The MiVote team were handed a delightful surprise a few weeks ago; we were chosen to present at Singularity University’s Global Innovation Summit in the category of ‘democracy’.
Four of us stood at Melbourne airport last week, ready to board our San Francisco flight, with nervous excitement steaming off us. The previous two weeks had been such a blur as we anxiously and hurriedly prepared presentations, conference materials and ourselves for a trip overseas, that it only began to feel real as we handed our passports and boarding passes to airport staff.
This was the first public outing of MiVote in so many ways. We are a close team, but this was our first trip together, it was the first high profile presentation of our dream and the first exposure of MiVote to a large audience. We were unprepared for how well the trip would go and just how much fun it would be.
Day 1: Landing in sunny San Francisco
We landed in San Francisco the day before the conference and our delightful host, Hamish – a native Californian – had time to take us on a whistlestop tour of San Francisco before we had to get about preparing for the conference. After a wonderful day exploring Market street, Telegraph Hill and dining on the best dumplings I’ve had in a while, we fell into an early bed.
Day 2: Preparation day
Saturday was preparation day and we hit the San Francisco Hilton hard. We had arrived with our Melbourne passion for coffee and a brand representation Google would have been proud of. On a small conference table we precariously perched t-shirts, pamphlets, a television screen, a brand-appropriate coffee machine and under the table spilled hundreds of coffee pods, milk and too many boxes for the space. The afternoon was pitch preparation time. Our founder, Adam Jacoby, paced the AirBNB and got his presentation down to a tee.
Day 3: The pitch
The Democracy category was presenting first on Sunday morning, day one of the conference, and MiVote was amongst three other contestants: Democracy Earth, Propulsar, Remesh and Geeks without Frontiers to speak to three judges from SU, World Bank and Deloitte and an SU audience. Adam wowed them – to the point that audience questions were only towards MiVote. Thus began our generous reception.
Patiently answering questions at the booth, while Adam was presenting, was Hamish. Hamish had not only been eagerly answering questions in English and French as curious audience members approached us for more information, but also making them coffee. (Our little coffee machine made us very popular!) We spent Sunday - Tuesday answering questions on how our blockchain technology worked, the anonymity of voting, how we return democracy to the people and what motivates us to drive this project.
The judges told us very quickly that Democracy Earth got through to the final round of presenting, winning the chance of presenting to a larger audience in the main hall. We were disappointed to not be finalists but MiVote was garnering such exciting interest from other parties approaching the exhibition table that we weren’t disappointed for too long! We were invited to consider corporate, NGO and educational applications of MiVote’s voting technology as well as starting MiVote chapters in other countries such as: Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Rwanda, Chile and Columbia. We were swamped with more interest than we had ever considered! Hamish, Adam and myself were often all engaged in conversations as yet more people queued up behind us waiting to ask about MiVote. We seemed at times to be the most popular exhibitor!
This meant that evenings were restful. Drained from exciting and engaging days spent discussing how to change the world, we were ready only for the sofa at the end of the day.
Day 4: Connecting & Networking
Monday night, however, we had work to do. All exhibitors were invited to a VIP party and we had the chance to connect with people we had only met briefly at the conference. While Hamish and Adam spoke with SAP at length, I was speaking with Stanford University’s Senior Technologist, James Ehrlich, the winner of SU’s ‘Shelter’ category. SU were proving to be excellent and generous hosts.
Day 5: Final day
Tuesday 30th August was our last day and we went out with a bang. After closing pictures and saying our goodbyes we drove up to watch the sun set over the Golden Gate bridge and out onto the headlands.
As the sun dipped further into the water we dined in a fabulous fish restaurant in Sausalito called Scoma’s and reflected on a wonderful trip. None of us had expected to be received as well as we had. Every person we spoke to loved MiVote – the brand, the values, the mechanism. Everyone thought their country, their company, their university could use the technology to achieve a greater good and wanted to see us there as soon as possible.
We left Australia for San Francisco not knowing what to expect; we returned to Australia with a greater sense of purpose. MiVote is about offering everyone a chance to have their voice heard – we returned to Australia with the intention to give everyone in the world a chance to have their voice heard.
Author: Nichola Courtney - MiVote