Quorum Cofounders: Alex Wirth and Jonathan Marks
Meet Alex Wirth and Jonathan Marks. These Harvard grads moved from Boston to DC to expand Quorum, a platform changing the way people see, explain, and influence the legislative process. The two make a dynamic duo- as Alex (left) oversees business development and customer success, and Jonathan (right) focuses on product design and development. We sat down with them to find out more about how they work and what’s next for Quorum.
1. This legislative strategy platform you’ve developed is an incredible device that bridges the gap between politics and data reporting. How did you come to the realization that there was a niche available for the platform?
In the fall of 2013 Alex was advocating on Capitol Hill for a resolution in support of establishing a Presidential Youth Council, and shared his efforts to identify cosponsors for the resolution with Jonathan, his roommate at Harvard and a computational biochemist by training. We got started talking about whether it would be possible to use big data to figure out who Members of Congress were working with most frequently. Jonathan built an early alpha version of Quorum that showed it was possible while Alex started a number of conversations across D.C. It soon became apparent to us there were many more problems that computer science could solve.
2. You founded this company out of college – got any tips for budding entrepreneurs on how you grew quickly and kept both yourselves and the company on track?
The most important thing is to go out and talk with users. We took over 30 conversations in the fall of 2014 and shared our idea with people across Washington, gaining valuable feedback and feature ideas that we would eventually incorporate into the platform. The second thing that really helped us was entering business plan competitions as it forced us to define our go-to market strategy, who our users are, and where we were going to take Quorum. Finally, we stayed in stealth mode until we had paying clients and were ready for launch. We spent over a year in stealth mode and it allowed us to focus on building an incredible platform before the lights turn on.
3. Earlier this month, Quorum launched the First Look Program, which gives a select group DC’s best interns exclusive access to the strategy platform, a cool idea and great opportunity for young professionals. What inspired the program?
The program was largely inspired by our own experiences – our whole team was, until very recently, in those same internships. Often these interns are doing a lot of the arduous legislative research behind their organizations’ strategies. The First Look Program is a way for our company to put Quorum in the hands of the most capable interns to give them and their offices a sense of what the next generation of legislative strategy is, and how they can use it to add value to their work.
4. We have a feeling that two savvy entrepreneurs like you are already thinking toward the future. What’s next for Quorum?
We are always looking ahead, especially at new data sets that we can add to the platform and tools that can help our users gain valuable insights from the platform. A great example of this is our new partnership with The Cook Political Report which allows us to add PVI ratings (how liberal or conservative a congressional district is) to the platform so our users can compare them against votes and congressional districts.
5. What advice do you have for other young professionals trying to carve out their space in an increasingly competitive job market?
Learn how to code. Our success as a company is because we have an incredible development team that is able to automate what have traditionally been painful tasks done by hand. Not only are there not enough developers in the workforce, but even if you are not hired to code you will find that computer science will make you more productive and set you apart in the job market.