Outline.com Announces $850k Seed Round and Successful Bid with Massachusetts
Public policy simulator links citizens to government decisions
SAN FRANCISCO, September 9, 2013-- Today at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Outline (www.outline.com), a startup that has developed the first online public policy simulator, announced an $850,000 seed round with participation from the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Esther Dyson, and the Dorm Room Fund. In addition, the company was also confirmed as the apparent successful bidder in a major procurement with Massachusetts, allowing them to license their flagship product, the Budget Simulator, pending contract negotiations.
Outline licenses public policy dashboards to governments, helping link citizens to government decisions. Co-founder & CEO Nikita Bier describes it as, "Think of it as SimCity but for real life." Their Budget Simulator will allow anyone to perform what-if analyses, such as manipulating tax rates or health care spending, and then see the projected impact to themselves and their communities. To construct the model, a team of data scientists and economists from MIT, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois spent the last year merging millions of anonymized federal tax returns and public Census records.
A critical component of Outline is that when a user "endorses" a policy, that endorsement can be viewed by public officials, allowing officials to shape proposals according to citizen interest. Bier describes this as part of a broader vision called aided representation, where the software determines the interests of the user and helps them advocate for those interests. "We wanted representation to be simple enough so that it's part of your daily internet experience."
Their financing also includes a handful of angel investors from the Boston community such as Walt Winshall, Ty Danco, and Michael Dornbrook, who discovered the company at TechStars—a leading startup accelerator. With this new cash infusion, the team plans to bring on additional designers and economists.
The team was previously behind the award-winning election app Politify (www.politify.us), which showed how much Americans would pay in taxes and what benefits they would receive under the Obama and Romney plans. In 90 days, over 4 million people used it.
"Politify was a litmus test that showed us Americans wanted to look at government empirically," Bier says. "The difference is that Politify was about showing what government does—Outline is about showing what government can do."
Based in Berkeley, CA, Outline has developed the first online public policy simulator, allowing anyone to configure government policies and see their projected impacts on real people. They are currently working with Massachusetts, their first customer. The founders include Nikita Bier and Jeremy Blalock, the creators of the election app Politify, and Erik Hazzard, former lead developer of Visual.ly. Visit www.outline.com to learn more.
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