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Jim: With politics being one of the most contentious topics in America right now, ordinary citizens are engaging in activism efforts in increasing numbers, and a Chicago startup wants to help.

Gather, a centralized online platform for political activism, provides users with tools to organize every aspect of their civic engagement work, including group communications, connecting with others and coordinating rallies or demonstrations.

Katherine: Founded in June by two juniors at the University of Chicago, Gather lets users set up a profile and choose from a list of 23 causes that they’re passionate about. Topics range from animal rights and immigration rights, to progressive healthcare reform and criminal justice reform.

“We allow them to access a wider pool of activists,” Co-Founder Alexander Swerdlow told us. “Rather than just posting to 100 activists in a Facebook group, they’re able to access thousands of activists across the entire city.”

Gather is currently available on desktop only, but it plans to launch an app later next month. The idea spawned after the 2016 election and the intense political climate that followed, resulting in numerous rallies and marches across the U.S.

Jim: Gather advertises itself as a non-partisan platform and is open to activists and organizations of all political beliefs, both liberal and conservative.

But it’s taking steps from the get-go to stomp out hate groups. The platform is not open to groups like the KKK and other white supremacy groups, Swerdlow told us, adding that the startup is taking steps to prevent these types of users from joining.

Read MoreThese UChicago Students Want to Make it Easier for Political Activists to Organize

Jim: Chicago VC firm Origin Ventures today invested in a $4M round for Gamer Sensei, a Boston-based professional esports coaching service. The round was led by Accomplice and Advancit Capital. Read more on Gamer Sensei from our sister site BostInno.

Katherine: New York-based Cargo, a startup that turns your Uber ride into a convenience store, just expanded to Chicago. The startup provides ride-share drivers with boxes of goodies–like snacks and phone chargers– to keep in their car and sell to patrons.

Jim: I had the chance to judge the Polsky Accelerator Demo Day yesterday, where nine University of Chicago startups pitched their companies to the public. There was a judges champion and an audience choice champion, and there ended up being a tie in both categories.

Judges winners: SmarterCloud (a cybersecurity startup using machine learning to prevent internal data breaches on cloud infrastructure) and Fronen (a dairy-free dessert made with all-natural ingredients).

Audience Winners: SmarterCloud and KitcheNet (a grocery delivery startup for low income families).

TONIGHT: Hit up the the 1871 & IHCC Hispanic Technology Showcase, where Latinx entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to the Chicago innovation community. Read more about this event in our latest edition of Inno Approved.

The Beat’s more fun with friends! Pass it along here.

Jim: Domino’s Pizza and Ford are testing a new driverless car/pizza delivery system where customers in Ann Arbor, MI can order a pizza that arrives via an autonomous vehicle.

During this testing phase, customers interact with a touchscreen on the outside of the car and a window opens to give them their pizza. A driver and engineer are on hand for the test, but are instructed to not interact with the customer unless it’s necessary.

It’s a test of a person’s willingness to come outside and get their pizza as much as it is a test of the driverless tech. And that’s where I think this falls apart. I didn’t order pizza delivery to have to put on shoes and shlep outside in the cold to get my food.

Fancy new technology is nice, but the novelty of a driverless pizza robot wears off once it’s evident that the product isn’t actually more efficient for the customer.

Sorry, Domino’s, but I don’t think we’ve disrupted the stoner pizza delivery boy just yet.

Katherine: Jim, I’m actually traveling to Ann Arbor this weekend. It’s my hometown. While I’m there, I’ll try Domino’s new service and report back. It’ll be warm this weekend, so I shouldn’t be griping about having to go outside and pick up my pizza, right? But I agree with you. In the winter, I could be feeling much differently about it. As someone who is cold 99% of the time, I might just opt for traditional pizza delivery.

Jim: I know in Chicago we’re not supposed to like Aaron Rodgers, but this profile in ESPN the Magazine is really good. Also, his mustache game is truly next level.

Katherine: I have to be honest. I know nothing about football! All I know about the Green Bay Packers is that I’m supposed to hate them because my boyfriend is a Minnesota Vikings fan.

From Katherine’s story on Gather:

“There’s a massive spike in interest in civic technology. People were catalyzed to act after the 2016 election and are really motivated to not let what happened in November happen again.”

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