- The Indian American co-founded a civic tech company that has created an app to keep citizens connected to state legislators to address social justice and inequality.
Bhavini Patel, a Democrat and a small business owner from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has announced her candidacy to represent Pittsburgh and Southwest Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress, to succeed U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). Doyle, who represents the state’s 18th Congressional District, announced in November that he will not seek re-election. District 18 includes Pittsburgh, the city’s eastern suburbs and areas south of the city through West Mifflin and Pleasant Hills.
A current member of Edgewood Borough Council, the young Indian American serves on the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board and the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association Board. She joins a crowded Democratic primary field including state Rep. Summer Lee, University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson, former Brentwood Borough Councilwoman Stephanie Fox and Pittsburgh attorney Steve Irwin.
Patel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the candidate who succeeds Doyle should be “a coalition-builder and a visionary and that whoever takes his place has big shoes to fill.” She told the paper that her favorite part of being a local official is hearing from constituents about their “kitchen-table issues.” If elected, she said she would continue to build on making the “thriving innovation scene” in her district more inclusive.
She is co-founder and CEO of BeamData, a civic tech company established in 2019. Through her startup, she has created an app, Be the Change, to keep citizens connected to state legislators to address social justice and inequality.
The genesis for the app began in 2019 when Patel ran for Allegheny County Council. She spent a lot of time knocking on doors, wanting to introduce herself and her agenda. She however lost the race, but those conversations inspired the idea for an app that offers users a direct line to their elected public officials, she told the University of Pittsburgh magazine in an interview. So at the beginning of the pandemic, she launched Be the Change.
According to her website, Patel was raised by a single mom, who immigrated here from India in the late 1990s, and built a food-truck business in Pittsburgh. Patel worked at the family business since she was 13, prepping food, taking orders, and balancing the books, and “learned hard work and persistence,” the website says.
She attended the University of Pittsburgh and then earned her masters in international relations as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the University of Oxford. She has been recognized as 30 Under 30 by Pittsburgh Business Times, 40 Under 40 by Pittsburgh Magazine. She lives in Edgewood with her mom, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and dog, Nat.