Forget the friends-and-family funding round, VC investment or even the old fashioned bank loan. A tech startup on the left is looking to crowdfund its growth.
Tech for Campaigns’ $250,000 crowdfunding effort, which launches Tuesday, is the latest example of how the traditional consulting model continues to be disrupted for Democrats.
Frustration over last cycle’s results prompted Jessica Alter to co-found the nonprofit, which pairs volunteer technologists with down-ballot Democratic campaigns in need of their services.
Since Alter teamed with fellow entrepreneurs Pete Kazanjy and Ian Ferguson early this year, their nonprofit has completed 50 projects for campaign clients using its network of 3,000 volunteers. The trio hope to reach 500 projects by the end of 2018.
“The volunteer system will still be the same, but to run 500 volunteer teams you do need a permanent staff,” Alter told C&E.
The quarter-million-dollar haul, if it’s successful, will also fund best practice guides, templates, toolkits and new software solutions for advocacy.
“We don’t need to rebuild email or Facebook, we need to teach” down-ballot campaigns how to use them, she said. “We get on the phone with every campaign who contacts us to understand what their needs are, and we develop a project or projects with them."
Tech for Campaigns is concentrating its efforts on state-level races with the goal of impacting redistricting efforts. And even though some state-level races have significant budgets, Alter said asking the client campaigns to pay was a bridge too far.
“The reason we’re a nonprofit is because we know you can’t get blood from a stone," said Alter. "[At the federal level,] they should be paying for some of this stuff, but that’s certainly down that road.”
Democratic practitioners have seen a liberalization of industry norms since November 2016. In fact, there’s been a rash of firms following a decentralized model where services are offered free of charge to campaigns or candidates by a group of professionals holding full-time jobs.
Earlier this year, a group of female consultants in Chicago launched Rodham Consulting, which provides one hour of free consulting services to female candidates in Illinois from a collective of experienced practitioners.
Now, as part of the crowdfunding effort, Tech for Campaigns is offering access to “fireside chats” between tech leaders and officeholders. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is one slated chat.
“It’s a conversation about how tech and politics should and shouldn’t, and is and isn’t working together,” Alter said. “We’re not saying that technology is the only problem in politics, but it is really important and it’s not being done well on the Democratic side."