Gerard Niemira recently joined Higher Ground Labs as the Managing Director of Fund IV. He will be leading our newest fund with its launch in 2023. We sat down with him to learn about his background, his insights as a political tech leader of 15 years, and what he sees coming up for the progressive tech space.
Gerard, welcome to Higher Ground Labs! What were you working on before joining Team HGL?
I’ve spent the past 15 years in the social good and political tech space, working to scale electoral and social impact organizations. I was formerly the Chief Product Officer at PDI, VP of Product and Engineering at Kiva, Senior Director of Product at Hillary for America, as well as a political nonprofit senior executive and political tech founder. I was part of HGL’s first-ever accelerator cohort in 2017 and it was an influential experience that I hope to use to help HGL companies succeed.
We’re excited to have your deep ecosystem knowledge and technical product expertise at HGL. Beyond your professional life, what else makes you you?
I live in the mountains in Colorado with my wife and try to spend as much time as possible outside. I also travel a lot, mostly to find great things to eat! Recently I spent time in Croatia by the Adriatic Sea — next up is exploring the Maldives along the Indian Ocean. You’ll often find me with a sci-fi or fantasy book when I’m not working. I’m nearly done reading the 14-novel Wheel of Time series.
You bring rich life and career experience to this work. What do you view as the biggest challenges facing the progressive political tech space right now?
One challenge I see is buyer education. Since 2016, there has been a great uptick of new companies in political tech. While innovation serves the Democratic mission well, the vast sea of available options (see: our Political Tech Landscape Report) also leaves some buyers confused about what tools and technologies they need.
Another challenge is the shifting regulatory environment. Shifting regulations around crucial technologies and platforms like SMS and digital advertising create a lot of uncertainty for founders and practitioners alike. The unknowns make it difficult for them to plan far in advance.
I always remember that the biggest challenges can also be the biggest opportunities.
What do you view as the most significant opportunities for progressive political tech?
Most of the spending in our space is still not tech-enabled (think: TV ads). Though that seems like a challenge, it really is an opportunity. Founders in our space need to continue finding new ways to apply technology to become a force multiplier for electoral impact. There are markets out there just waiting for their innovations.
There is also still so much data innovation needed in our space. Political tech has typically been a few years behind the broader tech industry in leveraging new technologies. We have an opportunity here to find ways to use AI and other emerging technologies to further make an electoral impact through tech.
What is giving you hope about political tech — and politics in general — these days?
In what feels like a very dark and challenging time, I still think people are more engaged than ever. The post-Dobbs results in Kansas gave me a lot of hope for what’s possible. Despite Republicans’ plans to implement permanent minority rule, Kansas was a clear signal that organizers were able to mobilize more people than ever to fight back. People show up when it matters.
Higher Ground Labs has grown from a small startup with a bold idea to marry Silicon Valley and politics, to a multi-fund platform with $50 million in assets managed through a portfolio of 60 political technology companies. We are elated for the next chapter with Gerard at the helm of Fund IV.