OpenField is about to test the market for value-aligned investment as the platform that began life as a canvassing app seeks backers to fund its growth into what its calling a “Community Relationship Management” tool.
Until now, OpenField has used its existing team — and funds — to put together the tech infrastructure to enable its expansion, but is now going out to investors seeking additional backing.
This investment round could be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to the values-based investment market, and whether it follows the general freeze in funding available to non-politically focused startups in a cooling economic environment for tech.
“It’s very, very clear that the future of our ability to win seats anywhere is going to come down to tighter and tighter margins,” Ari Trujillo-John, CEO and co-founder of OpenField, told C&E. “That’s why we’re pushing ourselves to step into this moment and give ourselves the tools we’ve always wanted as field organizers.”
This next gen of OpenField will be powered by TargetSmart data, which will allow organizations and campaigns using the platform to make updates to the master file that can be accessed by all users.
TargetSmart has had these kinds of integrations before with the Civis Platform and SmartVAN — and others that have come and gone. Still, Andrew Brown, COO at TargetSmart, put OpenField’s move in the context of a “surge of innovation going on in the Democratic, progressive community.” Still, he doesn’t expect it to replace existing players on the left.
“There’s plenty of room for innovation and seeing innovation happen is good for everybody. VAN’s not going anywhere by any means,” Brown said. “This is just another arrow in the quiver, so to speak.”
Meanwhile, Trujillo-John said OpenField is attempting to plug a whole in the market which existing tech players have left open by focusing on voters as opposed to the lifecycle that an American goes through from voter registration to participation to activism.
“It’s not as simple as building an alternative to VAN. What we’re stepping into is true volunteer management [and] really making it possible for organizations with that style of organizing to really build and track their work on the inside and outside of their file.
“VAN was built for people who do electoral [work],” Trujillo-John added. “They’re built around voters first. Where the movement has gone is that it’s people first who happen to be voters, and that’s a very different orientation when it comes to organizing. We’re really hyper focused on that entire lifecycle.”
Where OpenField differs is on specific enhancements in the TargetSmart file that the product supports.
“There’s a bunch of data points you lose in current systems that we don’t lose. A great example of one of the things that we enable is the ability to capture nuances like country of origin and ethnic identity with granularity. I’m half Mexican — that is very very different than being Cuban or an El Salvadoran who is first-gen.” Trujillo-John said.
“Dead names, ethnicity, language, is this address walkable? All of those are things that folks learn in the field [and] being able to aggregate that level of analysis for folks to enhance and also correct the file and flow that back — things like that are going to be enabled because of this partnership that isn’t the same as L2 or Alloy.”
Trujillo-John added that the next gen of the platform will still allow users to employ data from those other providers, but it won’t have the same functionality as the TargetSmart file.
The new platform is expected to launch in March 2023 and be road tested in time for 2024.