All eyes are set on the Empire State as 95 republican and 247 democratic delegates go up for grabs during today’s presidential primary. For many, this election feels eerily like a circus show. Voices feel squashed, issues lie dead on the hill, and the confidence in our country’s leadership continues to waver.
It’s time to give the power of voice and action back to the people. Scott Graham, Marc Spiegel, Gavin MacDonald, and Roman Grimaldi offer their new platform Mimmer to accomplish just that. Mimmer is an app that perfectly marries crowdfunding and community-based social media for political activism. Hypepotamus recently sat down with CEO Scott Graham to hear how the platform connects citizens to causes and turn everyday people into political change agents.
What’s the story behind Mimmer and why did you decide to get started?
My now co-founders and I were all at a bar having drinks and the news was on. They were talking about a certain issue and we said, ‘Well, how can we even effect this issue? How do we actually make real change?’ This started us down a rabbit hole of discussion at the bar and we ended up in a larger discovery process.
We found that millennials don’t really associate with the two-party system. Millennials are really passionate about certain issues and certain topics. In fact, they are the most passionate generation pretty much of all time when you look at the hours we volunteer, the amount of money we contribute in terms percentage of our paychecks, or how often we donate to causes. It’s off the charts.
So we had all this data and said, ‘ok, millennials are disenfranchised from the system but they’re obviously passionate about a ton of causes.’ And by this year, it will actually be the largest voting block in the country. So if Millennials were to turn out and vote, they’d be the largest swing vote in the entire country and by 2020, they’ll have the largest purchasing power of all generations in the country. So this is a huge opportunity to create a platform that gives them the voice to engage in the issues they care about by connecting them with nonprofits, political organizations, and candidates actively progressing their views.
How does the millennial population impact the push towards a tech-based platform that can further their engagement in politics?
If you look at it from an organizational standpoint, of political organizations, they see this untapped market and say, ‘How do we get them to be a democrat, or be a republican, or support my super PAC or my nonprofit?’ Millennials want to be able to influence the issues, but they don’t trust the political parties to do it. And the political parties want the millennials to be part of them, but they don’t know how to message them. So we said, ‘How do we create a neutral platform that enables people to discover how they can influence the issues that they care about through the organizations that are actively on the ground participating?’ – and that’s where Mimmer really comes into play.
When you look at an issue like Black Lives Matter, you’ve seen protests, activity on social media, a large marketing push, but has anything really been done to change the system? Even when you get thousands and thousands of people sharing it on social media, it isn’t moving the needle because there isn’t anything in place. You need a platform that enables you not just to voice your opinion, but to act on it. That means putting your vote and your money where your mouth is. That’s what’s going to move the legislature.
So we are making this platform because even a big organization like Black Lives Matter doesn’t have a super PAC, they don’t have a lobbying effort, they’re just a nonprofit trying to move that needle. In reality, organizations like them and a million others need to be able to better pull their support base, connect the people who have the same views, and leverage that support base for their efforts. To say, ‘hey we need to go lobby people in this state legislature, or at the federal level for these specific goals, and here’s how we are going to do it.’
Why don’t people seem to have much influence over politics? How does Mimmer hope to change that?
During our discovery process, we looked at why millennials don’t trust the government or trust established organizations. And we came to the conclusion that in reality, it’s because there hasn’t been much progress on the issues they care about. When you take a larger view of the picture, that’s really how it is across the entire country.
As it stands, it doesn’t really matter who you vote for in Congress, and to a lesser extent in your state. We have no power. It’s a facade almost, and it’s because you have these large, corporate influencers inside the legislatures. They’ve been there forever, but prior to the early 90s, you had a counterbalance system. You had public interest groups, labor unions, other big organizations supporting middle-class viewpoints and those organizations were essentially systematically demolished in the Reagan years – for economic reasons – but nonetheless, it had an adverse effect on the system and how people run their campaigns.
Plus, big business, at this point, outspends their competitors 35-1 in terms of lobbying and can literally hold up any legislation they deem unfitting to their political influence. There really aren’t even debates about many of these topics anymore. You can trace it to almost any subtopic inside the government and you have these areas where it’s almost impossible to push anything through. Like, ‘why are there still sodas sold in schools when childhood obesity is such an issue?’
But, to be fair, our view is that it’s not totally a bad thing that there’s corporate influence in Washington. They do need a voice and deserve a voice because they are a large part of our economy. But when they’re the only act in town, when it’s only their voice that’s heard, that’s a problem.
So we dug all this data up and we were trying to figure out how to get people more actively involved, and the solution became, we can use technology to fix the government. So our goal with Mimmer is to replace the counterbalance that was once there with labor unions and public interest groups that have been decimated and replace it with a technology platform that enables people to crowd-fund those efforts for the issues they believe in.If you want to lobby against high sugar soda in schools, we make it easy for people to go, ‘okay, I understand the issue, how do I get involved? What are the organizations available to me, or the candidates who are trying to raise money to push legislation through?’
If you want to lobby against high sugar soda in schools, we make it easy for people to go, ‘I understand the issue, how do I get involved? What are the organizations available to me, or the candidates who are trying to raise money to push legislation through?’
And we started thinking about the overall crowd-funding market and the power of that platform. The crowd-funding industry far exceeds the amount of money actually being pushed through lobbying and super PACS. So if you can steer some of that money towards cause-based political efforts, collectively you really can go up against these huge organizations. At some point, the cost-benefit analysis to them doesn’t work out. So that’s the goal.
How do you hope to disrupt the political arena over time and bring more power to the voice of the people?
Mimmer opens people up to really start playing House of Cards instead of just being victimized by it. In reality, how we search and digest information doesn’t currently have a platform to be engaged politically. Candidates and organizations have their own websites with content, but it’s not a very efficient way for people to find the organization that matches their specific view. That’s a large part of what we wanted to do with Mimmer. Create an easy funnel for people to go, “here’s the issue I care about, show me the types of organizations supporting that issue, and make it easy for me to donate money and track what they’re doing.’
The world of tomorrow is determined through the decisions of today. We are at pivotal moments in the economy, foreign policy, and education. But the way our political system works today is not capable of producing solutions. We are at an impasse with the status quo.
Our political parties are more polarized and the people are more disenfranchised from the political system than ever before. Pluralism is devolving into Plutocracy because the consolidation of influence at the top is not countered by organized influence from the middle majority.
But we believe in the power of people and technology. Individually, we are donating our time, voice and money at record levels to causes that we believe in and change we can see. It is time to harness that passion to impact a broken political system. It’s time to bring hope to what people feel is a hopeless situation. And we are building a 21st-century tool to accomplish that.