Civic kickstart: Citizinvestor wants to help your local project get funded

CitizinvestorCitizinvestor is the latest startup to tackle public budget woes by offsetting lack of public funding with crowdsourced citizen donations targeted to specific projects.

Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto, Jordan Raynor and Erik Rapprich share their vision.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Citizinvestor is a crowdfunding platform for local government projects.

What problem does) Citizinvestor solve for government?

There are an unlimited number of local government projects that are not completed because of a single problem – lack of funding.

These are projects like building parklets, installing bike racks and renovating pools that citizens want to invest in and governments want to take on but can’t, due to a lack of available funds.

For decades, we have seen citizens solve problems like this on a small scale. Neighborhood barbecue fundraisers to save a park or that neighbor who goes door-to-door to fund a project she’s really passionate about are great examples of citizens stepping up to invest in local projects – projects that can only happen through local government and citizens partnering together. But what do these barbecues and door-to-door pitches look like in the 21st century and what does it look like when vastly more projects have an equal chance of being funded?

We believe the answer is Citizinvestor.

What’s the story behind starting Citizinvestor?

One of our co-founders, Tony DeSisto, is an attorney who currently serves on the City of Tampa’s Budget Advisory Committee. On the Committee, Tony consults with the city on budgeting issues, trying to find new and innovative ways to fund local government projects at a time in which budgets at city Halls are tighter than ever before. Seeing the crowdfunding trend, Tony thought there needed to be a platform where citizens can micro-fund the local government projects they really want to see built. Thus, Citizinvestor was born.

We are planning to launch in late July in two major pilot partner cities, one of which is one of the five most populated cities in America. We expect to roll Citizinvestor out to new cities nearly every month.

Brief bios on the other two co-founders can be found below:

Jordan Raynor is a digital strategist who has spent his career solving difficult problems in government, politics and technology. Jordan most recently served as Client Director at Engage – deemed a “mega interactive agency” by Mashable. At Engage, Jordan’s primary client was the Voting Information Project – an initiative that works with election officials to put polling place location data in uniform XML format. Jordan was honored as a Google Fellow at the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum.

Erik Rapprich is a web director, developer and strategist. Most recently, Erik served as Creative Director at Engage, where he met Jordan. At Engage, Erik lead product strategy for Multiply and iContribute – products used by leaders like John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan and Bob McDonnell. In 2010, Erik served as Web Director for the Republican Governors Association, managing a team that created 38 websites and applications in five months.

What are its key features?

Citizinvestor allows citizens to invest in the local government projects they care about most. Here’s how it works.

Local governments submit pre-approved projects to citizinvestor.com. The cost of these projects have already been set and department approved, the only thing lacking is funding. Citizens then find the projects they care about most and pledge to financially invest in those projects. Once a project is 100% pledged, the project is built! Citizens don’t pay a dime unless the project is fully funded. This ensures that there’s no risk to the participating governments or citizens.

While municipalities are the only users who can post projects to the site that raise actual dollars, we are giving citizens a platform to “petition” their governments for projects they want to see built. Once a petition reaches a certain threshold, we will work with the person who started the petition to bring it to city hall and hopefully get the petition turned into a Citizinvestor project.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Citizinvestor is absolutely free for municipalities to use. Citizinvestor takes a 5% fee on all successfully funded projects, but that cost is posed to citizens, not municipalities.

How can those interested connect with you?

Email jordan@citizinvestor.com, follow our progress on our blog at http://blog.citizinvestor.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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