A group of former Obama campaign aides want to fund political tech startups to help give democrats a leg up in 2018—and beyond.
Higher Ground Labs, a Chicago-based incubator and accelerator for startups focused on campaign and political technology, announced it has invested $1.5 million into 10 early-stage startups. The organization was founded earlier this year and so far has raised $2.5 million to invest in startups.
Among the companies getting funding in Higher Ground’s initial investment is Ballot Ready, a Chicago-based political tech startup that gives voters detailed information on all the candidates they’re voting for right from their phone.
“For too long, progressives have counted on Presidential campaigns to incubate and build campaign technology- a strategy that isn’t optimal when conservatives like the Koch brothers and the Mercers are pumping big money into permanent GOP campaign technology companies,” Higher Ground’s Advisory Board Chair Ron Klain said in a statement. “We need to close this ‘progressive tech gap’ and Higher Ground Labs is giving these ten promising young companies a jumpstart to have impact in 2018 and beyond.”
Higher Ground is co-founded by Betsy Hoover, the National Digital Organizing Director on Obama’s 2012 campaign; Shomik Dutta, the the Mid-Atlantic finance director for the 2008 Obama Campaign; and Andrew McLaughlin, the Deputy CTO of the United States under President Obama.
It has also assembled a Board of Directors that includes a who’s who of prominent political/tech folks, including Jon Favreau, Obama’s speechwriter; Michael Slaby, the CTO for Obama in 2008; Harper Reed, Obama’s CTO in 2012; and Klain, who was the chief of staff to Vice President Biden and a senior aide to Obama.
Along with capital, Higher Ground says it provides assistance, programming, and mentorship to early stage companies.
Here are the startups that received part of Higher Ground’s $1.5 million investment, as described by Higher Ground.
VoterCircle is a powerful and easy to use friend-to-friend outreach platform that enables supporters to leverage their personal relationships to benefit a campaign or organization. With just a couple clicks, 100s of campaign supporters are be able to personally reach 1,000s of their friends from the comfort of their home on their own schedule. VoterCircle can be used at every stage of a campaign to increase name ID, grow an email list, recruit volunteers, identify grassroots donors as well as ID, persuade and GOTV voters.
Qriously has reimagined polling through the use of programmatic survey methodology and has achieved far more representative and accurate samples than traditional polling. Qriously’s deep understanding of voter sentiment and powerful predictive capabilities enable campaign strategists to plan intelligently, invest proactively in crucial electorates, and prevent election day surprises. Qriously has served marketing, investment, and corporate strategy clients since 2010, but in 2016 moved into politics and successfully predicted Brexit, Trump’s success in the Rust Belt, the Netherlands election outcomes and the recent referendum in Italy.
GroundGame is an opinionated technology platform for campaigns and causes to organize their voters, volunteers, and donors. The core platform is a voter, volunteer, and donor CRM, armed with organizing tools (1-to-1 SMS and email, tools for door knocking and calls, etc) and an API that connects to other platforms. GroundGame empowers campaigns of any size, from the smallest to the largest.
BallotReady provides data and tools to power down-ballot civic engagement – powered by the most comprehensive and complete dataset to every level of government. Using a powerful, customized voter turnout tools for campaigns, advocacy groups, and nonprofits to inform voters about their entire ballot and get out the vote, every election.
Mobilize America is built to help elect Democrats to state government. To achieve new levels of volunteer engagement, Mobilize America combines a robust two-sided marketplace to connect volunteers and campaigns, with a scaled digital grassroots organizing program. The model is being developed in Virginia’s 2017 house elections, and will deploy for competitive states nationwide in 2018.
Victory Guide is a digital campaign manager that provides candidates the tools and guidance they need to win with customized direction and advice. Each day, candidates receive an agenda of actions tailored to the state of their campaign. As the campaign inputs new data about voter interactions and fundraising, Victory Guide adjusts the agenda accordingly. Victory Guide automates time-consuming activities, like ‘cutting turf,’ organizing voter information, and managing volunteers.
Tuesday Strategies is a civic technology company focused on political engagement for the digital age – creating a “digital door-knock”. With new field-tested software that allows campaigns to turn online supporters into digital volunteers by analyzing their social media influence and suggesting peer-to-peer conversations that help register, persuade, and turn out voters based on direct voter file integration.
Hope is a new media brand and intelligent communications platform that serves as your savvy, funny friend who helps you understand politics and take strategic action. By coming to life where users are already having conversations—SMS, Messenger, Kik, and native mobile apps—Hope uses conversation-style stories to inform, activate, and motivate the new generation of activists who want to get engaged in making change but don’t yet know how. Hope is part of Purpose, a public benefit corporation that builds and supports movements to advance the fight for an open, just, and habitable world.
Field Day is a venture-backed start-up in Los Angeles that aggregates and synthesizes billions of localized data-points across the US to help brands refine and activate hyper-local marketing initiatives. Field Day is simultaneously building a network of curated, experienced on-demand “brand ambassadors” to provide on-the-ground support alongside their online local data insights.
ustle is a technology platform that enables personalized, human connections to take place at-scale. Hustle affords organizers, activists, volunteers, and sales agents to manage thousands of personal conversations at a time, but with a personal 1:1 touch. Campaigns and causes have already been using Hustle with tremendous results; Higher Ground Labs has made a strategic investment in Hustle’s Series A to support and further disseminate an important product that is solving a critical need in the progressive political-technology ecosystem.