Bernardo is the founder and CEO of MyPolis, an impact startup from the first cohort of Maze X.
Can you tell us who is Bernardo and a little bit about your background?
I am a social entrepreneur, focused on bringing millennials closer to politics and decision-making process, and I created MyPolis to make their voices heard. I started it one and a half years ago to foster community engagement and youth participation.
MyPolis is working in four Portuguese municipalities so far. At Maze X, we are exploring a corporate angle to leverage the internal resources that corporates have to create external impact.
Previously, I worked as a consultant at Deloitte digital, where I had an important role in projects on blockchain, IoT, apps development, etc. It was fun, and I learned a lot. I left the company to focus on MyPolis and embark on this journey of finding ways to engage millennials politically. I had the opportunity, and I had the guts.
Before that, I studied economics at Nova SBE. I was part of the Students Union and part of a team of 70 fascinating people.
I am 26 now. I had a lot of exciting opportunities already. Right now, I’m taking part in this adventure of trying to set up a startup with a young team. We still have a lot to learn. I believe that my path has led me to these moments where the stakes are high, and I think that the best is yet to come.
Pedro Cerejo, CTO, and Bernardo Gonçalves, CEO of MyPolis at the Demo Day of Maze X at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
What is MyPolis, and where did the name come from?
MyPolis is a platform to connect politicians and citizens. It’s a place where citizens can have a say on the future of their cities. It’s a place for participation and fresh ideas.
How did you come up with the idea?
We can call it the Tinder for ideas. I would love to build a solution that is as good as Tinder is, as far as usability is concerned. We’re still not there. We have a lot of work to do. But I like the idea of calling it a Tinder for ideas.
We came up with a solution when we were in the Students Union. I was the president, and I was trying to engage students in activities, but I was missing some information on what they wanted. It was only later, while I was a consultant for digital projects, that the solution started to get some shape. It was the combination of both backgrounds that made me approach technology as a tool to solve social issues.
Why does MyPolis matter?
MyPolis matters a lot because I don’t believe in a model where you are summoned to cast your votes every four years, and then there is a void of feedback from citizens in between. Both politicians and citizens are in need, especially the young citizens, of a better way to perform social listening, to make sure their voices are heard, and to reach out to the decision-makers. I believe it is a problem because some of the sources of this problem are an unsymmetrical way of communication between politicians and citizens. It is difficult for citizens to participate positively, and it is annoying to participate in traditional platforms like a municipal assembly. The channels are there. They are just too old, too traditional, and not handy.
How do you see the cities in the future?
I do not believe in a purely representative democracy model, which is what we have today. I believe in a mix between participatory and representative democracy. In our current model, 99% of what is done in a city is decided by 5 to 6 people. I believe that the citizens know their challenges and those of their fellow citizens better than the government officials that sit in an office miles away. I believe in cities that base decision-making on data that is collected from citizens. Technology is a valuable tool to approach different targets, collect their concerns and present them in a seamless way to decision-makers. That’s where MyPolis wants to position itself: like an accelerator of information between the citizens and politicians.
Why did you apply to Maze X?
I already knew the team, and I know that they could help us with a lot of challenges. Additionally, Maze X was an opportunity to test a corporate approach to our solution, which is what we are now doing with PLMJ.
Almost every company that I know is not having a positive impact on the communities where their offices are. Most times, corporates have a budget for corporate social responsibility and distribute it between associations, institutions, etc. Employees spend most of their days in the geographical area where they work. Hence, there is an excellent opportunity to engage employees in a decentralized way through the companies they work for in impactful initiatives. And that’s what we are trying to do together.
PLMJ has supported us from the beginning and showed great interest in this idea of fostering community engagement internally, and then trying to get some external reach as well. The company has the right mindset, and it was a really good fit.
From left to right: Bernardo Gonçalves (MyPolis), André Figueiredo (PLMJ), Maria Pignatelli (MyPolis) at the launch event of Maze X at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
What were the three challenges you wanted to tackle throughout Maze X?
First, design the corporate approach to our solution. That is undoubtedly the main challenge. Second, make the necessary tweaks, and finally, end up with an impactful user experience, which is something we have not achieved so far.
Which startup surprised you the most in the last year?
We have been working at Casa do Impacto, and a Startup that I already knew and that surprised me a lot was Code Academy. They have it all: a crazy, talented and kind team, two or three successful business models and a material impact in society. Those three things that they have is what I aim for.
I would be pleased if in five years I could be at their level. I was already really passionate about their products, and getting to know them in real life and working alongside them at Casa do Impacto has been a great surprise.
Where do you find wisdom?
In books. I am reading a lot of books right now. I’m finishing “Dom Quixote” which I have been reading for like a year (I’m really ashamed to admit it). I am reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize in Economics and one of the fathers of behavioural economics.
I am reading “Learn to code now”. I don’t want to become a coder, but I want to learn more about what it takes, so I’m reading that one, and it has been fun.
The interview took place on the 10th of July at Casa do Impacto. The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Maze X was conceived and initiated by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations and MAZE, with the law firm PLMJ and BNP Paribas joining as corporate members, Hospital da Luz Learning Health, Casa do Impacto as partners.