Q & A: Run For President On Facebook, Using Votocracy

Meet Votocracy and the man behind the app allowing anyone to run for president.

Love it or hate the idea, meet the man responsible for the double rainbow guy running for President.

A new Facebook app from Votocracy makes it possible for anyone to run as a candidate for President through its new app and a $99 filing fee. Their mantra? More voices and more choices.

Who are some of the 377 candidates to date who have decided to throw their hat in the virtual ring? The enthusiastic double rainbow Internet guy, a cat – the first animal to jump in the race — and a female oil rig worker. Thus, the company’s mantra is “more voices, more choices.”

The Votocracy system calls for a primary in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that mirrors the actual presidential primary calendar in the U.S. Here’s the twist. Every vote will actually count, so instead of using the primary process to eliminate candidates as the primaries move forward , the process will actually add candidates, since people can vote for more than one candidate.

When there are 51 winners at the state level, the company hopes to initiate an American Idol style competition on TV along with Facebook-based contests the site will use to spur engagement.

We spoke to Votocracy chief executive officer Bryan Lee, who’s background includes executive positions at both Sony and Microsoft, about the genesis of the app and new features to look for on the horizon.

Are you marketing to the average citizen or could candidates at the city or state level use this app?

Yes, and everything in between. There are a few actual political candidates that, due to FEC regulations, we can’t discuss right now.

People are dissatisfied. These are people who don’t have a background in politics but have a lot of energy. Votocracy offers a vehicle to express themselves.

We want the tone initially to be very open and welcoming, more in the Jon Stewart vain than Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity.

There are a couple ways that a local city or council person could tackle Votocracy. It’s a great way to get notoriety on a big scale. Our suite of services offers an outstanding social media solution for someone in the political space.

What are some of the interactive elements unique to Votocracy?

Interaction is a two-way street. It’s not a simple broadcast of ideas that mirrors what a candidate already says in a speech or an interview. Voters participate. They find candidates, share links, can check out a candidate video that can go viral.

One of our design principles is engagement, which is a stark contrast to the more traditional presidential candidates. The app helps candidates harness emotions that turns into a dialogue.

How is Votocracy’s Facebook approach different from that of a more traditional presidential candidate?

It’s a distinction at the most fundamental level. The current crop of Democrat and Republican candidates are selling their own product. They want you to stay on their team.

Votocracy enables a voter to start with one candidate, but then also allows them to look here for one they might like better.

Most traditional political candidates today are fundamentally following a broadcast model, which isn’t social media.

We hope to launch town halls of the 21st century. Voters can jump in at any time, on any topic, add a poll and anyone can jump in at any time.

We also will plan competitions, some silly along the way. During March Madness, we may have head-to-head videos where Tom can take on Jane on a particular topic, sort of like a bracketology competition.

So engaging and interactive.

Given your entertainment ties, will you try to get actors or celebrities involved to add “star power?”

At this point we want to sit back and let people come to us more naturally. Some famous people might jump on board, which would be a nice. We welcome them all.

Can you describe the TV deal you have in the works?

I can’t talk about partners or platforms, but I can talk about the vision, which is, “What would it mean to create a real and viable alternative candidate?” We worked backward from that goal. We knew we needed notoriety and the ability to find other people who like what you have to say.

We realized we started describing American Idol. Through several weeks of TV exposure, one person emerges. It’s the same thing in music so why can’t there be the same thing in leadership. We’ve made it so that the only people suitable to run in our country are professional politicians.

Personally, I’d prefer someone like Steve Jobs run for president. That’s someone who can actually turn this country around. Why are they always former governors or senators?

What do you think the current crop of presidential candidates from the two main political parties can learn from your app?

It enables listening, connecting, enabling dialogue allowing different ways to filter the conversation. A lot of politicians use social media as an alternative broadcast, using Facebook to reinforce what they already say in the press or in a speech.

How long did it take you to develop this app?

Facebook is a wonderful platform to get up and running quickly. We bolted two functionalities together to make an even richer experience. We think our offering is a more interesting product, with video, the ability to find people of like minds through polls, and eventually donations.

We started talking over beers around Thanksgiving and went public June 1 so about 7.5 weeks to develop.

What will future enhancements look like?

Last night, we added a new feature that includes both a poll combined with enabling wall comments. So it simulates a back and forth conversation.

One feature we offer is a simple matchmaking service around polls. If someone has answered 30 polls, for example, we might identify Joe from Indiana who has also answered 29 of those polls.

Votocracy is like a social media navigator for voters, almost like a political dating service.

Why did you start Votocracy?

Dissatisfaction. People are saying that our choices are down to the lesser of the evils. The general feeling no matter which direction you lean politically, very few people are satisfied with where we’re sitting.

Readers, would you support a candidate on Votocracy?