A few weeks back we won the 85th Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Pitch Competition. It was an altogether humbling and inspiring experience for a young Los Angeles based civic tech company. To even be at the conference presenting our local politics app was a privilege, but how we got there is kind of an untraditional story. This journey began out of the ashes of failure. In late 2015 we, a group of politically diverse friends, got the idea to create a podcast that attempted to unweave some of the media coverage and general insanity that consumed the primaries during the presidential election. This was way before “Fake News” was a concept we all recognized and argued about. Although the recording sessions were a lot of fun, listening to the content we produced was not.
However, our failed podcast wasn’t entirely fruitless. Through our constant challenges, arguments, and podcast research we stumbled upon a few core ideas:
1. People were using social platforms to talk politics, but only national politics.
2. Local issues and local politics are where our vote matters most and where we can impact the most change. In contrast to the prevailing media narrative, American democracy is designed to work from the bottom-up, not top-down.
3. There should be a better way for voters to organize and interact with their community and their representatives.
We assumed this ‘better way’ already existed in some form and we were simply behind the ball. We couldn’t believe that although a ton of money has poured into civic tech, nothing this simple and important has been created. Software is indeed eating the world, as Naval Ravikant is fond of saying, however it seems to have forgotten entirely about local politics. Especially in Los Angeles, we still connect with our local reps and learn about local issues in roughly the same way we did 200 years ago.
Apathy isn’t the problem. People do care about their communities. What we need is a better way to engage within the areas we live. We need to inspire a rebirth, a renaissance of sorts that gets people involved again, like the Roman Forum and Greek Parthenon did centuries ago.
We were shocked to find that little to no one was working on this problem. It bothered us to the point where we decided to build it ourselves. The Burg is a local politics app that is connecting communities, and we're bringing it to Los Angeles first!