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Seattle faces a housing affordability crisis as residents debate the best ways to deal with growth. (Harold Hollingsworth Photo via Flickr)

Seattle is grappling with an unprecedented affordability problem, propelled largely by the tech effect. The industry is booming and hundreds of high-paid workers are migrating to the area, driving up the cost of living and housing. Chief Strategy Officer Ethan Schaffer. ( Photo)

But many members of the tech industry, big and small, recognize their role in the problem and are looking for solutions. Take, a new discussion platform that’s helping the City of Seattle engage in a more productive conversation around housing affordability.

The site allows members of a community to share opinions based on a sliding scale with custom endpoints, like “agree” or “disagree.” In Seattle, is collecting perspectives from residents on Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).

“With over 8000 opinions shared, we haven’t had a single personal attack or comment that warranted removal,” said’s Chief Strategy Officer Ethan Schaffer of the Seattle partnership. “It turns out that civil dialog is a design challenge.”

An example of a question with opinions. was founded in early 2016 by Michael Toomim and Travis Kriplean, two researchers from the University of Washington with a passion for civic engagement.

Kriplean, who serves as CEO, studied online engagement and communication. He observed how difficult it can be to have productive conversations about issues online.’s goal is to solve that pain point.

The City of Seattle is’s main customer but the startup is planning to expand to other municipalities and beyond the public sector.

“Longer-term, we are working on new version of the software altogether that would make this much more of a robust customer engagement platform as well,” said Schaffer. “It’ll start getting more into the private sector and business customers to help businesses engage their customers.” is a founder-funded, bootstrapped business. The startup plans to raise its first external round starting in early 2017. makes money by charging per opinion shared on the platform, a similar model to cost-per-click advertising.

But beyond the financials, is a passion project for its four-person team.

“For all of us, we’re all civic-minded so helping cities tackle big problems like affordability is really fun and exciting,” said Schaffer.

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