Michael Birch is an incredibly successful British entrepreneur. He is perhaps most recognised for co-founding the social network, Bebo, along with his wife, Xochi. For those of you who have just recently jumped on the social media bandwagon, Bebo was once the social network of choice, and was particularly popular amongst young teenagers. In 2007, Bebo had over 450 million registered users, making it the 6th most popular website in the UK. In 2008, Birch sold Bebo to AOL for an estimated £290 million in an acquisition which AOL hoped would revive their falling popularity, as they looked to do battle with the emerging search engine, Google.
Since selling his stake in Bebo, Birch has invested in a series of online ventures including MyStore.com, Goodreads and Punktilio - all of which are social media-based in some way, shape or form.
Most recently however, Birch has been working on the development of another online/social media platform - but this one has a twist. Jolitics, as it has been named, provides users with an opportunity to participate in constructive, political debate.
Members, or 'Joliticians' as they are called, will have the ability to engage with others and debate key issues which might arise outside of the election period. Should an individual member consider himself unable to participate in a particular debate, he'll have the opportunity to recommend another member, more suited to that topic, to cast both of their votes. Obviously, this process creates a scale of influence, meaning your 'Average Joe' could, in theory, make a bit of a name for himself within the political online circuit.
Birch said of the Jolitics project, 'Politics online simply has not been done well yet. There are lots of political discussion forums, but they never lead to any full conclusions or consensuses. It's just a lot of people spouting their opinions with no constructive debate. Jolitics is about empowering those who are following an issue really well to help form opinion and fuel debate. And if they don’t do a good job, people can take their nominations away from them and they lose influence. It’s a real incentive to look after people’s interests.'
Jolitics is currently being trialled in Ireland, before a full rollout. If Birch is able to pull off this ambitious project, it will certainly prove to be an interesting tool for politicians to use when it comes to understanding the electorate.