maria yuan sxsw 2017

Issue Voter Founder Shares Why Being Unique is Essential For A Startup's Survival at SXSW 2017

During my time at SXSW 2017 and the Dell Experience, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of inspiring entrepreneurs and thought-leaders. Included in that group is Maria Yuan, founder of Issue Voter, a website that is dedicated to giving your voice more power in our democracy.

Maria shared with me what Issue Voter is and what makes them unique from other companies that provide similar services. She was also kind enough to share some advice that she’s learned along the way of starting and building her business.

Check out our full interview in the video below and read on for Maria’s advice.

Issue Voter: Keeping People Engaged in the Political Process Year-Round

Maria started Issue Voter as a way to allow people to engage year round with the political process versus just focusing during elections and voting periods. Their website allows you to choose issues you care about and then sends you alerts on those issues as they come up for a vote in congress. Their site summarizes each bill by providing pros and cons and related news that keeps the user informed. Users can then send their opinion on the bill to the rep and have the ability to see a profile of how their rep is voting and the percentage of time they vote.

“It’s not about knowing everything that is happening all the time, but it is important to know what decisions congress is making on issues you care about.”

Knowing How to Set Your Business Apart from the Competition

Maria pitched her business at this year’s Dell Experience at SXSW 2017. They were asked about competition and what sets them apart, to which Maria had a well-prepared reply. Not only did she call out her competition by name, acknowledging that it exists, she stood steadfast in the key differences that Issue Voter has in comparison to the competition, including:

  1. They don’t make user opinions public (others do).
  2. They are not an app and made a concious decision to go to web first.
  3. They have a scorecard on the site that helps align your interests to issues. This feature is extremely unique and sets them apart from all other competition.

As Maria pointed out, while you may not be the first to the table with an idea, what's most important is that you follow your gut and provide something with a unique value and experience.

Maria’s Advice for Other Startups

I asked Maria if there was one bit of advice that she could offer to others starting a business, what would it be. Here’s her response:

“The one bit of advice I give everyone is if you are thinking about doing something and if you would regret NOT doing it, then you have to do it. It’s that simple.”

Maria's other bit of advice that is essential for success is understanding your strength and weaknesses and then finding people who can support you in the weaknesses.

“One person alone cannot do it [run a business], so understand that and ask for help!”