As election season approaches, Sangeeth Peruri’s Los Altos-based company VoterCircle is expanding outward from politics.
The first step? Changing its name to OutreachCircle earlier this year.
“OutreachCircle is much broader,” Peruri said. “Rather than a messaging platform, we expanded it to an action platform. With the (new) name, we have designed the platform to work for a larger variety of groups – it is not just about voting and it is not just for candidates anymore.”
Peruri explained that though the name change created some confusion, it was useful. Before, nonprofit organizations and government agencies were not able to use the app because of its political name – now, they are free to use it.
The app is marketed mainly to organizations, which then encourage their supporters to download it, he added. To organizations, its key benefit seems to be efficiency.
“The idea is to have it all be in one place,” the Los Altos resident said. “Usually, if you are supporting a cause, today you’ll get one email to donate, another to volunteer, and so on. We have created a feed on the app, kind of like Facebook or Instagram, where you can scroll through and see all the actions you can take.”
Users do not even need to download the app; they can simply sign in on a web browser. And instead of signing up to volunteer on a piece of paper at events, supporters can either fill in their information on the computer or scan a QR code, which saves organizers time and prevents typos such as incorrect email addresses.
The main benefit to supporters, according to Peruri, is the promise of privacy. While he admitted that “there were always questions around privacy,” his company has addressed it with its own patented technology that ensures the platform “does not release a user’s contact info to a campaign, or campaign info to voters, and users can delete their contact info at any time.”
Working on an independent campaign, supporters would not be able to have the same privacy guarantee, he noted.
How it started, where it’s headed
Peruri’s campaign to serve on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees in 2014 inspired him to create the app shortly after he was elected.
“I wanted to find a more efficient way to run for office that did not involve a lot of campaign funding,” he said. “In essence, the goal behind the app is to make democracy more about people and ideas, and less about money and special interests.”
The app seems to be on its way to doing just that.
“We found that the biggest impact we’ve had is with voters who are unlikely to vote,” Peruri said.
He said it can be difficult to reach groups of underrepresented, disengaged voters, but using the app makes the process much easier. All the campaign needs to do is identify a community leader who will act as an intermediary, and the leader can reach out to people and motivate them much more effectively than a stranger could.
OutreachCircle’s most recent successes took place Nov. 5 during the Virginia elections, when both houses in the state legislature flipped Democratic after a race that generated a higher voter turnout than usual.
“We’ve worked with over 2,000 campaigns and causes,” Peruri said, “and we hope to work with more in the upcoming years.”
For more information on OutreachCircle, visit client.outreachcircle.com.