The prominent political writer Benjamin Constant wrote that institutions “must nevertheless dedicate themselves to influencing public affairs, calling on the people to contribute to the exercise of power through their decisions and their votes.” A new app is making that easier than ever before.
Countable was founded by Bart Myers and Peter Arzhintar. The technical and entrepreneurial expertise they gained from founding SideReel, a video-streaming service, helped them to create an easy-to-use interface that made following legislation easy. “We thought that we could apply those skills to civic engagement and the political world and bring a more mainstream audience on board,” Myers, who currently serves as Countable’s CEO, told Opportunity Lives.
Countable “helps to provide other voices,” said Myers. The site features current political debates on pending legislation and offers pro/con arguments in plain language. Gone are the obscure references to legislative subsections and parliamentary procedure. Instead, users get a clear description of what each bill would do and what both sides think.
Countable employs writers to create the “argument in favor” and “argument opposed” for each bill as well as to conduct research on cost and projected impact. One of the challenges with this system is bias – Countable doesn’t want to appear as if it endorses a specific argument. But Myers said the site maintains editorial standards that ensure accuracy and clear descriptions.
Additionally, Countable allows users to submit their own opinions on the bills. People can vote each comment up or down, ensuring that the most respectful, engaging arguments are displayed at the top. “We’re creating the concept of trust,” said Myers.
The site even allows users to contact their congressional representatives right from the website (or mobile app) to register their opinions on a particular bill. Since Countable usually only features bills that are likely to be voted on soon, these opinions can make a sizable impact. Even though Countable was launched over a year ago, over a million messages have already been sent to Congress.
Myers said Countable is working to synchronize its users’ messages directly with constituent systems in congressional offices to make it easier for them to track how people in their district feel. This allows citizens to have a more direct influence on their representatives – exactly the goal of the site. “We want everyone to easily find, share and provide input on upcoming federal legislation,” says the company’s About page.
In the future, Countable hopes to cover state and local legislation as well. New York City was just launched, but Myers said more areas are on the way.
Countable demonstrates that entrepreneurs can have an impact anywhere, even in federal policymaking. The keys to being a good entrepreneur? Myers said, “Start as early as you can. But you’re never too old.”