Official communications – 15 May 2019

CitizenLab has just raised 2 million euros to accelerate the international roll-out of its citizen participation platform. These new funds will fuel the company’s international ambitions.

CitizenLab’s aim is to help governments improve the efficiency and legitimacy of their decision-making by developing citizen participation. Since it was launched in 2015, the company has worked with over 100 cities and municipalities from Brussels to Vancouver.

The investment round was led by Inventures, an impact VC fund. Cipal Schaubroeck, a Flemish IT company that aims to lead the way in digital transformation for governments, has also decided to invest in CitizenLab. The Brussels investment fund finance.brussels and the bank ING also made their contribution by means of a loan.

CitizenLab’s founders (from left to right): Koen Gremmelprez, Aline Muylaert, Wietse Van Ransbeeck

Impact first

“As social entrepreneurs, we look not only at our financial growth, but at least as much at the social impact,” says Wietse Van Ransbeeck, CEO of CitizenLab. “We are therefore very pleased with the complementarity of our investors. Inventures will guide us in maximizing our social impact, and we see many possible synergies with Cipal Schaubroeck.”

CitizenLab will be measuring its impact using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of metrics developed by the United Nations. “The founders have a clear vision on how to make public decision-making more participatory and inclusive. The impact potential of CitizenLab is enormous,” says Olivier de Duve (CEO of Inventures).

Digital democracy

The platform features a wide-ranging set of participatory tools allowing cities and municipalities to easily set up consultation processes. Citizens can make their voices heard by submitting and discussing ideas, by voting on budgets, or by starting their own initiatives to help determine the political agenda.

One of the main areas for investment will be Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. CitizenLab has been developing artificial intelligence to help governments turn unstructured citizen input into actionable insights. This feature then enables policymakers to make better-informed decisions by carefully mapping out the various opinions on local issues.

CitizenLab also plans to invest in the development of new features to inform citizens about local politics. Improving integrations with governments’ workflows will make it easier for citizens’ ideas to reach the mayor’s office, and make decision-making processes more transparent for citizens.

International ambitions

Today, the majority of CitizenLab’s customers come from Belgium, but the Brussels-based company is also active in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Chile, among others. The financial injection will be used to accelerate the expansion in these international markets. By the end of next year, CitizenLab is aiming to implement its platform in as many as 300 cities and municipalities.

Despite its international ambitions, CitizenLab remains firmly rooted in Brussels. “Brussels is not only the political capital of Europe, but it’s also a place for constant political innovation. It is rapidly becoming a hub for the GovTech industry, and we’re here to support this growth by investing in sector leaders like CitizenLab”, said Pierre Hermant, CEO of finance.brussels.

The company currently has 15 employees and plans to double in size by the end of the year. The company is currently recruiting for international positions but also for vital functions such as customer support and development.

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