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Civic Founder Matias Burdman on Streamlining Social Activism

Introduction

From social injustice to climate change, there are plenty of problems in the world that need addressing. Protesting, donating to reputable nonprofits and networking with like-minded people are all good ways for people to tackle the issues they care about. But not everyone who wants to make a difference knows how to get started, especially while trying to navigate a pandemic.

Civic is a social network platform designed to help people get involved. Users can find events, contribute or raise money for a cause, and join communities of like-minded people. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Matias Burdman to learn more about why Civic differs from other social networks and how the founders went the extra mile to make connections.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Matias Burdman

It all started in 2020, when my co-founder and I were each working on a presidential campaign. We quickly realized that although millions of people are passionate about many causes, it can be really difficult to find all the information that you need to get involved and help make a difference. Most often, word about how to contribute spreads through disconnected groups, pages, and word of mouth. It takes significant time and energy to figure out how to contribute, which is why many people give up. Witnessing this firsthand led us to come up with Civic.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Matias Burdman

Right now, it’s just Thomas and I full-time! We met in college and were both really passionate about politics and tech. We started Civic together as a side project, and it eventually became a full-time job.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How is Civic transforming the social and information industry?

Matias Burdman

The idea is for Civic to completely transform the way people make their impact by building a locally focused, one-stop shop for taking action on a cause. Through Civic, you’ll be able to find the people and organizations that believe in the causes you’re passionate about. You can find events to attend, join groups, connect with others, and seamlessly donate to people or organizations.

The goal is to ultimately make social action easy and painless, be that through volunteering, donating, or networking and forming a community. In the long run, we want people to see Civic as the online home for social causes, which is something that currently doesn’t exist at all.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Matias Burdman

Right now, most people use traditional social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to discover causes. The issue with these is that they don’t have any tools that are specifically built for that purpose and make this type of engagement easy. There’s no way to filter or search by cause, organize events, donate or fundraise, etc. That means a custom-built platform like Civic would provide a massive advantage — both to those looking to get involved and those organizing around causes.

It’s true that some platforms, like Facebook, have a lot of the functionality that we plan to implement, but people don’t really use them for that. The clearest reason why was given to us by a nonprofit that explained that it doesn’t “use Facebook because people there don’t want to buy what we’re selling.” In other words, although there are billions of people on Facebook, the majority of them aren’t on the platform looking for civic engagement opportunities. A niche platform used specifically by people engaged with causes would therefore provide advantages precisely because of its focus. Platforms like Facebook are too broad.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Can you tell us about a time you have been scrappy for Civic?

Matias Burdman

There are so many ways in which we’re scrappy for Civic. The one that immediately comes to mind is the way we currently find events for our app. In the long run, we plan for organizations to add events to the platform themselves, but right now we have to do that work on our own. That means we scour the internet for volunteering opportunities, community events, demonstrations, and much more in order to add them to our app. Oftentimes, we’ll go as far as attending an event in person to reach organizations we weren’t able to connect with online. This very manual process is what’s currently creating value for our users, since those looking to get engaged don’t have to do all that work themselves!

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Matias Burdman

First and foremost, we plan to spend a substantial amount of the money we’re raising on engineering resources. Right now, our app is just a prototype, and we used it to collect massive amounts of user feedback. The next step is to engineer a complete version of the platform that can achieve product/market fit and grow fast enough to take us to a seed round. For that, we’ll need to hire a lead engineer and create a substantial budget for freelancers that will support their work.

Once we’ve built out our platform, we also plan on spending a portion of our funds on marketing to accelerate organic growth. We see this as adding fuel to the fire and further accelerating the organic traction we’re already seeing with the prototype.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Matias Burdman

I want investors to know how passionate and devoted Thomas and I are to Civic. We feel that we intimately understand the problem we’re trying to solve. Ultimately, it affects us all by forcing anyone trying to make a positive impact to expend a substantial amount of time and energy just to figure out what’s going on around them. We’ve made it our life’s work to solve this and are spending every waking hour working to make this platform a reality.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Matias Burdman

Five to 10 years from now, we see Civic becoming the go-to place for every person looking to engage with a cause, both in America and beyond. The same way LinkedIn is associated with jobs, Twitch with gaming, and Nextdoor with neighborhoods, we see Civic becoming synonymous with social causes. This would provide our investors with incredible exit opportunities, including acquisition by larger companies in the social space (i.e., Facebook or Twitter) or, in the long run, an initial public offering.

We look forward to seeing where Matias and his team take the company. Civic is currently raising on Wefunder.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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