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Startup Story

Legal startup Plural demystifies public policy

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Using AI to empower advocacy and make legislation more transparent

For Plural founder Damola Ogundipe, promoting better democratic outcomes wasn’t just a business opportunity—it was personal. Inspired by years of attempting to navigate the U.S. legal system as an undocumented immigrant, Damola and cofounder Yemi Adewunmi created an app to simplify civic engagement by combining elements of social justice with social media. Plural's Enview software allows organizations to track state and federal legislation, pinpoint focus areas, and access information about the policies that impact them, ultimately empowering users to become civic leaders.

Damola describes Plural’s clients as “organizations that need any sort of policy, advocacy, policy, lobbying or policy research. That ranges from nonprofit advocacy organizations focused on policy issues to big, high-risk, high-exposure corporations—whether from a compliance, legislative, or regulatory perspective.” From telecoms companies tracking broadband legislation to voting advocacy groups fighting against barriers to voting access, Plural provides transparency in a complex and ever-changing legal landscape. Plural also offers a free database, Open State, an open source project that uses AI to summarize bills across the United States, enabling anyone to have access to policy data. Yemi tells us it is important to Plural that they can “service both those who can afford the premium features as well as folks who are just curious about what's happening in their communities.”

The fast-moving nature of public policy requires advocacy groups to be equally quick on their feet, and AI has allowed Plural to create tech that can keep up with the latest legislative developments. For example, between January and April 2024, Plural's technology helped a coalition of 39 small advocacy organizations in Georgia influence all 19 bills signed into law in the 2024 GA legislative session, including this bill that helps increase government transparency. This was possible thanks to the platform’s automated AI bill analysis and monitoring update features, and Damola tells us, “Our differentiated value propositions would not exist without AI.” Plural’s platform surfaces key legislative insights, at both federal and state levels, in real-time and makes critical data accessible to the organizations they support. Damola continues, "We're in a competitive environment with a few legacy incumbents, however we're moving fast and creating a ton of new innovation in ways that the market we sell to hasn't seen before."

While their heads aren’t in the clouds, their business certainly is. The policy app is built on the Google Cloud platform and Plural uses many products under the GCP umbrella, including Google Cloud Composer, Managed SQL, Firebase, and Kubernetes Engine. "Google Cloud helps us manage all of our development storage needs now and as we scale," says Damola. "Google Cloud Tasks allows us to easily manage hundreds of thousands of tasks that our platform performs to process and maintain data." Google App Engine provides Plural with a fully managed serverless platform so Damola's team can focus on delivering value—and democracy—to users. Plural also uses ElasticSearch hosted on GCP through a partnership between Google and Elastic, and the company is actively engaged in R&D on AI features using Vertex AI tools including Gemini 1.5. Google’s programming language underpins the product—Plural’s performance-critical subsystem is written in Go.

Our AI-first approach has given us a lot of competitive advantages as well as speed to execution and allowed us to acquire large enterprise customers, oftentimes unseating established incumbents.

Given their passion for engagement, it's no surprise that the Plural team are active citizens of the Google for Startups community. Yemi was selected for the Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange in 2017, which opened up a world of possibilities for the still-fledging startup. “The program gave us a week of mentorship and workshops to enhance our businesses and then culminated in a pitch competition in front of a panel of investor judges. Although we didn’t win the first prize, afterwards one of the judges, Arlan Hamilton, reached out to our company, told us that she believed in us and ended up writing us our first check for $25,000. We used that opportunity, We used that opportunity, that first piece of validation, to apply to our first accelerator program. The initial barrier was getting that first check, gaining your first believer. After that, it gave us more ability and flexibility to explore our idea more.”

In 2020, Plural became one of the first recipients of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, which provides non-dilutive cash awards and hands-on Google mentorship to Black-led startups in Africa, Brazil, Europe and the United States. Yemi tells us she valued the opportunity to grow alongside founders from around the world who were on a similar journey. “It came at a time that the company has been growing and changing, and there were lessons to learn from other founders who are going through the same kinds of transitions. It was great to know that we had similar talent challenges, concerns and worries, and the ability to share and be vulnerable and talk about what we're working through.”

As for their long-term outlook, Yemi tells us, “We believe in a future where AI can truly help level the playing field. Our goal is that AI will be a catalyst in creating transparency in the public policy process, and get people to access the information that they need, when they need, without having to be policy experts themselves.”

Learn more about Plural