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College of Arts and Sciences

A&S senior founds startup to maximize voter participation

By: Aarushi Machavarapu,  A&S Communications
March 21, 2020

Juliana Bain ‘20 is on a mission to use her math and computer science double major to make a  social impact in an area that’s important to her — college student participation in elections. Her startup, Voteology, was chosen for Cornell eLab’s 2019-2020 cohort, and is preparing for launch in late March . 

Voteology is an online platform that automatically calculates and compares the likely statistical values of votes at two different U.S. addresses, then informs the user where their vote will have more impact. Juliana aims to increase college students’ voter participation rates through this digital platform by helping students understand if their vote is more valuable in their hometown or in the district where they are attending college. 

For example, say Sophia is a diehard Democratic Socialist from Santa Clarita, Calif. but goes to school at Cornell. Should she register and vote in Tompkins County, or get an absentee ballot and vote for the slate of Democratic candidates in California, where the race might be closer, and her vote more important? Voteology can help Sophia figure this out.

“I’ve had this [idea] on my phone since my freshman year,” Bain said.“I had a lot of friends that were upset about the outcome of the 2016 election, but didn’t vote.” The platform uses an algorithm that Juliana developed and coded.

Aside from the functionality of the platform, Voteology also includes community features, such as social media sharing. Bain believes she can help politically empower people to educate and motivate their personal networks to vote. Voteology incorporates this ideology by allowing the user to share their results on their social media accounts. 

When Bain decided to pursue her idea last semester, she said she received immense support from the Cornell community. Andrea Ippolito, a faculty member at the S.C. Johnson College of Business and the College of Engineering who also heads Women Entrepreneurs Cornell, “has been an incredible mentor and role model,” she said. Additionally, Cornell alumni of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity were her first funders. 

The eLab program is another source of support, as Bain’s business is one of 24 startups accepted this year. eLab aims to help students launch real businesses by providing mentorship, legal consultation, funding, and office space. Bain’s participation in eLab helped her with the customer discovery process and practicing pitches. She said “every opportunity to pitch helps us hone the message and magnify the elements which resonate most with the audience.” 

Bain has incorporated Voteology as a 501c3 non-profit (whose board includes Cornellians Alyce Abernathy and Devki Trivedi) and is finalizing her algorithm. In the future, she hopes to create an SMS-version and a portfolio of “digitally sharable artifacts” that can spread on social networks like Twitter, where incidentally she will start work in August.