Franck Nouyrigat on the Future of Democracy and Decentralized ElectionsJan 11, 2021
Franck Nouyrigat literally used to spend his weekends helping startups launch. The non-profit he helped found more than a decade ago -- Startup Weekend -- eventually established a presence in more countries than Starbucks and helped build startup communities over weekend-long events.
Now Franck has bottled up that entrepreneurial spirit and know-how to focus on arguably the bigger project of designing the future of democracy with his Electis platform for experimenting with election formats.
In the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast -- aired shortly after U.S. democracy faced a riot in its Congress building by citizens who falsely believed the election was stolen, Franck said his open-source platform is helping people to reimagine how voting can be trusted. While Electis provides a grassroot community of researchers, public officials and cryptographers the freedom to experiment in as many ways as they can conceive of holding elections, Franck sees real value in considering decentralized models.
"You could have the best system in the world but if that is very centralized it will lead to people doubting the system," he said. "Even if you tell me it's impossible to corrupt, there is always that risk."
Instead, inspired by blockchain technology's decentralization, Franck says it's important to consider the psychological aspect as much as the technical in recognizing what he calls "behavioural democracy" where trust in systems is key.
"You don't actually need to be centralized really. It's not something you technically need," he said, adding that early experiments with decentralization are focusing on ballots and results.
Messing with People's Lives?
Franck's latest company is about a year old and already has the participation of 26 universities. But the expert in building startups acknowledges entrepreneurship is not for everyone -- even if podcast host Alex Kehaya launched his first company about five years ago thanks to Franck's Startup Weekend.
"I always wonder: did I really help people or did I mess with people's lives because being an entrepreneurship is obviously not easy," Franck said.
Entrepreneurs who build companies aren't always given enough credit for their achievements because the absolute numbers, in terms of items such as revenue, are often far smaller than those of large corporations, he said. Still he predicted that there will be a practice of "recycling" entrepreneurs as the mainstay of company management in the future.
You can hear more of Franck's perspective on elections, decentralization and entrepreneurship by following us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.