ElectNext founders liken their website to a dating service. But instead of setting you up with a singleton with a penchant for wine and salsa dancing, you may end up with Barack Obama, Herman Cain or Mitt Romney.
Founded by Philadelphia-based Keya Dannenbaum, an MBA student at Wharton, and Paul Jungwirth, a software engineer and PhD candidate at UPenn, the website was created for the politically active citizen, and those interested in voting smart, to explore which candidate’s agenda matches their own ideals.
Earlier this month, the duo took the winning prize for startups at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo, an annual showcase of web-based businesses held in New York.
Dannenbaum’s idea started as a graduate student at Princeton, where she she realized that what she was learning about politics in the classroom didn’t match up to what was going on in Washington.
“After learning all of this democratic theory, I felt there was a huge disconnect in what actually happens in the election process,” Dannenbaum said.
She left Princeton to get involved with the Hilary Clinton campaign in 2008, but it wasn’t until she started her MBA that she teamed up with Jungwirth to launch ElectNext, supported by the Wharton Venture Initiation program.
The process is relatively simple. Log in to the free site (you can use a Facebook account, too), choose what issues matter most to you, and answer a few questions about where you stand on those issues. The ElectNext algorithm delivers the candidates that align with you, and those who don’t.
Dannenbaum said users sometimes are shocked by the political candidate with whom they are matched. My own results – John Huntsman – were certainly surprising.
After receiving feedback from over 500 users, the team is planning to incorporate a forum where users can share their views and have a debate and share their thoughts.
“It really adds depth and nuance to the site,” Dannenbaum said.
The site is currently in its Beta stage, with a plan to launch in mid-November.