Founded by a student organizer and former non-voter, Motivote is a digital platform that makes voting fun, easy and social. We give organizations a better way to engage young voters in their networks. We help young people overcome the “behvaioral microbarriers” (little things that get in the way of following through of intentions) with peer accountability, gamification and real-life rewards. In the midterms, our users voted at 3X the rate of their peers nationwide.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted?
Becoming an entrepreneur was a total accident, which happened as our grad school project spiraled out of control. But it’s not my first business: When I was 10, started a family newspaper that I sold subscriptions to for 25 cents per issue. My intrepid reporting is actually how my grandma found out that my uncle (her son!) got a new job.
Though this wasn’t an intentional path, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is a great fit with my personality. According to a StrengthsFinder assessment I took recently, my top trait is “learner.” I’m someone who loves learning everything I possibly can about a new topic, based on intrinsic enjoyment of the process of learning. As a first-time founder, in a space where I did not have professional experience, I get to go from 0 to 100 in every aspect of running a business.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
Motivote started as a grad school capstone project. As a Master of Public Administration student at NYU Wagner, I was part of a new specialization that had the option to create a business case for a new social venture. We chose that option instead of the traditional consulting project, because, we were in grad school, why not?
It was a few months after the 2016 Presidential Election and the women who would become my co-founders had all just attended the Women’s March down in DC. We were thinking, how would this swell of energy and enthusiasm translate into long-term civic action. And we wanted to better understand the disconnect for our generation between being so socially conscious, with such strong political opinions, but voting at the lowest rates.
I was taking a behavioral economics course at the time and was interested how we could approach low voter turnout as an “intention-action gap,” similar to what we face in saving money or going to the gym. We wanted to explore a “commitment device,” which helps people build habits and achieve goals in other areas of their life, for voting.
My fascination with this topic comes from my own narrative: I was a Political Science undergrad, a Teach For America corps member, and now have my Master of Public Administration. But despite checking all the boxes on paper for a civically engaged millennial, I had never before last year voted in a non-presidential election. It’s not that I didn’t understand the importance, but it was never top of mind. I want to solve for this “intention-action gap” for my peers.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before attending grad school full time, I was a first grade teacher. There are tons of parallels between managing a classroom of six-year-olds and managing a startup.
You’re always running around, and have to do a lot with a little.
Google is your best friend. (“How do I teach kids to read?” “How do I raise money?”) Y
You will feel like you are doing everything wrong. In reality, you’re doing a lot of things wrong. (But not everything.)
You can plan as much as you want, and something will always go awry. You need thick skin and to face curveballs with grace, to take a deep breath and keep going.
Every day looks different and there are not really good days or bad days -- every day is a rollercoaster, with good hours and bad hours.
How do you generate new ideas to stay relevant on the market? Is it important to innovate in your space?
Depending on you define “young voter,” my co-founder and I are either right at the upper limit or have aged out completely. To make sure we are developing our product in a way that meets the needs of all young voters, we built out a “young voter advisory board” of 18-24 year olds to do user testing and give feedback. It’s important to innovate not for the sake of innovating, but so we don’t fall into the trap of recreating what has already been done.