Adriel Hampton was the third person hired at NationBuilder but left the nonpartisan poli-tech firm during a recent round of layoffs. Now, he’s launching a boutique consulting shop that’s looking to help campaigns and startups maximize their growth.
“What we saw at NationBuilder is campaigns want to build something from scratch and not use an infrastructure that was prebuilt. I think that they suffered for that,” says Hampton, a former House candidate who still holds a private investigator’s license.
Startups have a similar blind spot. “If you’re innovative in one area, it’s easy to think you’re going to change the whole world,” he explains. “You can lose months or even years by not adopting the right infrastructure out of the gate.”
C&E: Do campaigns and startups make the same mistakes?
Hampton: I think that they do. One is that if you think that building everything yourself is the right way to go, you’re probably missing out on the chance to capitalize on great solutions that already exist. If you’ve got an innovative idea, focus on that idea but use proven products and processes for other parts of your business. Even in creating my own firm, I’m really looking at what are the payroll solutions that are out there that are really good, what are the time-tracking applications that are really good? I’m definitely going to use the best of the best for this firm. What are the best project management tools that are out there?
If you’re a campaign, same thing. Don’t try to build an entire technology stack or stitch together a technology stack if there’s something out that will work. Focus on your message and what is the unique value that you’re trying to deliver. Don’t try to be innovative in your infrastructure.
One of the reasons I’m excited to have moved on from NationBuilder is a key thing we saw in doing sales was our clients often had internal processes that were really broken or needed to go to a new level, and they need to do that work before they adopted new technology. But instead they get excited, ‘oh, new technology.’ And campaigns do this. It’s not going to solve your problems.
C&E: Are you going to be a one-man firm?
Hampton: I’m working to bring in several partners, but I do want to keep it small and the reason to keep it small is because you can basically work with entrepreneurial, self-driven folks. Once you get much bigger than, say, 10 people you start having to have bureaucratic structures that slow down your ability to do really interesting, innovative things and also run a business how you want to run it.
I’m just taking the lessons of four years of working at NationBuilder and helping grow that company. I was the first organizer. I took it from 30 customers to 400 before we hired any additional staff to do the support and sales and marketing. I’m taking that experience and really helping other companies accelerate their growth.
Why do this instead of taking a job? We’re at a time when there’s just an amazing amount of self-determination. It can seem like new businesses and startups are the domain of early 20-somethings, but most new businesses are actually started by people in their late 30s. When your whole career has been about creating relationships and nurturing relationships, when you go out on your own, that really pays off.
C&E: What’s your ideal size?
Hampton: I’m looking to keep the total partners somewhere in the 5-10 person range. We may have some administrative staff later on, but I like the idea of doing profit sharing at every level for every employee. If I, as the founder of the firm, make a certain amount then the lowest paid employee makes 50 percent of that. That’s my goal.
C&E: What’s your target clientele?
Hampton: I’m looking at startups that maybe have their early funding but they haven’t stood up a marketing team; they don’t have a sales program or know how to build a community around their products and helping them do that. I just hung out my shingle and have some pretty big proposals out with some startups in the political and nonprofit space.
C&E: Did you have reservations about self-naming the firm?
Hampton: Having run for political office, it was natural for me. I’m really into your word being your bond. Putting my name on the firm says, ‘if we’ve had a relationship in the past, let’s take that relationship to a new level.’ By using my name I can very easily link up with NationBuilder experts and architects, it allows me to scale really quickly.
It’s not going to my head, I already had a big head. You don’t run for office if you don’t have a healthy ego already. I am telling people who are joining me that if they want their business cards to say AHG, that’s OK.