Editor’s Note: this interview took place on 4/5/22, with the CEO of Public Sq. (pronounced public square, not, as your correspondent thought, public-S-Q.) you can learn more about Public Sq. here. The Horn’s previous article about Public Sq. Can be found here.
Jackson: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Michael: Yeah, I’d love to. My name is Michael Seifert, and I’m the CEO at Public Sq.
Jackson: Could you tell us a little bit more about your background?
Michael: Yeah, thanks for asking. I’m a passionate believer in local communities thriving and everything I’ve done in my career has been built around helping people find connections that are valuable, and prioritize their values in every interaction, whether with other people or with businesses. I’ve had a career in nonprofit management. I was a political science major in school, so I’ve been very familiar with how societies are structured. And I’ve always been enthralled with this concept of the public square. This company is a pretty natural byproduct of my background because the dream is, ultimately, that the public square would thrive again because local individuals are able to receive autonomy in their local communities to live their lives on the platform of their values. I’ve been able to experience that in my own career endeavors before this, and now to be able to duplicate that and communities around the country is a real special honor with this platform.
Jackson: What is Public Sq?
Michael: We are an app and a website that is focused on connecting what we call “freedom loving Americans” in their local communities. We connect them with two, really three, things: first, like-minded communities in their local area. We give them an ability to connect with those around them who share their values, and a sense of a free environment. The second thing that we connect these freedom-loving Americans with is reliable information about their local communities. The final thing is the most important thing that we do, we connect them with the businesses that share their values. These are conservative, patriotic, freedom-loving businesses that have indicated that they agree with a set of values. And we basically expose them, whether that’s coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, electricians, or plumbers, to this group of consumers that are ideologically aligned and ready to vote with their dollars.
Jackson: What sort of values do they have to accept?
Michael: We love the United States, we believe it’s a net positive to the world at large and worth protecting, we believe fundamentally, in the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Of course, we cannot pick and choose with the constitution. We agree with the amendments, and we believe especially in the First Amendment, that it is vital to protect freedom of expression and freedom of commerce. We believe that people are people, we see them for the content of their character, not for their skin color, not for their gender. We do not believe in an economy based on skin color. We believe in the family unit, the protection of the unborn. And we believe in a free market system of economics that prioritizes the voluntary exchange of goods between the consumers and the businesses they patronize free from as much government intervention as possible. We do not agree with the government saying some businesses are essential and others aren’t. Finally, we believe in medical freedom for everyone. So the businesses on our app, you’ll never be asked for a vaccine card or to wear a mask. These are the businesses that took a stand and showcased that they were willing to prioritize the individual rights of every single person.
Jackson: You talked about connecting people with accurate and reliable information, how exactly do you go about doing that?
Michael: We actually connect them with what’s happening in their local communities, and we just give them the data. We don’t tell them our thoughts on it. We give users the ability to see who’s on your city council, who’s on your school boards, and how do they lean politically? When are they up for reelection? How do you contact them and hold them accountable? Then we have a comment field under each of those politicians so that users can actually share their thoughts about these elected officials, what they’ve done for the community, whether or not they liked them, whether or not they’re standing for freedom or opposed to it. So we allow for the users to make these communities what they’d like them to be, we just provide the data for them to use as an ability to launch into talking about it.
Jackson: That’s great. So you essentially have almost a database of local politicians, which people can look at all in one place?
Michael: Yep, we’re actually the largest compilation of school board data in the United States.
Jackson: Well, congrats. So why don’t you tell us a bit more about the Public Sq. story— What inspired you to start it?
Michael: Man, we’ve seen over the last few years that there’s this real need for a parallel economy to emerge. We’ve seen the tolls of woke corporatism over the past few years with companies like Starbucks matching employee contributions to Planned Parenthood, we’ve seen big banks like Chase and Bank of America actually freeze the accounts of notable conservatives. We have seen local coffee shops decide to not serve police officers in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We’ve seen mega corporations committed to defunding the police like Seventh Generation, which is the largest household cleaning product company in the country. We keep seeing these examples. Disney is the most recent example, obviously, of a company that is weaponizing its market to advance progressive authoritarian values. The most notable example we’ve ever witnessed during the COVID season was some businesses deciding to discriminate against people. We saw some businesses decide to side with progressive authoritarianism, at the expense of their consumers. We saw other businesses that were willing to take a stand for freedom against government overreach and stand for the rights of their consumers. During COVID this was all really blown up. A big spotlight was put on this problem, and it’s never been more clear than it is today that people need an alternate method of communication in their local country. They need to know who’s near them to lock arms with so that they can advance freedom in their local public square. And they need an economy that will serve their traditional values. If you love this country, if you love freedom, if you believe a man is a man and a woman is a woman, you need to have an economy where you know, with a blessed assurance, that you are not spending money at companies that hate you. And so we really dreamed up public square as the solution to that problem, that people would feel like we’ve got an economy and a community that actually works for us and our values, and that we don’t have to be pushed into a corner supporting things we don’t support just because we believe there’s no other option.
Jackson: When did y’all get started, and what has your growth been looking like? What states can users access you guys?
Michael: Yeah, great question. So we launched the app in a limited release fashion on October 1st in San Diego County. We spread out to the rest of the California State at the end of November. And then we began our national expansion in March. So we are currently in 11 states, we’re in California, and in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Tennessee. It’s been a really amazing journey. We are witnessing the growth take place over the entire nation. We’re launching our next few states in the coming weeks, we’re experiencing a 70% growth rate month over month for end-users and a 94% growth rate for businesses. We’ve got over 5,000 businesses on the app today. And we’re just seeing tremendous success, marked by the fact that people are seeing their lives change on the local level, which is the greatest benefit of all this.
Jackson: Great to hear. And I can tell how much you’ve grown by how when I wrote the first story on y’all, it was “over 4,000 businesses,” and now you have got to “over 5,000.” It’s a 25% growth rate since I wrote the first story! What does the future of Public Sq. look like? Where are y’all hoping to be in a year from now? What about five years from now?
Michael: We are, in a year from now, planning to seriously impact the marketplace in the United States. Freedom will be brought into the mainstream on the local level because small businesses are equipped with consumers that will prioritize them with their dollars because they know that there’s values alignment, and we become a household name. That’s a year from now, five years from now we’re in multiple countries, we’re actually in Western, English speaking countries. We are in Canada, Australia, and England. We’re prioritizing the entirety of the UK and a few other European countries as well because the United States is not the only nation that needs this. So just like we are connecting freedom-loving Americans here, we’ll also be connecting freedom-loving Canadians in their country. And so we will really see a worldwide impact with this. But it all starts at the local level. So our dream is that five years from now, the world would begin to change from a marketplace and a connection standpoint because 200,000 local communities changed first because we ultimately believe before you change your country, you’ve got to change your state before you change your state, you’ve got to change your county, for you change your county, you’ve got to change your city before you change your city, you’ve got to change your own home. And so that’s the heartbeat of what we do. And we just are excited that it continues spreading out until it envelops the entire economy. The final thing I’ll mention, Jackson, is that we really believe in a world in which Starbucks and Disney and these different corporations that have been in bed with big government, that these corporations would actually feel the pain of 5 million consumers that are Public Sq. members finding better, values-aligned, local options. In turn, Starbucks and these mega-corporations will hopefully say, “You know what, we overplayed our hand. We’re sorry, we’re gonna back down. We’re gonna stop donating to Planned Parenthood. We’re gonna stop weaponizing our values against conservatives, we realize that the silent majority is real, and we are now going to recognize that there’s a better way to do business than weaponizing our values and aesthetically against theirs.” I think that’s going to be a really exciting turning point in our country.
Jackson: Have you gotten any sort of pushback from the left about Public Sq.?
Michael: Oh, of course. It’s funny, actually, we were written up on the front page of the San Diego Union Tribune, which is one of the largest papers in the country— owned by the same guy that owns the LA Times. The San Diego Union Tribune called us “a threat to public health.” That’s a direct quote, he was stating this in reference to a job board that we released on the app where one of the qualifications of the job board is that you could not post a job position, as an employer, unless you refuse to ask about vaccine status and you wouldn’t make the workers wear a mask. And so what ended up happening is that the newspaper wrote this negative story about us intending to blast us and the very opposite happened. We actually had 20 businesses just in the next hour, or come to us and say I want to be a part of the platform, just in San Diego alone. So we’re seeing that, of course, there’s pushback, anytime you’re standing for something, you can expect to see that pushback. But what’s really wonderful is that the benefit to the app and the community that’s being built is so far exceeding the criticisms that it’s like, we don’t even recognize it anymore. That’s been a fun movement to create, one just impenetrable to criticism.
Jackson: It’s great to hear that you’re doing so well and that the attempts to smear you backfired. So what advice would you give to readers who are considering starting their own businesses or startups?
Michael: Take the leap of faith, just do it, you will always have a million reasons not to, and very few reasons to do it. But if you believe in the reasons to do it, to jump out and take that risk, if you believe in those strong enough, then seriously, nothing can stop you. The business owners I know that have been successful, have been because they’re the most resilient. It’s not like they didn’t have reasons to say no, they had plenty. And it’s not like they didn’t have roadblocks along the way, they certainly have. But we’re resilient. we’re unwilling to accept failure. And we’re going to do whatever it takes to see this nation transform with our product. So for us, you know, I think that the biggest lesson from our story has been to just take the leap of faith and look past the reasons not to do it. And then once you’re headstrong, be headstrong, be singularly focused, cast your eyes upon your ultimate vision, hold fast to that mission, and then hold loose to the strategy, be willing to be flexible, allow for your stretch strategy to pivot as long as you keep that vision at the very forefront. You’ll be amazed at what can happen as you just continue that dedicated push forward.
Jackson: Great, so in a similar vein, what advice would you give to young conservatives, to conservatives in college or who just recently got out of college, and who are struggling in a world that often doesn’t agree with their values?
Michael: Great question— capitalize on the moment we’re in. I mean, I think one thing that’s really helped us from a business standpoint is that you know, I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a few years in this parallel economy. And I’ve really believed that whoever can figure out how to capitalize on these two countries that are being created here, these two economies, whoever can figure out how to capitalize on that is really going to not only feel fulfilled because they’re doing a service to a movement of people that numbers 10s of millions. But they’ll also feel lucrative in their pursuits because they’re capitalizing on a market that’s largely been disenfranchised. And so I think if you’re graduating college, I’d get your ideas churning, I would get your mind churning, I would set aside 15 minutes of creative time every day, just to think, and I would be in tune with what’s happening culturally, right now, at this moment, some of the best ideas that we will see for the next 100 years, I really believe are being formed. And it takes each and every one of us just saying, Okay, let’s assess the problems, there’s a lot of them. But in every problem, there’s also a solution. If you’re solution-oriented, you believe that, so figure out which problem you’re most drawn to provide a solution for it. And you’ll be amazed at the emotional poll on the consumer side to actually go see whatever you build as a great tool in their tool belt for fighting back against what’s happening. So I think the best thing we can do is don’t be victims, be activists, be pursuing solutions, be positive, optimistic, creating a better future, and you’ll be amazed at the people that are drawn to what you build.
Jackson: Yeah, that’s a concept I want to ask you a bit more about that. You just mentioned the idea of the “parallel economy” or “these divergent two economies.” Do you mind explaining your thoughts about that? And then explaining it to readers who might not be super familiar with the idea?
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. I think I mentioned this earlier, but there’s this concept called woke corporatism. It’s basically that there are these mega-corporations that have embraced initiatives like diversity, equity, and inclusion, or environmental, social, and governance, and they basically have it written into their bylaws as a company that they’re going to prioritize certain progressive authoritarian values. And then what they do is they use advertising tactics to weaponize those values against anyone that disagrees, often to the advancement of big progressive government. So as we’ve seen that happens among some of our largest corporations in the world, like Nike, Starbucks, the big banks, Seventh Generation, Lowe’s, etcetera. We are also seeing 10s of millions of American consumers that say, “I want no part in that.” You can’t even watch the Superbowl anymore without being virtue signaled to on every other commercial. And so you’re seeing 10s of millions of Americans that are saying I want no part. I want an economy that actually won’t preach to me about how there aren’t two genders, but instead will embrace the truth and will sell me quality products. And I want to know they’re supporting our nation and not allowing their manufacturing, their business, to just be offshored to countries that hate us. So there are these two worlds: one that’s prioritizing progressive woke corporatism; and one that is supporting traditional American values. Those consumers need to know that there are companies that they can support that will not donate time, money, or resources antagonistically against their values. That parallel economy is emerging right now in a way that we’ve never seen before. You’ll also hear it put as the “alternate economy” or the “alternative economy,” because there are these companies that are arising that are saying “we don’t want any part of that, we want this instead.” We can be proud of our products and the values that we hold. The last example I’ll give you is the Daily Wire. The Daily Wire has been fantastic. Disney last week came out and said that they’re removing all references to gender in their parks. They are prioritizing gender fluidity, and they’re trying to meet quotas of certain genders and sexualities that they have represented in their films. Daily Wire, comes out and announces that over the next two years, they are giving $100 million towards developing children’s content because “the magic has left the kingdom.” They said that in reference to Disney, I think that’s a prime example of Disney’s choosing one way this parallel economy is choosing a different way. And for us, we really get to have a pretty blessed seat at the table because we have now the largest collection of patriotic businesses in the United States. And so we’re able to broker the transactions of that parallel economy in a really unique way.
Jackson: It’s great to hear how y’all are doing really great work. Do you have any closing remarks for our readers?
Michael: I would just say, if you are someone who loves freedom, we’d love for you to join us, the best thing that you can do right now is live out your life on the platform of your values, get involved, and spend money towards the things you believe in, and leave the systems that actually stand directly opposed to your values, stop giving money to people that hate you. Give it to people that will love and honor your values and the United States as a whole instead, and we will begin to see our country change in a powerful way. The second thing I would say is start local. Before you worry about who’s the president, make sure that you know who’s on your city councils on school boards and make sure that you’re directing those local offices in the favor of your values, the best way that you can change the country is by changing your own backyard, and then working outwards and public squares here to help you do both those things.
Jackson: How can our readers get on Public Sq?
Michael: So you can download our app on iOS or Android. So we’re on the App Store or Google Play as Public Sq. If you type in Public Sq., we will be the first thing that shows up. That’s the best way to begin the experience. Or you can use us, if you’d prefer a website format, at www.publicsq.com.
Jackson: How can businesses get on Public Sq.?
Michael: You can either join as a user and then add your business in the marketplace. Or you can head to https://publicsq.com/business. You can click the “Join the marketplace” button right at the top and you can begin your journey there. It’s all free for the user, and it’s free for the business to join as well.
Jackson: It was a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for talking to us.
Michael: I really appreciate it, Jackson.