What can bridge the communication gap between government officials and the citizens they serve? Polco was co-founded by Nick Mastronardi, Dylan Cooper, and Alex Pederson to provide a platform for civic engagement and communication. “We created Polco to provide a political compass that allows citizens to know what is happening in government,” shared Nick.

The Inspirational Book

The three founders share similar work experiences and passions including being veterans of the United States Military. Nick and Alex met while teaching Economics and Political Science at the Air Force Academy. These teaching positions soon led to jobs working for Amazon and Google. After a year with tech industry giants, Nick and his fellow co-founders connected about their shared passion of politics and technology.

Nick attributes the initial excitement for Polco came after reading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The book inspired Nick to think about the connection between citizens and their knowledge of government policies and the U.S. Constitution. Nick explains that a crowd of citizens can “provide amazing wisdom for government officials if they have active knowledge and communication of ongoing public policy.”

With this inspiration and excitement, phone calls and emails were sent to Matt and Dylan with the potential of starting a company at the intersection of politics and technology. In May of 2015, the dream of Polco became a reality when an investor in Texas bought into the platform’s possibilities. The entrepreneurial journey had begun and the three co-founders could then take the step into launching Polco as a platform to improve government transparency and inform municipal governments of constituents’ input.

(L-R; Alex, Dylan, & Nick)

Bridging the Gap

 The team assembled to create a product that would inform citizens, give them a way to voice opinions, and share that opinion with others. The result was a multifaceted online poll that could be posted on social media, embedded on websites and blogs, as well as linked within online news articles. Nick shared that the team truly believed that the “only way to improve communication between the government officials and citizens communication is to have the same tool to do that.” Polco offers two services, one that is free for citizens and the other as a subscription for government municipalities. The citizens vote on policies that impact their city, county, and state. As a follow up to voting, citizens can then share on social media outlets generating awareness and conversation on the policies. On the other hand, the government municipalities have the ability to load public policies and view data that is collected through these polls. Nick explains that Polco allows “people to be heard without making it to every city council or subcommittee meeting in their city, county, and state.”

Purceville, Virginia was one of the first cities to use Polco to get more citizens involved in local government. Because of the successful rollout in Purceville, Polco has recently received recognition from the National League of Cities and appeared as guest writers on innovation and technology. Over the next year, plans are under final review with the city of Madison, Wisconsin to utilize Polco and a limited pilot program is set to launch in Austin, Texas. It is evident that the future of Polco is polling towards a positive future.

Learn more from Nick Mastronardi and Polco as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal