Activist startup CivNet to close - Albuquerque Journal

Activist startup CivNet to close

CivNet, an Albuquerque startup that developed an online platform for community organizing, will shut down on July 1.

The company, which launched in 2015, reported about 2,000 people in New Mexico had signed up by mid-2017 to use the CivNet platform, which offered information about things happening in local communities, allowed users to connect with others on issues and provided website tools to launch and manage community projects.

Company co-founders Charlie Wisoff and Sam Raife were selected last year by Matter Ventures, a national business accelerator based in San Francisco and New York, for a $125,000 investment that included participation in a five-month training program.

But CivNet never reached the levels of participation needed to sustain the operation, despite a strategic business “pivot” last fall that converted CivNet into a bridge for people who use different online programs to communicate, share and organize with one another without ever leaving their own preferred platform.

By early 2018, CivNet needed to raise more money, and with Wisoff facing some personal issues, the co-founders decided to call it quits.

“Doing a web startup is very tough,” Wisoff said. “You need high-growth metrics, but we never reached the level of traffic we needed, so raising more money was a gamble. I had personal issues as well, so it didn’t make sense to keep going.”

The CivNet platform will remain active for people to continue using it until July 1, when the site goes permanently offline, Wisoff said.

Tim Nisly, who founded the Albuquerque-based Social Impact and Nonprofit Community incubator “SINC,” said CivNet identified and served a real need, but it’s hard to build a successful business model to support an online community platform.

“Failure is part of the path to building a robust startup ecosystem in Albuquerque,” Nisly said. “Things will come and go, but eventually we’ll get something like CivNet that really takes off as more people try new, innovative approaches to help people organize online.”

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