As of last month, a change is afoot in the Northern Virginia advocacy tech space. Phone2Action, the Arlington, Virginia company that developed an engagement platform for public affairs and government relations, will henceforth be known as Capitol Canary.
Capitol Canary, at the time Phone2Action, had seen strong growth following its founding in 2012. Its advocacy platform connects users with each other and lawmakers and tracks policy documents with real-time alerts. But the new wave in the pandemic, cofounder and CSO Jeb Ory said, took things to the next level. In 2019, the company had roughly 700 customers and millions of users. The user count shot up to 2 billion over a few days in 2020, as the public got more engaged in advocacy following the pandemic and social events such as George Floyd’s murder, Ory said.
“What had been happening over time is that our clients were asking us to do more and more, and they said, ‘It’s great that you have these advocacy tools, but can you help us understand more about the policies that we care about?'” Ory told Technical.ly. “‘Can you help us make sure that we’re contacting the right people?’ So we listened.”
Following this boost, the company grew even further by making two acquisitions of companies in the government space — GovPredict in November 2020 and KnowWho in December of that year. The company also underwent a few leadership changes: Cofounder and COO Ximena Hartsock departed the company in January of 2021, while Ory brought on Steven Schneider as CEO in May and Adrian Muniz as CFO and Mikhail Opletayev as its new CTO in July.
But as it pushed forward, Ory noticed something about the company itself: Its name didn’t seem to fit in the way it once did.
“It became pretty clear that the name Phone2Action no longer really explained what we did,” Ory said. “Our name was very literal, and it was about moving people to act … [but] what we found is that some of our champions within organizations would have a little bit of trouble explaining what we did.”
With the new name, the company's vision is to be a decisive factor in every policy outcome.
This ultimately led Ory and the team to rebrand as Capitol Canary in February. Capitol, Ory said, was meant to signify government and policy; canary birds, long known as an early warning system for humanity, would symbolize shining a light on important issues (and join the ranks of successful canaries such as Tweety Bird and Big Bird, Ory said).
With the new name, the company’s vision is to be a decisive factor in every policy outcome. Its similarly new mission is to give clients the tools to affect said outcomes. Capitol Canary also hopes to make it easier for users to access intelligence, uncover insights and engage the public.
“Our name no longer really spoke to what we did,” Ory said. “That can make it really challenging to break through if, when you say your name, people don’t understand how broad the tools can be, so we saw this as an opportunity to reframe some conversations.”
With the acquisitions and rebrand, Ory said there’s been a lot of internal education and training for its employees, which have grown from 80 or 90 to 180. It’s also at work on a few new solutions with integrated data and new ways to develop insights through tech. Overall, Ory said, it’s fueled a lot of growth at the company and increased the number of leadership opportunities.
In 2022, he hopes that Capitol Canary can continue helping people make sense of their data, and make it easier to share personalized stories with lawmakers. Further along, he even thinks there are blockchain applications that will help people continue to share their stories without needing to repeat themselves over and over to lawmakers.
As the company moves forward with its technology, Ory said that it’s that the most important thing for organizations is to continue advocating and help impart why issues matter to certain populations. And tech, he said, will have a huge role in that.
“We’re going to see emergent technologies continue to transform this concept of advocacy,” Ory said.