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ABQ social startup in national accelerator

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CivNet co-founders Charlie Wisoff, right, and Sam Raife at Matter Ventures\’ accelerator in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of CivNet

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — CivNet, an Albuquerque startup with a new online platform for community organizing, is one of 12 companies nationwide selected to participate in Matter Ventures’ five-month accelerator in San Francisco and New York.

The Matter accelerator, which launched in 2012 to assist media-related startups, chose CivNet from among hundreds of applicants around the country, said Matter Ventures’ director of investments Ben Werdmuller.

“We had a 2.9 percent acceptance rate out of hundreds of startups that applied to the program,” Werdmuller said. “We look for startups that aim to engage people, bridge gaps and build trust to give more voice to people who haven’t been heard in the media before. We’re excited about CivNet because it’s designed to bring local communities together with a platform for them to organize.”

Matter Ventures invests $125,000 in each accelerator participant, including $50,000 in cash and $75,000 to cover program resources. The new accelerator cohort, which began on June 5 with six companies in San Francisco and six in New York, lasts 20 weeks. CivNet is participating in San Francisco, but all cohort members get equal access to mentors, assistance and professional networks in both cities.

“It’s a mission-driven accelerator that serves startups with a social mission, so it’s a great fit for us,” said CivNet co-founder and CEO Charlie Wisoff. “They provide mentorship and support based on design thinking. They focus on how to best develop your product, how to pull in users, and how to build an effective business model that’s human-centered and based on an empathetic approach to meet the real needs of people.”

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Wisoff, a civic engagement specialist, built CivNet with co-founder and chief technology officer Sam Raife to help people increase their impact on issues they care about. The online platform, which went live in December 2015, helps inform people about what’s happening in their communities while connecting with others. Website tools allow individuals and groups to launch and manage community projects online, and put out “calls to action” to get people involved.

To date, about 2,000 people have signed up.

“People have created more than 150 community projects, whether it’s to support better bike lanes in the city or open primaries,” Wisoff said. “Between 10 and 20 projects are active at any given time.”

CivNet used its cash from Matter to hire an employee while the founders are in the accelerator. They hope to launch pilot platforms in San Francisco and New York during the program, and build a mobile app.

Matter Ventures is supported by major media organizations, including the Associated Press, McClatchy, the New York Times, and Google News Lab, among others. It’s assisted 61 startups in seven cohorts to date.

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