Staff Spotlight: Hao Su

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Hao Su:

Hao Su     Hao Su

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?

A: I’m excited to empower people who want to make change in addition to showing people that there is change to be made. I would love to start a real life debate with a friend over an opinion or belief of theirs that I learned about through Brigade.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?

A: As an engineer, I collaborate with our product managers to help shape how we execute the company’s mission and vision. It’s empowering that our team feels real ownership of the product we’re building (and the code we’re writing) and it’s pushed me to produce better work.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I think either a firefighter or a garbage collector. Apparently I really liked the trucks.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?

A: Probably how to establish and then slowly push my limits: Knowing exactly how much work I can take on and complete it well versus taking on too much and finishing none. But it’s always fun to take on a little more than expected.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?

A: Back in college we had a student run, student designed, and student modeled fashion show called Lunar Gala. I actually designed and fabricated 20 pieces for this. I wouldn’t consider any of my “talents” as hidden.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I’ve played competitive ultimate frisbee for the past 10 years. I boulder, powerlift, and just started cycling. I’ve started learning to play the piano again. I see a lot live music, currently mostly techno and house shows with the occasional popular music festival.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

A: My backpack. It basically carries my life. That and new music. I’m always searching for new stuff to listen to.

Want to work with Hao and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Video: Brigade at State of the Valley 2015

Last week, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan facilitated a conversation among startup executives at the annual State of the Valley conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The session, titled “New Realities Facing Silicon Valley Startups,” focused on some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for new entrants to old markets. Featured speakers included Scanadu Co-Founder Sam De Brouwer (health); Veronica Juarez, Director of Government Relations at Lyft (transportation); Loyal 3 Chief Legal Officer Jeff Modisett (finance); Minerva Project CEO Ben Nelson (education); and Jitendra Kavathekar, Managing Director, Accenture Open Innovation.
You can watch the video above.

Welcome Jenn, Chris & Jan Paul

Our Brigade family keeps growing and we’re excited to welcome three new people to the team! Say hello to Jenn, Chris and Jan Paul!

Jenn Julian: Creative Director

JennJulianJenn is excited to join Brigade’s design team. With a background in branding and print design, she is well-versed in crafting each phase of a product’s journey. Most recently, she worked as the lead designer at Matter, an app designed to anonymously promote empathy within communities. Previously, she worked with major companies in the Bay Area and in Europe to help tell their stories and articulate their vision from initial branding to nuanced product interaction and design. Jenn holds a BFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art and her work has been featured in several publications. She enjoys riding her bicycle, brewing tea and taking photographs.

Chris Bisignani: Software Engineer

ChrisBChris joins Brigade’s engineering team after working for several Bay Area startups in the finance, e-commerce and business intelligence sectors where he used Rails, Java and various Javascript frameworks (Backbone, Ember and now React!). Chris graduated from MIT in 2007 with a B.A. in math and computer science and has always been interested in the mathematical properties of programs as well as the practical aspects of programming and coding. He spent the year after college working in the research lab of a large security company in Japan where he created building information management (BIM) plugins and tools. In his spare time, Chris plays chess (speed and slow), reads non-fiction and fiction/graphic novels and does aerial acrobatics. He also writes non-fiction and loves live music. By his own admission, Chris has “way too many interests and never enough time.” On Twitter: @chris_bisignani

Jan Paul Posma: Software Engineer

21JP hails from The Netherlands and comes to Brigade from Versal where he helped build an education publishing platform. Before that, he worked at Factlink and the Wikimedia Foundation. JP studied computer science at the University of Groningen (his home city) and has an M.A. from Oxford, St. Hugh’s College. He participated in “Apps Voor Democratie,” the first national contest aimed at creating new applications with open data from the Dutch government and volunteered for several years at a youth center teaching children how to program their own electronics. In his spare time, JP is working to make coding easier by visualizing program execution — a project he started for his master’s thesis in conjunction with a coding course for children. He also plays the piano, solves Rubik’s cubes (official record: 57.20 seconds) and founded an open-source laser tag system. On Twitter: @JanPaul123

Want to work with Jenn, Chris, Jan Paul and the rest of the Brigade team to help put people back at the center of our democracy? We’re hiring!


Engineering Spotlight: The Great Migration


Last fall, a few members of our operations team made a routine visit to the data center in South San Francisco where servers powering were housed. In the hallway, they ran into a network engineer who informed them that the facility was unable to renew its lease so all the tenants would have to vacate by the end of 2014.

This meant we had a very limited amount of time to move a site with more than 180 million registered accounts (and all the data that comes with it) to a new location at the same time we were building out the infrastructure for Brigade, which acquired Causes earlier that year. Panic was not a practical option, so our team came up with a plan and executed it flawlessly.

Within about three weeks, Causes was running entirely within Rackspace’s cloud-based platform, requiring less than two hours of accumulated downtime visible to users over the transition period. As an added bonus, the reduced machine footprint meant we could achieve substantial savings (on the order of 40 percent).

Want to know how we did it? Read the full Brigade Engineering Blog post by Shane da Silva here.

UC Davis Unveils Youth Vote Report at Brigade

In October, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan wrote in the Huffington Post about the problem with young Californians deciding not to vote, and the negative impact that could have on the future of the state. In his column, he highlighted the important work of the nonpartisan California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis. Yesterday, we welcomed CCEP at Brigade headquarters for the public release of a new report: “California’s New Political Realities: The Impact of the Youth Vote on Our Electoral Landscape.”

DSC_7136 IMG_0090

Some highlights of CCEP Director Mindy Romero’s research included:

  • Only 8.2% of eligible California youth turned out to vote in the November 2014 general election.
  • Youth were only 3.9% of all voters in this election.
  • A total of 36% of California youth registered No Party Preference (NPP) – nearly the same percentage as those who registered Democratic.
  • For the first time in a statewide election, the percentage of California youth who registered Republican fell below 20%.
  • Over the next 20 years, the youth share of the California vote is projected to steadily decrease.
  • Increasing low youth voter turnout is a key step to increasing future turnout for California, as a whole.


As part of the event, Matt led a discussion among a panel of young people who discussed opportunities and barriers to civic engagement they’ve experienced in their own lives. Irvis Orozco, a recent UC Davis graduate, shared his stories working on immigration reform efforts at the state and national level; UC Davis student Jessica Jones talked about how she got involved in environmental and conservation efforts in Sonoma County; and Julian Andreotti, a senior at San Francisco’s John O’Connell High School, discussed what motivated him to volunteer for a recent state political campaign and how participating in his class’s Generation Citizen “action civics” project resulted in the creation of O’Connell’s first-ever Honor Roll program.

Read the full CCEP policy brief here
Learn more about CCEP here
Learn more about Generation Citizen here

Staff Spotlight: Henric Trotzig

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Henric Trotzig:

Henric     Henric

Q: What excites you about working with Brigade?
A: I enjoy building tools, and I love it when people find those tools useful. As a contractor at Brigade, I’m helping to build impactful tools that can turn any person with access to the Internet into a powerful voice in society. These people can make real change happen.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I’m a contractor working with Brigade’s Web team. That team focuses on the user interface and making our website look and behave the best possible way. I’ve always liked the web, and I’ve been doing web programming since 1995. My favorite part of the job is building something for the long term. I’m happy when we start something new, but I take pride in constructing and maintaining a solid, sustainable foundation.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a professional soccer player. My dad was a soccer coach and I had a talent for sports. I never liked the bro mentality that comes with some sports, so after giving it all I had until I was about 20, I quit.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: Moving to San Francisco from Sweden two years ago was not only a boost for my own professional development, it introduced me to all the kind, smart and helpful people that I now call colleagues and friends.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: I know a lot of songs by Will Smith and I’ve never lost a game of ping-pong in the office (I actually have, but I’m hoping my coworkers forget those few occasions).

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like cooking. Nothing fancy, I like to keep things simple. I’m still looking to create the perfect pizza. I’m close, but not quite there yet.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: Apart from the obvious (family, oxygen, Coca Cola Zero), I would have to say tacos.

Want to help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Welcome Gitesh, Jeff, Alissa, Stephanie & Ben!

We’re ringing in the New Year with five awesome new additions to the Brigade team!

Gitesh Gohel: Director, Product Management

GiteshGitesh joined us just before the winter holidays after spending several years as a product manager at the microblogging platform Tumblr where he specialized in growth, search and discovery. Before that, he worked for the social network Jumo and served on the online organizing team for President Obama’s 2008 campaign. Earlier, Gitesh interned for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and got his first campaign experience during John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. Although he was born and raised in the U.K., Gitesh has always been obsessed with American politics and is excited to pair that passion with his experience creating fun and engaging consumer technologies. Gitesh studied political science at Brunel University and has a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University. In his free time, the recent San Francisco transplant enjoys making wood furniture, playing every song by The Smiths on his guitar, and spending time with his dog, who happens to be an Internet celebrity. On Twitter: @GiteshG

Jeff Ammons: Director, Engineering

JeffJeff comes to the Bay Area from Boulder, Colorado where he served as Director of Product at Simple Energy, an energy efficiency software company. Before that, he co-founded his own B2B technology firm and was Chief Technology Officer at a venture-backed education startup called Mahalo. Jeff attended the University of Puget Sound on a singing scholarship where he majored in Business & Leadership and minored in Computer Science. He still performs in musicals and operas (most recently as Freddy in “My Fair Lady”) and until his westward move, was Board Chair for the Boulder Opera. Other fun facts: Jeff has been learning Argentine Tango for three years and he speaks Thai, German, Spanish, and Japanese with largely varying degrees of quality. On Twitter: @JeffAmmons

Alissa Briggs: Director, User Experience

AlissaAlissa brings a strategic approach to crafting impactful and evocative user experiences, having previously led the design of top-rated, multimillion dollar web and mobile apps at Intuit. She’s spoken at SXSW, UXPA, and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and holds advanced degrees in Human-Computer Interaction and Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to design, Alissa is passionate about women in STEM & UX leadership and mentorship initiatives. In her free time, you can find her designing wearable electronics, rock-climbing, playing ultimate frisbee, scuba-diving and practicing yoga. Alissa, who is new to San Francisco and recently spent six weeks in Africa and South America, is looking forward to exploring her new city (and she’s open to recommendations about what to see and do). On Twitter: @AlissaDesigns

Stephanie Bian: Software Engineer

StephStephanie joins Brigade from Twitter where she was a software engineer on the Trends team. In that role, she helped develop infrastructure and improve trend data quality for the popular social network. Before her tenure at Twitter, the MIT Computer Engineering graduate had internships at online real estate database, where she designed and implemented a property recommendation system, and at, where she worked on programmatically identifying refinements for products on the shopping site. When she’s not coding, Stephanie spends her time doing hip-hop dance, playing the cello, neglecting houseplants, and paying too much attention to her cat, Meesha. On Twitter: @StephBian

Ben Woosley: Software Engineer

BenBen has been pondering politics since reading John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Civil Government” in his high school government class and was branded a “Woosley-crat” for his charming if sometimes unorthodox perspectives. He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas and worked in web development toward structural change in the food system, legal system, and political system. Ben is an open source contributor, including to the Ruby on Rails project, and he’s passionate about helping foster a society in which people are freer, communities closer, society more abundant and negative externalities fewer. In the run-up to the 2012 elections, he built a voter information site called to make it easier for people to support what they believe in. In his free time, Ben goes rock climbing, scuba-diving and supports the creation of new communal housing institutions in San Francisco. On Twitter: @Empact

Want to work with Gitesh, Jeff, Alissa, Stephanie, Ben and the rest of the Brigade team to help put people back at the center of our democracy? We’re hiring!