The Political Startups Rocky Road
From Campaigns & Elections:
People think launching a campaign startup in Washington, D.C. is easy.
It’s where the money is, after all. And most national spending decisions are made in buildings along K Street or around the U.S. Capitol. So it’s easy to just lease some office space, hang a shingle, and get a piece of the $6 billion being spent on winning elections. Wrong—sort of.
I speak from experience. I launched a political startup in D.C., and some of the challenges we encountered thanks to our geography are obvious only in hindsight. So what follows is some food for thought for anyone thinking about launching their own startup and struggling with where to do it.
Where’s the Action?
This is the first critical question you must ask. We’re designing and developing a startup called VoteRaise, a platform to apply crowdfunding to campaign finance. While a great deal of fundraising, and all of federal compliance, needs to be done in Washington, most campaigning doesn’t actually happen in D.C. It happens in the rest of the country.
Anyone working on a campaign is going to be in the lawmaker’s district or state most of the time, not in D.C., especially if they’re a challenger. Consequently, it takes a lot of effort to connect with people currently staffing campaigns, and face-to-face meetings are usually not possible. And there aren’t many events focused on politics, campaigning, and technology.
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