With his company Civic Eagle, Damola Ogundipe uses technology to democratize political information.
At the close of 2017, Damola Ogundipe (B.S. ’11)
encountered a crossroads.
For nearly three years, Ogundipe had
toiled to gain traction with his company
Civic Eagle, which used a consumer-facing app to try to
counter the political apathy Ogundipe and his cofounders, Yemi Adewunmi and Shawntera Hardy, found so
prevalent in state and local matters.
“We wanted to create a world in which political
information was easily accessible, and would empower
voters and residents to take political action and become
more civically engaged,” says Ogundipe, citing the
August 2014 police shooting of a Black man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked
widespread social unrest, as a driving force behind Civic
Of course, the best laid—and most noble-minded—
plans often run awry. Unable to scale and monetize Civic
Eagle, as CEO Ogundipe faced long days, frustrating
results, and accelerating pressure to keep a sinking
business afloat. “For anybody thinking about doing
something like this, I wouldn’t recommend it,” laughs
Ogundipe, a Nigerian-born, former Golden Gophers
football player who grew up in New Brighton, Minnesota.
So, despite devoting three years of his life and some
$60,000 of his own savings to Civic Eagle, a disheartened Ogundipe phoned his cofounders and asked them
if they wanted to stop. “And to their credit, they said, ‘No.
Let’s see what we can figure out,’” Ogundipe recalls.
With his partners all in, Ogundipe committed as well.
He left his full-time job as a consultant and jettisoned
anything from his life unrelated to Civic Eagle. That
renewed, single-minded focus on the business produced
a pivot that has altered Ogundipe’s life, transformed
the work of policy professionals, and supercharged his
upstart venture’s prospects. “Being an entrepreneur is
about being a bit naïve, a bit fearless,” says Ogundipe,
an entrepreneurial soul who launched a sneaker resale
business as an undergraduate finance major before
heading a company that converted shipping containers
into music production studios.
In January 2018, Civic Eagle, spurred by a conversation
held during a lengthy pizza-and-wine gathering with two
Twin Cities advocacy organizations and a local law firm,
ditched its consumer focus. The founders began developing
a new product called Enview, designed to help businesses,
nonprofits, and advocacy groups and organizations discover, track, and analyze legislative and political information
to guide decision making and propel performance.
“We tend to build solutions for problems that we have
and that’s too limiting,” Ogundipe says. “The real opportunity for us was on the business-to-business side and
that’s the direction we’ve been running in ever since.”
Today, Civic Eagle scrapes data from every legislative
database in the country. It then processes that legislative
and regulatory information into its own database before
providing daily analysis on it to a diverse client list that
includes think tanks, corporations like Comcast, law firms
such as Minneapolis-based Fredrikson & Byron, and
nonprofits like March of Dimes, the St. Paul Chamber of
Commerce, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Civic Eagle has now gained traction by injecting
technology into legislative research—replacing tedious,
grinding manual work with time-saving software—and sparking collaboration among policy professionals
who can collectively edit policy text, share comments,
and ping other organizations about working together.
“We’ve flipped this field on its head,” says Ogundipe.
Investors are taking note, too. While Ogundipe
initially struggled to communicate Civic Eagle’s niche
software space to investors, his pitch today clearly touts
Civic Eagle’s value proposition, as well as its vast marketplace potential. As a result, Civic Eagle has landed
$2.6 million in funding to fuel its growth, including the
company’s push to develop artificial intelligence and
natural-language processing functions.
“It’s still early, but we’ve got the right people and
pieces in place for that,” says Ogundipe, whose firm is
based in St. Paul but includes team members peppered
across the U.S. Within the next eight years, Civic
Eagle hopes to top $100 million in revenue and, more
importantly, democratize political information to spur
sound decision-making—in keeping with its initial intent.
Ogundipe believes that will help level the playing field
of democracy and provide some of the most important
social organizations a fair chance at impacting policy at
all levels of government.
“We’re nonpartisan, but believe democracy only exists when everybody exercises their right to vote and is informed on the issues,” Ogundipe says. “In the end, we want to be a company doing net good for the world.”
With that in mind, on June 2, after the death of
George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ogundipe posted on
the company’s Instagram. He wrote, “As an African-American man and as a human being, I’m mad. I’ve seen
firsthand the injustices of the criminal justice system
and other structural barriers that impact the forward
progress of not only the African-American community,
but other disenfranchised communities. … We built
Enview to move us towards a country that eliminates
these moments [and it] will never be out of reach for
even the smallest grassroots organizations [working] to
create a more equitable country.”
Daniel P. Smith is a Chicago-based journalist.