makes this so unique is each candidate creates their own profile and gives their opinions directly to the statements. There’s no third party interpreting a candidate’s opinion.
Also, PolitiPick is designed for elected offices in all levels of government from city, county, state or national; and all offices from council member, mayor or president. The site is very easy to use and the statements are kept short so giving opinions is as quick as possible.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind PolitiPick?
Sweeney: I actually got the idea for the site a couple of years ago while giving my wife a foot rub. There was an election going on at the time and I’ve always felt it was a burden to figure out which candidate to vote for, especially for the lesser known offices. It just goes to show, good things happen when you give your wife a foot rub.
SUB: When was the company launched, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Sweeney: The site hasn’t formally launched. We’ve just started Beta in June and are inviting voters and candidates to be among the first to create their profiles. This is being done through some social media, SEO, and news releases.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the business?
Sweeney: For any new website, getting initial traffic is always a challenge. This site has an obstacle of needing candidates to create profiles for it to work for voters and voters to use the site for it to be of value to candidates. Kind of becomes a catch-22, but I guess it’s no different a challenge than many others sites such as Twitter and Facebook have had to overcome.
SUB: What are some of the particular challenges to being a startup in the political space?
Sweeney: I would say for users to understand that the site is unbiased. PolitiPick is non-partisan and is not affiliated with any political party, government agency, or corporation. Any candidate running for elected office, or considering running, can create their profile. Users can even suggest new statements for matching.
As a matter of fact, PolitiPick doesn’t even ask candidates for their party affiliation because when it comes down to it, I don’t think it matters. Candidates are individuals that have their own opinions which vary greatly and often times cross party lines. In addition, some elections are not party specific.
It guarantees it has no bearing whatsoever on the match results. Matches are made purely on the opinions given. Besides, since you can see all results, there’s absolutely no way this process can be manipulated.
SUB: What kind of boost do you hope to receive as a result of the 2012 U.S. elections?
Sweeney: With things heating up on all kinds of issues from the economy, unemployment, health care, and the wars, I think many voters will start taking a greater interest in who they vote for and will need a resource like this. These issues and the 2012 campaigns will receive even more media coverage as the elections approach so hopefully that will all bode well for PolitiPick.
SUB: Where do you hope to see PolitiPick in a year from now?
Sweeney: I hope to see it starting to take off and on its way to becoming a household name. I’d like it to become a valuable resource for both voters and candidates. Once established, it has the potential to become a new form of social media between the two.
I hope it draws uninterested or undecided voters into the election process and become more involved with supporting their candidates. Given how many different election issues there are and individuals’ differing opinions on them, this site does what computers do best: sorting through a bunch of data quickly and giving the user a nice, clean result.
I also hope it encourages people who never thought of running for office to become a candidate based on the like-minded voters they connect with on the site. Eventually, I’d like to see one in three voters use the site as one of their resources in making their decision on who to vote for.
PolitiPick – www.politipick.com