Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: How Startups Are Changing The Future of Campaigns

As an industry, electoral politics is unique insofar as campaigns have definitive end dates, with long expanses of time between them. Brilliant teams of technologists and strategists build everything they need to win elections, but once the votes are cast, the campaign shuts down and all that intellectual property dies. Campaigns operate in cycles; elections are won or lost, and staff move on. The wheel is then reinvented by a new batch of brilliant technologists and strategist next time ‘round.

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Today’s candidates rely on party organizations like the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to maintain and pass  along valuable technological IP. However, as it turns out, institutionalizing digital infrastructure across elections cycles is really hard. Once a campaign has been won, it has achieved its goal. There’s little incentive for the campaign that won yesterday to maintain its systems long enough for tomorrow’s candidates to build upon it.

President Obama’s victories were hailed as models for campaigning in the Digital Age. With that in mind, Democrats have been thought of as the front-runners in building a robust digital ecosystem that could span election cycles. And as Catherine Bracy, who ran Obama’s tech office in San Francisco puts it, integrating technology with the campaign “makes sense when you realize that the structure of our grassroots organization (relatively flat, and decentralized) very closely matches the structure of the Internet itself.” Still, institutionalizing such an ecosystem — much less innovating that ecosystem — has proven to be difficult.

That’s where Higher Ground Labs (HGL) comes in. Founded by a group of tech experts and Obama campaign alums in 2016, HGL is an accelerator working to fund companies that provide technological infrastructure for progressive campaigns up-and-down the ballot. As founder Betsy Hoover explained to Recode, the technology from campaigns “typically dies” after election season is over. Marrying innovative start-ups with campaigns, then, provides a scalable and long-lasting infrastructure that can help bridge the technological gap between election cycles.

The Tuesday Company was honored to be a part of HGL’s first cohort. We are grateful for their support, and it is with that in mind that we are thrilled to welcome HGL’s new generation of teams to the progressive political tech family.

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