Founder of Citizen Lab shares her business advice


Aline Muylaert, co-founder of Citizen Lab, often determines the success or failure of a business based on the speed with which it can deliver key products to its customers. She spoke to BBC News as part of our Business Advice Series CEO Secret.

“The most important strength in building a business is speed,” says 27-year-old Muylaert, who speaks from the Citizen Lab headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

“Speed ​​is more important than perfection.”

CitizenLab is a digital platform primarily used by local governments to engage with people online and make informed decisions.

This allows voters to participate in online discussions and comment on policy ideas and budget decisions. Users can help develop policies, such as providing bike lanes or outdoor space for children.

Citizen Lab platform

The platform can be used for voting and research as well as live discussions

Some public agencies also use this platform to connect with grassroots members such as INJUV, the National Youth Institute in Sport England and Chile.

This technology is used by more than 300 municipalities in cities such as Vancouver, Seattle, Utrecht and London, and is integrated into existing government websites.

The platform has proven to be particularly attractive because it is easier to reach a wider audience than traditional face-to-face approaches such as town hall discussions and paper surveys, Muylaert said. I will.

Instead of demographics of “middle-aged, well-educated white men” who can traditionally dominate the agenda of local governments, clients can also reach a much younger audience-they The majority of users are under the age of 45.

“But the real challenge from an inclusion perspective isn’t really age,” says Muylaert. [people from] People with low socio-economic background and facing language barriers. “

The company was founded in 2015 by Muylaert and two fellow students while studying at Solvay Business School in Brussels.

“The pandemic and its response meant that the government began to play a bigger role in people’s lives, so we found that people were more active in policymaking,” Muylaert explained. To do. The business has grown from three clients in 2016 to over 380 clients in 2021.

Office with mask

Citizen Lab currently has 50 employees, one-third of whom work remotely

The pandemic was a “roller coaster ride” for startups, but with a focus on speed, she added, the company grew rapidly from the beginning.

“We built an MVP [Minimum Viable Product] In less than three months, it’s really fast, “she says.

“I think you need to build fast, fail fast, and learn from it.”

According to Muylaert, this philosophy helps to attract more customers.

She believes in letting clients recognize that you are a major innovator in your sector. “It gives you an edge.

The world of tech companies is still dominated by men, and many other female guests of CEO Secret share their experiences of sexism while trying to grow their tech business.

But Muylaert says this wasn’t a problem for her. “I have always felt supported by male co-founders and male investors.”

Aline Muylaert

Muylaert founded the company with two male co-founders while in college.

It helps the government technology sector and the public sector already have many women working within them, she adds. The issue of greater diversity creates fair opportunities for people of color and those with unfavorable social backgrounds, she says.

“The fact that I am a woman gives me a stage, which actually opened up many opportunities for me.

“I believe that anyone can be a feminist, so I need to find someone to work with who believes in it.”

YYou can follow CEO Secret Series producer Dougal on Twitter. @dougalshawbbc



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