What’s competition between friends? That question’s been put to bed by some technologists on the left who are enjoying favorable market conditions thanks to President Trump.
Entrepreneurs inspired by the Republican’s policies and rhetoric are launching new firms, forming collaborations and getting easier funding access through newly formed incubator programs like the $1 million-funded effort at Higher Ground Labs. If that wasn’t inviting enough, established players are now more eager to collaborate
“Everyone’s working together a bit more,” said Kendall Tucker, who launched the canvassing platform Polis in 2015. “It’s the biggest change we’ve seen: there’s a lot more pressure on the legacy groups to open up and work with new platforms and technologies.”
For instance, NGP VAN has shown a willingness to forge tie ups with up-and-coming new companies, including a partnership with texting platform Hustle announced last fall. The company’s Innovation Platform Marketplace has also been a way for startup digital mail vendor SpeakEasy Political to tie into its systems.
Beyond friendlier giants in the industry, entrepreneurs at similar stages of growth are also forging alliances based on a shared goal of electing liberals to counter Trump. For instance, GroundUp, a platform that allows users to round up commercial transactions and channel the funds to specific candidates, recently partnered with Flippable, an organization that directs resources — donations, volunteers — to state-level progressive candidates.
“In general, what a lot of these partnerships are designed to help overcome is the complete saturation of our media and filter through all of the information that’s out there to get to what’s relevant,” said Catherine Vaughan, CEO and co-founder of Flippable.
Flippable was launched in November 2016, the day after Election Day. Vaughan said she met Jeremy Gottlieb, the founder of CEO of GroundUp, a year later. He was starting out, and the two bonded over the challenges of state-level campaign finance regulation. “It was a natural partnership for us to form,” she said.
Beyond the exposure to each others audiences and supporters’ lists, the partnership has helped Gottlieb learn more about the industry he entered.
“When we started this, I wasn’t a programmer; I didn’t have any political connection. I just said that someone should do this,” he said. “I had so many sleepless nights of not being able to do something so I just started, and hit the ground running. I talked to as many people as I could.
“There isn’t a user manual. There isn’t a guide saying, ‘This is how you do it.’ Up to now, it’s just been, ‘What’s the challenge?’ And being scrappy.”
Gottlieb said he doesn’t think of his firm as a consulting operation – in fact part of his pitch is that it helps donors bypass consultants and fundraisers’ fees and give directly to candidates.
“We mention it to them and they love it,” he said of his pitch. “We find ourselves filling this niche.”
His advice to other would-be poli-tech entrepreneurs: “Network like you wouldn’t believe. When you start talking to people, good things happen.”