Tim Hwang '14, CEO and Co-Founder of late-stage start-up FiscalNote, shares his entrepreneurial story of growing FiscalNote with a few friends and a couple thousand dollars in a Silicon Valley Motel 6 into a global unicorn information services company that serves lawyers, lobbyists, and government officials across the world.
In 2013, information technology company FiscalNote was born out of the need for companies to better navigate how changes made by government bodies ripple down and impact their businesses. FiscalNote’s mission is to create the world’s most powerful platform that connects constituents across the world to their respective federal, state, and local government agencies by making data available at their disposal. By using artificial intelligence, FiscalNote is able to aggregate government filings and deliver personalized data to customers.
In FiscalNote’s early years, Tim Hwang and his Co-Founders Gerald Yao and Jonathen Chen -- two of his close friends from high school -- had a consistent intuition for the company vision. However, Hwang’s entrepreneurial path was one of many twists and turns as he trekked towards growth milestones with his team. Having officially founded the company during his junior year of college, he not only had to take on the rigor of Princeton academics, but he also had to balance the consuming responsibilities of leading and scaling a start-up. As a young entrepreneur and now seasoned founder, he reflects on the journey he has taken to grow FiscalNote to its success today.
"I remember we were idealists. We were all 20 or 21 years-old. I heard about unicorns in the news, and I thought that I could build one too. Then, I learned that when you actually invest yourself into founding a company, you realize it’s a barrage of existential questions around driving product strategy against competitors, raising capital, managing employees, making payroll, and so on," said Hwang. "It’s fun and rewarding to be your own boss, calling balls and strikes, but on the flipside, it’s a very long winding and challenging road. You need stamina as a founder, because the road is emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing."
We brought together D.C.’s top talent and barreled into the stale market with a more technologically-forward product. We introduced significant levels of automation and creative ways of thinking about analytics and product design, which effectively drove our growth. -Tim Hwang '14
From the moment he incorporated the FiscalNote website in his dorm room in First College (then called Wilson College) until now, FiscalNote has scaled from 0 to 500 people, raised more than $230 million in venture capital funding, and continues to aggressively gain traction abroad in Europe, Asia, and Australia with its diversified product line.
FiscalNote serves as an innovating force at the epicenter of Washington D.C.’s tech scene. Attributing FiscalNote’s rapid success to its technological-savvy team, Hwang says that the quality of FiscalNote’s products mirrors the quality of the people building them.
"There was no eureka moment that made users start adopting our product. All along, the impetus was our people. A software company needs engineers, product managers, product designers, enterprise sales people, and customer support," said Hwang. "We brought together D.C.’s top talent and barreled into the stale market with a more technologically-forward product. We introduced significant levels of automation and creative ways of thinking about analytics and product design, which effectively drove our growth."
In addition to his team, as a Princeton alum, Hwang is thankful for the wealth of resources that the alumni network has provided him to help grow his business. Chris Lu '88, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor and White House Cabinet Secretary to President Obama, currently serves as an executive for FiscalNote. Likewise, YS Chi '83, Hwang’s personal mentor out of college, also comes from the Princeton alumni network. Chi helped open up many ports in FiscalNote’s industry. He hopes to pay forward the support he has received from the institution.
As FiscalNote becomes increasingly relevant amidst the pandemic and recent political developments, citizens have begun holding their government organizations on Capitol Hill accountable.
"We’re living in a time when the level of intention for every single minute action of the federal government is at an all-time high, whether it's the day-to-day movements of the federal reserve, acts of Congress, economic stimulus on the healthcare front of the pandemic, or police reform," he said.
As for what’s in the company’s future, Tim Hwang is currently focusing on building FiscalNote from a late-stage growth tech company to a publicly traded business. Moving forward, he plans to continue evaluating best practices to streamline company operations and product roadmaps. Learn more about FiscalNote at fiscalnote.com.
Editor's note: Tonight live at 8:00pm ET is this month's Forward Fest, the monthly online event which is part of Princeton's A Year of Forward Thinking. The theme for Forward Fest this month is data science and artificial intelligence. You can watch Forward Fest at forwardthinking.princeton.edu/festival. No registration necessary.