Higher Ground Labs revealed the cohort backed by its latest investment round on Tuesday, setting the table for these companies to help campaigns and groups on the left compete in the midterms.
In 2017, the progressive startup incubator unveiled a cohort that included Mobilize, BallotReady and The Tuesday Company, which all went on to play a role in the 2018 midterm cycle.
“There’s some hope for that here,” said Betsy Hoover, a co-founder of HGL, adding the incubator will invest in another cohort with its $15 million fund next year. “We expect the companies we invest in next year could also make a difference for the midterms.”
The nine startups unveiled Tuesday include Votus, which helps organizations engage supporters one-to-one on social media; Junto, which bills itself as a “fully-automated book club for your organization,” and Greenfly, a content collaboration and distribution platform used for influencer marketing.
“We saw heavy bias towards messaging and media in this cohort, and we see this because of the huge changes that came out [over] the course of the last cycle.”
The cohort also includes Goodstock & Co, which offers merchandise solutions for campaigns, and Unpacking, which is an “online learning platform for gamified diversity training.” Those companies have reach beyond the political market, which was attractive to HGL’s investors.
“Their risk is kind of balanced and financially there’s more upside,” said Hoover. In addition to a share of the $15 million fund, the founders also receive training in person — including a gathering in DC in September — and online from HGL’s team.
“A big piece of our program is about education on the market and who are the key players, and sometimes we pull our founders in to offer that perspective because they know pieces of it better than we do,” said Hoover, who co-founded 270 Strategies.
To date, nine HGL-backed companies have been acquired: The Tuesday Company was acquired by Helm. EveryAction acquired Mobilize. CallTime.AI and Outreach Circle were acquired by Political Data, Inc., and FactSquared, which ran Factba.se, was bought by FiscalNote. Moreover, Qriously was bought by Brandwatch, ACRONYM acquired Groundbase, Social Capital bought Hustle and Hope was acquired as part of Capgemini’s February 2020 purchase of Purpose.
Hoover said the incubator coaches companies individually on the acquisition process.
“Anyone who’s coaching startups, part of the conversation with the founder has to be, what is the end goal?”
The other companies in the 2021 cohort include Vocal, a digital storytelling partner, Universe, a “campaign-in-a-box for underserved local organizers,” Measure Studio, which analyzes social media data and Bluelink, which helps “set up data flows between tools.”