If you haven't gone to the polls yet, there may be some candidates and issues you just aren't familiar with. Now the Empowrd app is hoping to help voters make their election homework easier. Meet founder Horace Williams on this week’s Elevator Pitch.
Name: Horace Williams
Title: Founder and Managing Director
Company Name: Empowrd Apps LLC.
Founded: January 2015
Website/App Link: Empowrd.com
Give us the pitch.
Empowrd allows anyone to actively and effectively participate in all aspects of civic engagement from the palm of their hand. From your house all the way to the White House, Empowrd has you covered.
What motivated you to start Empowrd?
The idea came into play in 2014 as a result of the heavy focus by media outlets on recent police shootings and the heavy political undertone that came alongside that.
Families involved in these circumstances often had no understanding of how their local government worked, how to influence it, and most importantly, how to establish and maintain a relationship with elected leaders that makes it easier to hold them accountable.
Empowrd’s goal was to solve this problem, and as a result also provide those who govern these local communities more insights on who they are responsible for so that they can be more effective in their roles and obligations.
I grew up in a household where both parents were actively involved in advocacy and local politics, in addition, I grew my career in user experience design as both a leader and practitioner over the course of 15 years where my job was essentially to simplify how marketers used platforms to leverage the data of their current and potential customer base.
I ultimately decided that between my home-grown experience on how politics and government really worked and my talents as a professional that taught me how to make complex data easy for people to use and access, I could create a platform that made it easy for people to leverage their value in the governing process while also in similar fashion to what I had worked on for marketers in the past, enable government and elected officials a way to easily gain and effectively utilize insights from the communities and people they are responsible for.
How does Empowrd work?
Empowrd is a Data-first company, we activate and facilitate what I would call a ‘Civic Data Exchange’ where we aggregate every piece of government, advocacy, and elected official data and create an experience where it is easily accessible to our end users. In addition, to really simplify and personalize that experience we need information about our users, they more they provide the more effective they can engage in our platform. The data we retrieve from our users we then share with advocacy groups, elected officials, and government agencies to help them better serve and engage a larger volume of those whom they align with and represent.
What’s been your traction so far?
Empowrd has just under 1,000 downloads in 3 months without any marketing spend, we are actually in our beta phase so this excellent for us, our big push will really start in January. Our growth rate at this current pace should get us to around 2,500 users by end of year.
Empowrd also has close to 100 elected officials who have signed up or have expressed interest in being early adopters once we provide them tools in the platform to engage their jurisdictions.
Empowrd is still pre-revenue, but we have an active sales pipeline with multiple government and advocacy group partnerships in the works, some amazing things are coming pretty soon!
How are you funded? What's your revenue model?
We have currently raised almost 250k including my own personal investment over the course of our first 18 months, we are in the process of raising our official seed round as well.
Our revenue model enables constituents to use the app for free by providing data about themselves that we then provide at cost to elected officials, governing agencies and advocacy groups at a subscription rate. In addition, we have an extensive administrative tool that we will start licensing out in Q1 of 2017 which enables our customers to effectively engage, manage, and mobilize constituents and advocates with the ability to monitor those activities as well.
How has the Presidential race affected the response to Empowrd?
The Presidential race has helped open several opportunities for us to promote our platform. During this time period there are huge efforts from multiple organizations centered around getting more people engaged in the process that have asked us to participate in one way or another enabling us to get more exposure and adoption. In addition to that, press outlets have a strong focus on political engagement during the presidential race which has created a platform where we are looked to as content providers and even have the opportunity to be featured in televised interviews and news articles. What’s really important to us however is that we leverage this time period to capitalize off the excitement of national elections by powering a continued momentum at the local level once the race is over, because that is where most of us truly feel the most impact and need to be most involved.
You mention that Empowrd can be used during an Emergency. Would the area affected would have to have a high adoption rate to be effective? So what kinds of environments would work best with Empowrd?
Empowrd will work as an excellent tool for elected officials and governing agencies to alert their respective constituents in case of crisis or emergency. While a high adoption rate will enable more people to be alerted, some is still better than none, and Empowrd can still be used alongside other alerting mechanisms as well. What makes our offering special is our alerts can be sent to specific local jurisdictions and isolated to those areas via our platform. In addition, constituents truly learn who is responsible for handling specific emergencies based on who the alerts are coming from, and in other cases, by who responds to the emergencies they report via the app as well. This feature set will be fully fleshed out in the first half of 2017 and we will have more information then, but we expect to to be a game changer in efficiency for those who choose to use it.
What is the Empowrd U College Tour?
The Empowrd U College Tour was our initial strategic approach towards how we can help younger adults build relationships with their elected officials. We kicked it off with two great events; our first being at Morehouse and our second at Georgia State; where the student leaders hosted a panel discussions between local elected leaders and students from each campus.
We learned a lot from those 2 events and are currently reworking the model for 2017 so that we can keep making this event bigger and better. In the interim, Empowrd has another offline event that occurs monthly called the Power of Empowrd Engagement Series at the Gathering Spot here in Atlanta. Every month we bring one elected official or candidate to engage a room full of interested constituents on the specifics of what effective engagement means to them and how both sides can continue to improve and modernize their engagement processes. So far we have featured City Council President and Mayoral Candidate Ceasar Mitchell and Mayoral Candidate Peter Aman, our next event features Atlanta Mayoral Candidate (and previously, Leader of Atlanta’s Workforce Development Agency) Michael Sterling who will be joining us on November 21st, anyone can come (with RSVP) and it will be an amazing event!
How rooted are you and the company in Atlanta and the local Tech Ecosystem? Are you involved with any accelerators? Where are you working out of?
Empowrd currently works out of the Hurt Plaza Building Downtown Atlanta. We are not involved in any accelerators, however we are rooted deep in the technology ecosystem of Atlanta. Both myself and our head of product, Larry Stewart have built and benefited from careers and relationships within that ecosystem throughout the last decade. Personally speaking, the startup and technology space in Atlanta was foundational to my having the ability and support necessary to follow through with this powerful concept.
What's the vision for Empowrd? What’s the next steps for your company?
Empowrd aims to be the most comprehensive and complete database of elected official, advocacy group, and government agency information ever formed, but more importantly, Empowrd aims to personalize that information for all people and make it actionable. When we say that we want all aspects of civic engagement to be accessible from the palm of your hand, we mean it. This will be the tool that finally enables all people to be in control of their quality of life and that is truly the power of Empowrd.