Startup veteran Matthew Marcus is trying to solve a problem that frustrates nearly every voter.
A few years ago Matthew Marcus, the current Executive Director for the Kansas City Startup Foundation, went to vote in a local election.
“Once again I entered the voting booth uneducated and uninformed about who the heck to vote for,” said Marcus. “I left the voting booth frustrated because I was just picking random names of people I didn’t know anything about.”
Marcus wondered how many people felt the same way.
“I wished there was a button you could push that would show a 60-second video from the candidate saying, ‘Hey, here’s why you should pick me!'” said Marcus.
He wrote the idea down in his notebook and set it aside for a while. In May of 2015 at his first Startup Weekend at Think Big in Kansas City, Marcus decided to develop the idea further into what is now 1 Minute Candidate.
“We pitched it on Sunday and ended up winning Startup Weekend,” said Marcus.
A month later Kansas City, Missouri, held its general election.
“We got 16 of the 24 candidates on our platform,” said Marcus. “Six of the 13 offices were won by the candidate who had a one minute video and their opponent didn’t.”
How 1 Minute Candidate works
1 Minute Candidate is an online platform where candidates create a one minute video according to some simple guidelines.
“Essentially just say what you want–authentically, transparently, honestly–why you’re the right person for the job,” said Marcus
The video is placed on a 1 Minute Candidate profile page, which includes links to social channels and other basic information about the candidate. The profiles can also include issue-specific videos from the candidate as well.
Solving the chicken-and-egg problem
Marcus is building on the lessons he learned from his previous startup Local Ruckus, which brought together businesses and event seekers. Any platform that seeks to bring two different groups together to interact has a chicken-and-egg problem. Candidates won’t participate if voters aren’t there. Voters won’t participate if candidates aren’t there.
The solution was to make 1 Minute Candidate into an advertising engine for candidates that would push their 60-second video out to a variety of digital advertising channels, targeting voters that the candidates would like to reach.
“It allows us to hyper target voters on a number of variables and then show them video ads on literally millions of different platforms. If the voter likes what they see, they can click and it will drive traffic to that 1 Minute Candidate profile page.”
For local and state campaign teams, 1 Minute Candidate essentially provides an easy way to get into video advertising without having to do it in house.
Ahead of the curve
Since 2015 1 Minute Candidate has tested out its platform in four other elections in places like in Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Nashville.
“It’s been a tough sell, not going to lie,” said Marcus. “I’ve even had candidates tell me, ‘My constituents aren’t on the internet.’ They want to spend money on yard signs, mailers, phone calls.”
Although Marcus is confident that the future of campaigns will be online video, it may come down to a question of timing.
“I’ve done enough research. I know where this is going,” said Marcus. “Eventually these candidates will realize these expensive television ads aren’t being seen by anyone anymore.”
This year the platform is open for this election for any candidate that wants to participate. They are also looking for voters to take their voter survey.
For now the company is staying lean, bootstrapped and continuing to test and learn from each experience. But what continues to motivate Marcus is a passion to solve the dysfunction in our democratic system.
“The real goal of 1 Minute Candidate is to return genuineness and authenticity to the electoral process,” said Marcus.
With his previous work as co-founder of Kula Causes, Local Ruckus and now 1 Minute Candidate, it’s clear that making a difference in communities is primary inspiration for Marcus.
“Any startup I’m apart of has to have a social good,” said Marcus. “I’m not out to make a whole bunch of money for no reason.”
Ryan Pendell is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.