We sat down with Michael Goldman Brown Jr., recent ICUBE Start Up graduate and winner in the final business model competition, to discuss his business, what he has learned, and where he is headed next!
Do you have a great idea? Applications are open for the summer Start Up cohort – Apply Now!

Meet Michael Goldman Brown Jr., founder of CivicsEngine:

Tell us about your business

The idea for CivicsEngine came from a series of conversations I had with candidates running for political office in my area, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, during my senior year of high school. These candidates were incredibly interested in finding new ways to interact with and work with young people in the political sphere. I found that in High School and University, many students are highly opinionated and want to be a part of the political process, yet, they found it quite difficult or were unaware of how to connect with their governmental representatives and candidates who wished to represent them. This is where the idea for CivicsEngine came from; a service that simply and efficiently connects young people to information about job, volunteer and internship-style opportunities with political entities such as governments, political candidates, elected representatives, election officials, political organizations, and many more. We connect these political entities and young people through our CivicsEngine platform which is accessed through our website, civicsengine.com.

Can you Walk us Through CivicsEngine?

Michael took us on a spin around the CivicsEngine platform! If you want to check out more of the CivcsEngine platform on your own, go to civicsengine.com/sample-state

What made you decide to apply to ICUBE?

I decided to apply to ICUBE because I had been working on CivicsEngine in earnest for about seven months, and I felt like an incubator would provide the mentorship and learning experiences necessary to take CivicsEngine to the next level. I am a second-year student at the University of Toronto, and as I was looking for programs which could help to develop my business, I stumbled across ICUBE. The benefits of the ICUBE Start Up program in particular caught my eye; knowing I would have access to structured programming and one-on-one mentorship were two major draws to me. Additionally, I very much appreciate a cohort environment and ICUBE does a lot to facilitate that environment through the StartUp bootcamp and the later stage workshops included in the program.

What was your main take away from the program? 

My main takeaway was that being connected to people who want to help you is very important to the success of a startup. This was something that I didn’t expect to take away coming into the ICUBE program, but there is a real network of people trying to help you and your business succeed. Through ICUBE and the wonderfully helpful program manager Kasey, I have been connected with one-on-one legal assistance, funding mentorship, and a prospective customer—all for free. I think being in the Start Up cohort signifies to the community how seriously you as an entrepreneur take your business, and when you radiate that type of passion, people want to help. In addition, the members of the Start Up program really coalesced and came together to help each other to succeed. There was a lot of interchange and suggestion of ideas and solutions to problems between founders, and the culture of building each other up is a major asset to each company.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

This year, we are looking to launch some of our CivicsEngine offerings! We have seen excitement among candidates we’ve reached out to about the launch of our platform, and we are excited to present opportunities to students. The elections we are focusing on connecting students with opportunities in are the U.S. elections of 2020, and the Saskatchewan Provincial Election. A wrench sort-of got thrown into our initial launch plans, as we were focusing on launching in-person work opportunities with political campaigns this summer; however, due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, we have been working on creating a digital internship program that provides value to both political entities and the students who complete them; programs with structure. We are very excited about getting these opportunities off the ground in the coming months. The $1,500.00 that we received from winning ICUBE’s Start Up pitch competition is going to have a twofold impact on our business, by allowing us to transform and digitize our outreach to schools and political entities alike with a powerful CRM, while also helping us to fund our website hosting and the addition of new features to our offerings for political entities.

What failures or obstacles have you faced in your start up journey? How did you recover, and what did you learn?

To date, the greatest challenge CivicsEngine has faced would be COVID-19. We were looking to begin launching in-person opportunities with political entities this summer, but the health and safety threats this would pose to both our students and the wider community put those plans on hold. However, COVID-19 has led us to refocus on our guiding mission; reimagining the way students connect with civics. We have begun working on creating an in-depth virtual internship program that we are looking to begin partnering with political entities to launch by the end of May. These opportunities will focus on the electronic side of campaigning; speaking with campaigns has led us to conclude there is a surprising amount of value that students can provide as virtual interns from the comfort of their own home. The two biggest lessons we’ve learned from adapting to this situation thus far would be that understanding what your customers want and need is key to providing them with utility, and that when you’re faced with uncertain times, to refocus yourself and your operations around your core mission.

What Advice do you Have for Other Potential Entrepreneurs?

Do you have a great idea? Applications are open for the summer Start Up cohort – Apply Now!