How do you create a political startup? For the female-founded Polipedia.com.au, it started with the Women’s March in 2021 and seeing an urgent need to break new ground on how elections are covered and political information shared.
Now, Polipedia co founder and Chief Product Officer Su Dharmapala, along with co founder Ebony McKenna, have just secured $210,000 in pre-seed funding and formed a strategic partnership with Melbourne business mentors, Pitch Venture Capital.
Their platform offers a user-friendly website for bringing political information together in one place, sharing real-time voter sentiment tracking that can’t be found elsewhere. It’s aimed at voters, journalists, and political advisers, and seeks to address problems of fragmented data, information overload and biased media headlines.
The goal? “To become the Google of politics,” as Dharmapala says. “Polipedia’s mission is to organise the world’s political information.”
The founders knew each other from Twitter prior to staying at the same hotel in Canberra for the Women’s March, where they strengthening the connection and saw the opportunity and power they had to work with each.
“That Women’s March was the moment when so many women came together and just said enough, and we were moved by that,” McKenna says.
“Then a little while later, Su got us together and shared her incredible ideas. We spent a weekend brainstorming about all the things we could do. Nothing was off the table. We were sharing every idea because the way things were just felt incredibly broken.” Dharmapala and McKenna (pictured above) also have Chief Marketing Officer Dr Sally Stockbridge on their team.
For Dharmapala, the initial idea had come a few years later, following the watershed moment that was the 2016 US Presidential Election. “I sat down and drew up the wireframes. I remember sitting in our office and, as women, telling ourselves a million reasons why we should do or go for things. But instead I had this, fuck it moment. If Trump can be the President of the United States, then I can do something big too.”
Dharmapala adds that despite that early work, she got distracted by her day job. “When Sally and Ebony were in, it was like: ‘we are going to make sure you’re doing it. Being accountable to other people helps make it happen.”
As for the platform’s focus on politics, the co founders are frequent tweeters and communicators on daily politics. They clearly have the knowledge and the passion for the information they’re now organising. “We know what we’re talking about. We’re not tech bros saying, ‘hey let’s get into this niche knitting thing’,” says Dharmapala.
They were able to see trends in the lead up to the May 2022 Federal Election that many others missed, having been well on the pulse in recording the strong and positive voter sentiment that swung towards many of the ‘teal’ independent candidates. The team could also see how support for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party had peaked well before the election, which came through in the low vote they received, despite how much they had spent on advertising.
Now, the founders are preparing for the upcoming Victorian state election, and will use the pre-seed funding to further develop their sentiment tracking and analytics, with the aim of seeking $2 million in seed funding during the next round.
“We make no bones about being ambitious women and ambitious about what we’re looking to achieve here. We want to change the world,” says Dharmapala.
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They met at the Women's March, now their startup's set to change politics – Womens Agenda