The Democratic National Committee is inviting tech vendors to apply to be included on its new approved vendor list.
The committee this week unveiled its I Will Run Marketplace, which it says was a response to a Trump-era flurry of startups entering the campaign market.
“Over the last year, so many new innovators have emerged to help provide tools to our Democratic candidates,” Sally Marx, tech program manager at the DNC wrote in a Medium post. “However, we’ve heard repeatedly from candidates and campaign staff that they are unsure what tools are out there, and simultaneously feel as if they are being fed too much information by vendors.”
The committee is aiming the site primarily at first-time candidates running for local offices. “The basic nuts and bolts of setting up a well-run campaign can appear overwhelming,” said Raffi Krikorian, the DNC’s CTO, in an introduction video. “I Will Run has all these tools and more in six categories.”
Those categories include digital, finance, research, security, training and voter contact. The pilot program is currently only available in seven states: Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, and Iowa.
Some digital vendors were surprised by the announcement — even though they’re on the list of approved companies. Others included on the site said it could help their business grow.
“The ‘I Will Run’ Marketplace is essentially serving as a progressive ‘seal of approval,’” said Steve Spinner, founder and CEO of RevUp, which made the list. “Having our fundraising technology be vetted by the DNC and approved as one of only [three] companies in this category will greatly help us grow the company.”
In its announcement, the DNC said that those using the list to contact vendors can receive either “a free option or a DNC-negotiated rate, many with up to a 25% discount.”
Adriel Hampton, a consultant who works with Democratic challengers, said the idea of vendors courting business through these types of lists isn’t new. For instance, NationBuilder in 2011 struck a deal with the Republican State Leadership Committee to be its exclusive tech vendor to down-ballot campaigns.
“And Democratic Party organizations have done this with Salsa and other technology vendors in the past, too,” said Hampton.
Still, this could be an opportunity to improve the Democrats’ tech ecosystem, he added. “I'd like to see the DNC advocate for non-proprietary integration standards. Many campaigns don't need the higher-end products, but they do need the tools to easily ‘talk’ to each other and share campaign data.”
The DNC, which is partnering with groups to do training with the approved technologies, said it plans to continue expanding its tech marketplace. It invited vendors to contact the DNC at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to be included in future lists.