At Higher Ground Labs, we invest in technology that helps progressives win. That has been our core mission since 2017, and it guides our work every day. To help fulfill that mission, we write an annual investment thesis to highlight specific areas of underinvestment and technological need in the progressive ecosystem.
We are excited to announce that we are raising a $20m fund dedicated to solving the particular gaps we identify below. Applications are open for Cohort 4, and information is live about our new revenue-based investing approach.
Why an investment thesis?
Thesis-driven investing can help the movement align on shared priorities. But it is not the only lens we use: in early-stage investing, founders are the most motivating signal to invest behind. So to better understand gaps in political technology, we collaborated with partners across the progressive movement — hosted a debrief with over 1400 participants, attended retrospectives, embedded with campaigns and causes, and interviewed field organizers, fundraisers, donors, and candidates.
We listened closely to capture a diverse set of viewpoints and a wide range of perspectives. Political tech only works when it is accessible, inclusive, and usable, and we appreciate those who have shared their honest assessments of where we need to do better.
What’s new this year?
This year, our investment thesis names opportunities in election-focused tech, particularly around content creation and voter contact. But for the first time, we are seeking technology that can also help achieve lasting legislative change. We believe it will take an unprecedented level of coordination to set our country back on the right track.
How do I get involved?
If you are a progressive-aligned founder, technologist, organizer, or dreamer, we want to hear from you. We aim to invest behind these theses but are always open to complementary ideas and opportunities that expand and benefit our space. No matter your background, creed, race, religion, or gender, there is room for your vision. We aim to create an inclusive community and hope your idea can be a part of it.
Here’s what we want to achieve in 2021:
|1||Generate a 360-degree view of voters and volunteers: Progressive organizations will benefit from a more holistic view of their supporters in order to better target, persuade, and mobilize. This includes aggregating and integrating data from across devices, contacts, voter files, and online/offline behavior.|
|2||Empower progressive content creators: All large technology platforms will limit or outright ban paid political activities. We will need tools that allow campaigns and causes to reach their voters organically. The Internet is also getting smaller, as more communities are moving towards closed, trusted information ecosystems. Content and trusted messengers will be the superhighway to reaching those closed ecosystems. We have underinvested in informative, fact-based, attention-winning media content.|
|3||Improve the direct-to-voter messaging experience: In 2020, voters were flooded with calls and texts from political organizations. Yet the DNC reports that general contactability rates are plummeting, and we may be missing crucial voters. We have outgrown much of our current voter contact infrastructure. In order to maximize yield from our electorate, we must innovate on our phone dialers, broadcast SMS tools and centralized hubs that facilitate one to many communications. Influencer marketing has shown promising early results and may require bespoke platforms built for technology.|
|4||Bridge electoral activist energy into legislative advocacy: The Democratic legislative agenda will require landslide activation and coordination. 2009 was a grim lesson in not bridging campaign excitement into governing power. We require tools that inspire unlikely allies — like corporations, schools, and nonprofits — to harness and empower their employee, customer, and supporter bases to express their progressive values and create change.|
|5||Fintech innovations for the progressive ecosystem: Political spending has increased at 8% annually since 1980, an astounding compounded growth. Though we are awash in money, we lack sophisticated enterprise-grade financial tools and innovations. These could include new lending mechanisms to campaigns to solve for the spread between early and late dollars; streamlined backend reporting; automated compliance; and media rate forecasting and planning.|