Tim Hwang transitioned from a politician at the age of 17 to a successful CEO of a startup at 27. So when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban answered Hwang's cold email asking for him to invest in his project, he could add that to his already long list of achievements.
Cuban, after asking Hwang a few questions, was ready to invest in his budding software startup, FiscalNote.
Hwang co-founded FiscalNote at 21 years old as he finished up his degree at Princeton University. He was accepted to Harvard Business School and was planning to go into the workforce after that, but started the business with some friends instead.
They came up with the idea of FiscalNote after asking themselves what problems in the world they could help solve.
"One of the biggest challenges that I felt was that the intersection between the public sector and the private sector -- so what the government was doing and how it impacts businesses and the world -- was incredibly broken," Hwang told FOX Business.
They determined that when Congress tries to pass a bill or a regulatory agency tries to enact a new rule, many people don't realize how it actually impacts them personally. So they went to Silicon Valley, bootstrapped some money together and started trying to figure out how they could change that.
"Information is power, and nowhere is that more evident than in D.C. and policies. I saw it as a unique application of technology and information."
"We got to this next stage where we built the search engine where we're able to look up all the laws across the U.S. in real-time as they were changing, and we found a business model where people were willing to pay for that information," Hwang said.
But what is a startup without capital? Next, they started trying to raise funds from inside a room they shared at a Motel 6, as they couldn't afford an apartment at the time.
"I was sitting back in our Motel 6 room, and we were watching 'Shark Tank,'" Hwang said. "And I turned to one of my co-founders and I said, 'Wow, wouldn't it be cool if Mark Cuban invests in our company?'"
Hwang searched online for Cuban's email address and found it. He went out on a limb to try to get Cuban on board.
"I said, 'Mark, working on this idea, here's our backgrounds, here's how far we've come,'" Hwang said. "Forty-five minutes later, he shoots back an email, and he says 'I'm interested.' And so, I call up my co-founders and I say, 'Get out of dinner, come back to the hotel room. We have to start answering these questions that Mark shoots over in a quick succession."
Cuban said the ideas communicated to him by Hwang about melding together politics and technology piqued his interest.
"Information is power, and nowhere is that more evident than in D.C. and policies," Cuban told FOX Business. "I saw it as a unique application of technology and information."
I turned to one of my co-founders and I said, 'Wow, wouldn't it be cool if Mark Cuban invests in our company?'"
But having Cuban as an investor added a seriousness to their already labor-intensive work.
"I think that when Mark Cuban invested, we definitely felt like we needed to grow up as a business," Hwang said. "Once you start taking investor capital, you have the sense of responsibility, of taking on partners, using capital in the right way and really thinking about what the growth and the future trajectory the business looks like."
Hwang said that motivated them to continue to build a company they could be proud of and knew could succeed. And succeed they have.
FiscalNote gathers governmental documents, laws, regulations and sometimes even court cases from all over the world and digitizes them into a single technology platform so people can search through them and better understand what's going on.
He said FiscalNote remains focused on two goals: government transparency and helping facilitate the democratic process.
"We service over 5,000 organizations and all those organizations rely on our platforms to understand what's happening," Hwang said. "We want to make sure that, from an advantage perspective, that as many people participate in the political process as possible."
Hwang sees the company as being on the cutting edge of political technology, and Cuban agrees.
"It makes it more efficient," Cuban said. "It reduces the trial-and-error approach and allows it to become more probabilistic."
As FiscalNote continues to expand internationally, Hwang said he hopes the company will remain respectful to each country's individual cultural norms.