Our Team
 

Jess Riegel

Co-Founder + CEO

Rachel Konowitz

Co-Founder + COO

Emily Graham

Co-Founder + Partnerships

Annie Gurvis

Special Projects

Ryana Bryan

UX/UI Design

Lilia Hoberman

Data

Our Mission

We make voting fun, easy and social to increase young voter turnout and build more representative government. Our vision is a country where young people turn out to vote at the same rates as their grandparents and elected officials better represent the diversity of identity and opinion in the US.

Our Story

Jess, Rachel and Emily came together as Master of Public Administration candidates through NYU's Wagner School of Public Service. As members of the inaugural class of the Social Impact, Innovation and Investment program, we had the opportunity to develop a business case for a new social venture for our year-long capstone project.

Our backgrounds in student organizing, digital political communication and education reform converged on a passion to build more representative, responsive government.

As young voters ourselves, too many peers incessantly shared political opinions on social media and over happy hour, but didn’t consistently vote. Our generation—despite being the most socially conscious—votes at the lowest rates of any other age group. It’s not because we don’t care. So what’s going on?

There are structural barriers like strict voter ID laws, which disproportionately impact young people. And we’re more likely to age into voting with life milestones like owning a home or having kids in public schools. But those didn’t tell the whole story.

A behavioral economics lens and hundreds of interviews surfaced the role of “microbarriers”—the real and imagined, often silly, little things that get in the way of following through on intentions to vote:

  • “I want to vote and hope it works out but just don’t know if it will happen. What if I’m in the middle of finals and forget?” - 18-year-old college student
  • “I’m registered in the state where I went to college and didn’t know the election was happening there today until I saw on Facebook. It’s embarrassing.” - 26-year-old account manager
  • “There are things I have to do: work, grad school, eat dinner. At some point, I was like, ’I should switch my registration.’ But it didn’t get on my to-do list, so it didn’t happen.” - 25-year-old teacher

It’s an intention-action gap. We know voting is important, the same way we know working out and saving money are important. But we’re human. So we don’t always do them. School, work, social lives, dating, commuting, exercise, errands, laundry…adulting is hard, and voting is one of those things that can slip through the cracks.

Luckily, behavioral economics offers a trove of strategies that combat the cognitive biases in the way of voting. We decided to bring practices that are successful in helping people lose weight, save money and quit smoking into the world of civic engagement.

And we realized this would not only be a powerful tool for individuals, but for organizations hungry for better ways to engage their networks.

We had seen firsthand how traditional strategies and their metrics, like number of new registrants and GOTV contacts made, didn’t translate into higher turnout.

Direct mailing and door-to-door knocking simply don’t reach young people where they are. If you’ve ever done phone-banking, you know you’re not going to get someone under age 50 picking up landline—if they pick up at all.

The rise of text-banking and “relational turnout tools” are huge improvements, but we wanted to go further: Instead of one-off reminders a few days before an election, we envisioned a team-based model where friends actually hold each other accountable for getting informed and following through.

To put the idea to the test, we ran our first pilot in a NYU Wagner student government election. Groups of 5 students each put down $5, which they would only get back if all 5 of them voted. That nudge increased turnout year-over-year by 168%! We were onto something.

Building on that early success, we continued to test the model with partner organizations and articulate the potential as proud semi-finalists in NYU’s 300K Entrepreneurs Challenge and the New York Business Plan Competition.

Joining the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute, through the J-Term Startup Sprint and Summer Launchpad Accelerator, helped translate this vision into a reality. We ran additional pilots in New York and Michigan primaries during summer 2018. In that fall's midterm elections, our model motivated thousands of voters across the country.

Upon graduating from NYU Wagner in May 2018, we took motivote full-time. The motivote team is based in Brooklyn, NY.

Get in touch.