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Tech Start-Ups Follow the Money into Politics

This year's presidential election will likely be the most expensive in history--and tech entrepreneurs want a piece of the pie.
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Tech entrepreneurs are following the advice of many a successful founder who came before them: Go where the money is. With the most expensive presidential election in history just around the corner, the money is in politics.

According to a Bloomberg report, young campaign enthusiasts are discarding their old intern and campaign manager positions for something they believe will be more lucrative and potentially game changing--building companies around Web platforms both political parties will embrace.

Two such companies, San Francisco-based fundraising site Rally.org and Los Angeles-based campaign organizer NationBuilder, have raised $14 million collectively in investment capital just this year, Bloomberg reports.

"NationBuilder is that rarest of products that not only has the potential to change its market, but to change the world," Ben Horowitz, general partner and co-founder at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, said in a press release announcing NationBuilder’s series A funding in March.

While NationBuilder and Rally remain bipartisan, Bloomberg reports that federal candidates and other political advocates have spent more than $46 million this election cycle on party-specific tech sites, including the Republican-leaning Targeted Victory and the Democratic-leaning Blue State Digital and Bully Pulpit Interactive. All three companies focus on social media and online targeting. The Web is becoming more important for candidates to dominate, former Howard Dean strategist Joe Trippi told Bloomberg.

“When I was growing up in politics, the wisdom was to look for a 50-year-old mentor,” Trippi said. “Now, if you’re 50, you should be looking for an 18-year-old to help you deliver the message in a way that people will get it.”

Targeted Victory was founded by two men in their 20s who were Republican National Committee members working on the 2008 presidential election. The election, co-founder Michael Beach told Bloomberg, was won in part by then-Governor Barack Obama’s online guerrilla campaign tactics. Nearly four years later, Beach and his company count Mitt Romney as client.

“This is a huge market, and companies will keep forming to try to fill the need,” Andrew Rasiej told Bloomberg. Rasiej is the founder of Personal Democracy Media, a New York-based group that focuses on the intersection of politics and technology. “Every online technique used by Fortune 500 companies will be in the hands of politicians in the next four to eight years.”




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