Interview: Maria Yuan, Founder of Issue Voter
Maria Yuan is the founder of Issue Voter, a platform that launched on November 9th, 2016 which empowers people to engage in the political process.
Why did you start your company?
Growing up, I didn’t consider a career in politics. However, from a young age voting was always emphasized by both of my parents and perhaps this is what instilled the passion in me.
I remember mock voting in second grade and saw it as a personal responsibility. In college, created at a leadership program, my vision was 100% voter participation. During my college years, I also had quite a bit of interaction with our State reps. I was part of a small group of students who lobbied the Texas Legislature to introduce and pass a bill creating the first student seat on the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents. In another role, serving as an intern, I saw first-hand that Representatives really do track every constituent contact, yet such a small percentage of us actually reach out.
After college, I worked at JPMorgan in Investment Banking. I learned to take risks; I also learned it doesn’t hurt to ask. I asked for a leave of absence to work on one of the most targeted races in Iowa – an open seat in a swing district that many hoped would turn the 25D-25R split in the State Senate. And that’s where the idea for IssueVoter began.
I think it’s unfortunate that voter turnout has dropped. The last mid-term election in 2014 reached a 72-year low at just 34%. However, I also saw that the real work that affects our lives happens between elections.
About ten years ago, I remember sitting in my office working on my laptop thinking, ‘There’s so much focus on elections but there should be an easy way to track what our reps are doing throughout the year. Someday technology will get there. Someone will create this and I will be able to use it!’
Nearly 10 years later, the idea that someone would create a solution to easily track what our reps are doing still stuck with me. It both astonished and frustrated me that something still didn’t exist; so, I decided to create it. My passion for the problem arose from personal experience – a powerful motivator.
IssueVoter <<http://issuevoter.org>> is a non-partisan website that helps you make your voice heard in Washington and track how often your elected officials vote your way. Users receive targeted alerts before Congress votes on issues they care about. IssueVoter puts legislation in layman’s terms, along with what both sides are saying. You can then send your opinion directly to your rep – in just one click – *and* track your rep’s votes and bill outcomes – helping you make an informed decision at election time!
What was your most exciting day as a founder? What happened? Why was it the best?
What is your biggest struggle in the hustle? (Be honest!)
What is the item on your to do list that you wish you never had to do?
If there was a brand/marketing/PR genie that would hand you one achievement, what would it be?
What is your favorite Instagram feed right now?
What is an article you read / podcast you listened to recently that felt like the writer/host was in your brain?
Let's end on a non-work note! Favorite place you have ever been?