An Interview With Shankar Prasad, Founder/Executive Director, Yourlist.org

Yourlist makes democracy easy. Users type in their top concerns, whether it’s a pothole in their neighborhood, concerns with the healthcare system, or national defense—no issue is too big or too small for Yourlist. Using NLP, we automatically categorize these issues to find other people who have similar concerns, and create an aggregated checklist for politicians, letting them know what their constituents care most about. By holding politicians accountable and making participating in government easy, yourlist is creating democracy 2.0. We’re looking for Investors and Developers (specifically UI/UX developers).

What is yourlist.org?

Yourlist makes participating in government easy. We collect data from people, aggregate it, and report it to local, state, and national politicians based on user districts. The real brain of our app is the NLP parser that finds similar issues and links them together, so we can say things like “40% of NY Residents want to discontinue tuition hikes in the public college system,” or “22% of your constituents want less money allocated to the military and more allocated to investment in green-tech.” Basically, we create accountability and make participating as easy as just voicing your concern.

Tell me how it all started, where did your vision/inspiration come from?

I was chatting with my barber while getting a haircut, and she was telling me about her kids. Apparently their school was no longer providing public school text-books and cut the number of teachers, nearly doubling the class-size. She was furious when she found out there was a ton of state money going to build “Xanadu” when the public schools were failing. She wanted to tell someone who could do something about it, and ended up spending hours on the phone between appointments trying to figure who that person was, to no avail.
We realized that, in the age of information, telling our politicians about the things that they need to fix, and letting them know the opinions they need to represent has become amazingly difficult. So we started yourlist with the vision that, as soon as you have an issue with the public space, you log it on your list. Then, we aggregate lists for your district, your state, and your nation. We open a direct line between concerned politicians and all concerned constituents on an issue (remember, numbers matter in democracy), and we publish reports on every representative’s responsiveness.

Why does the world need your product? Why now?

Now, more than ever, rich interest-groups and lobbies are driving policy at all levels of government. They’re getting away with it because no one knows what citizens want. And we citizens can’t be heard because the process is a circa 1970’s hot mess. We need Yourlist because it makes being heard easy and it creates accountability so that when a bunch of people all share an opinion and everyone knows that a bunch of people share an opinion, politicians have to do something about it. Yourlist will restore faith in a process that has been unhealthy and working poorly for at least the last 20 years.

What keeps you up at night?

The thought that there is a growing discontent that everyone feels but no one can do anything about. Across the country, people feel utterly disconnected from these politicians whose $200,000 salaries we pay for. The only time we really voice our opinions is once every 4 years during elections so over-analyzed we can’t even remember the things we really care about on a day-to-day basis. As a result most of us, busy Americans with jobs and families and friends, have stopped caring.

What would you consider to be a successful result for your company?

Yourlist would be a huge success if it became the go to place every time people felt specific things need fixing, like a pothole on my street or lack of access to universal healthcare.

What is your favorite drink?

Can go for the occasional single-malt, but nothing really beats a beer.

Shankar will be providing a demo at NY Tech Mixer’s Demos & Drinks on Tue, Sep 27, 7:00 PM @ Gallery Bar.Visit NYTechMixer.com to RSVP.

Share