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FiscalNote Finalizing Acquisition of CQ Roll Call From The Economist Group

Washington-based company uses technology to analyze legislation worldwide

FiscalNote, a Washington-based startup that uses technology to track and analyze legislation around the world, is acquiring CQ Roll Call. (Photo by Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).
FiscalNote, a Washington-based startup that uses technology to track and analyze legislation around the world, is acquiring CQ Roll Call. (Photo by Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).

FiscalNote, a rapidly growing Washington-based company that uses technology to track and analyze legislation around the world, is finalizing acquisition of CQ Roll Call from The Economist Group. The deal was announced Wednesday.

CQ Roll Call, which represents two of the country’s oldest brands in nonpartisan political journalism, would become part of a five-year-old company with big-pocketed investors, a record of rapid growth and a goal of redefining the way that information is gathered and shared in Washington and other global capitals.

Representatives of both companies said it was an obvious match, combining FiscalNote’s cutting-edge technology with CQ Roll Call’s historic brands and ability to provide context and insight into the human experience in Washington. 

“We felt like we could really come in and create a great combination with our technology along with the existing components over at CQ Roll Call,”  said Tim Hwang, FiscalNote founder and CEO. 

CQ Roll Call President Paul McHale also described bringing the two companies together as a winning combination.

“The injection of technology and innovation into CQ Roll Call is the best way for CQ Roll Call to grow, McHale said.

In a note to his staff Wednesday, McHale told his staff that “we have excellent journalism, information and brands, and they have leading-edge technology to power the growth of the business.”

“What’s striking is how we complement each other so much,” he wrote.

The Economist Group would obtain an 18 percent equity stake in the company, making it the largest single shareholder of FiscalNote, according to a press release issued jointly. Chris Stibbs, CEO of The Economist Group, would join the FiscalNote board of directors. Hwang remains the largest individual shareholder and CEO of the company. Hwang and Stibbs declined to provide details about the price. Hwang said the deal should close before the end of the year.

“We have a very strong and robust business. Over the last few years, we have struggled to see how we could continue strong and robust growth,” Stibbs said.

FiscalNote complementary services and skills, combined with its rapid growth, “offers a compelling solution.”

This acquisition would anchor FiscalNote as one of the largest technology employers headquartered in Washington and a global provider of issues management solutions, the joint press release said.

FiscalNote uses computer programs to scrape and analyze legislative data to forecast what will happen in Congress and other government entities. It also uses its technology to help advocacy groups track information and communicate with government officials. The business began as a startup that aggregated legislative data from state governments and has expanded to offer similar services to global markets.

“I don’t think it is a secret that we have global ambitions,” Hwang said. “We want to connect the world to our governments.”

CQ Roll Call produces news, analysis and grass-roots advocacy resources for government and political professionals.

As much as computers can facilitate the gathering of information in vast and often untidy government networks, they cannot match the nuanced analysis that humans can provide, Hwang and Stibbs said.

“A computer can’t tell a narrative,” Hwang said. “It can’t dive deep into emotions. It can’t provide more context around data and information. I think that computers are very, very good at aggregating data. They are very, very good at finding patterns. But beyond that, there’s just not a lot of context that is being provided there. Particularly stories around human relationships, which to a large extant is the story of Washington.”

Combining CQ Roll Call’s editorial expertise with FiscalNote’s ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data, Stibbs said, “will enable you to build something that no one else has.”

The deal comes after a period of rapid fundraising and growth for FiscalNote. The company has raised more than $50 million – $12 million of which it collected this year — since it was founded in 2013 by Hwang and two childhood friends.

Its prominent early-stage investors include billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Jerry Yang/AME Cloud Ventures, Steve Case, Renren, First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, Green Visor Capital, MoneyToday, Visionnaire Ventures, Perle Ventures, NEA, and 645 Ventures.

Its core business has doubled every year since its launch, Stibbs said.

The FiscalNote executive board includes some of Washington’s heaviest hitters, including former Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Its client roster of over 200 includes firms like Toyota and Microsoft.

Its recent acquisitions include VoterVoice, a grass-roots advocacy tool, and Brussels-based Shungham, which monitors regulatory and legislative date in the European Union.

The company has offices in Washington, New York, Baton Rouge, Seoul, India, and Brussels. FiscalNote opened a new office on Pennsylvania Avenue this summer near the historic Warner Theatre.

The Economist Group bought CQ in 2009 and merged it with Roll Call, which it acquired in full in 1993. The staffs of the combined newsrooms contribute to each other’s publications.

CQ began as Congressional Quarterly in 1945 by Nelson Poynter, who believed Americans should readily understand the real-life implications of their government. CQ offers paid subscribers authoritative, nonpartisan and accurate congressional news and legislative tracking tools in more than 40 print and online products.

Roll Call delivers breaking congressional news and behind-the-scenes intelligence on the people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill in a print edition and online. It was founded in 1955 on a budget of $90 by a congressional staffer with a passion for journalism, Sid Yudain.

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