I have so little time that I need to focus on my priorities, says Karel Janeček

Interview
All his projects end with the magic number, 21, whether it is electoral system D21 connected with Institute H21, startup incubator UP21, support of gymnastics (Sport 21), theoretical framework for discussion and research about values (Values 21), air simulators (Pilot 21) or CBD cosmetics (CB21 Pharma). However, the project closest to his heart is societal reform, which he wants to achieve through a new electoral system.

How do you feel about your startup incubator, UP21?

I am extremely satisfied with it. It is a well-set up company that has future. Besides, I am glad that we have such a successful startup as Shipvio.

Three years have passed since you founded UP21. Is there any startup that you have been following since then?

In the beginning, I used to follow Shipvio and the cricket bars startup SENS, but nowadays I do not follow individual projects anymore. 

Karel Janeček, mathematician, visionary and businessman

Why is that?

Because my primary area of interest is society, communication, consensus and political as well as societal reforms. I see electoral system D21 as a key tool for these changes. I spend the rest of my time on my two startups, CB21 Pharma, which produces CBD cosmetics called CannEff, and Pilot 21, which produces drones and flying cars. I am also keeping my eye on the already finished construction of a new top gymnastics hall for the Sports Club Hradčany in Prague under Sport 21.

How did you as a mathematician and investor get into societal reform?

I became interested in this topic through my Anticorruption Endowment. Even though fighting corruption, this cancer of society, is important, I realized that the root of the problem is not corruption itself, but what type of people get to power and manage our society. Corruption is then one of its consequences. Luckily this rotten political system can be significantly improved through change of our electoral system

Your method is rather unique. Can you describe it?

The key aspect of electoral system D21 is the so-called effect of more votes. Each voter has more votes than there are winning candidates, maximum one vote for each candidate. An extra option (which is, however, not a necessity) is a minus vote against someone. For example, in the case of parliamentary elections, an important aspect is two mandate districts where each voter has four votes and one minus vote.

Karel Janeček, mathematician, visionary and businessman

Why is it good to have more votes and one vote against?

Many people do not go to elections because the choice of candidates is bad and because they feel that by casting one vote, they cannot influence the final result. By having more votes, people will feel more motivated to go to vote because they will not have to vote for lesser evil, but they will have more options from which they can choose and they can think more about how they will use these votes. Another motivation for people is that they can vote against someone.

What impact will it have on society?

Populistic and extremist parties will be weakened greatly. When you imagine an extremist party, a voter will give two votes to the candidates of this party and then will not use the other votes because they don’t want any other option. On the other side, a consensus-minded voter will use all four votes in the parliamentary elections and will de facto have more voting power. The main change is that there will be a bigger choice of candidates and that the political campaigns will look differently.

How will the changes look, concretely?

Imagine you are a candidate for presidential elections and each voter can vote for three people, which means there are three positive votes. If you want to win, you need to get votes not only from your voters but also from people who give votes to other candidates. It will definitely not be good to defame other candidates. On the contrary, you will try to find candidates who you partly agree with, select certain aspects from their program and support these. Of course you can emphasize that you can work on these aspects better than them. Therefore, the pre-election campaigns will be positive and more constructive.

How will you promote this new electoral system?

It is mainly used at the moment in a non-political environment, namely in NGOs and in participative budgeting. Politicians and political parties do not use this system yet because it is not so advantageous for them. As they say, “you don't bite the hand that feeds you.”

Do you think you will ultimately be able to enforce this system in politics?

Absolutely; however, we cannot rely on politicians to start using it themselves. It is necessary that the system be first used by common people who will then ask politicians to use it.

Does your method have any weaknesses?

The minus vote might not work well in countries where there are significant religious minorities. People might unite votes based on racism or intolerance. In such cases, the D21 system should be used without the minus vote. As for the effect of more votes, we are not aware of any practical or theoretical case that would cause a problem.

What is Institute H21 currently working on?

We communicate with several NGOs but also with the Democratic Party in the USA, which is interested in using D21 for their shadow voting for US primary elections. We also have a close connection to Amnesty International. We also develop artistic and popular projects. For example, the singer Mikolas Josef uses our voting during his concerts. We also did voting about Brexit in Great Britain.

Besides reforming society through electoral system change, you often speak about decentralization. What role do startups play, in your opinion?

Startups disrupt the structure and too-big power of corporations and states and they give people more freedom and autonomy. Thus, they are the first step towards modernization of the future economy and society, which will not be as much about state business and big corporations as about personal engagement of each individual and flat, decentralized decisive structures.

Final question – how did you like this year’s SWCSummit?

It was awesome. I am very happy that Prague is becoming the global center in another innovative aspect, i.e. in the field of startups.

Karel Janeček is a mathematician, visionary and author of voting system D21, and founder of Institute H21. His influence can be seen in the founding of UP21, STAR*21, Foundation Neuron, Karel Janeček Foundation, Anticorruption Endowment and Foundation for Help. He also owns startups Pilot 21 and CB21 Pharma.

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