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Higher Ground Labs’ 2023 Investment Thesis

Every year, Higher Ground Labs creates an investment thesis to define our focus for the cycle ahead. Our core mission is to invest in technology that helps progressives win and our investment thesis is our guide to achieving it.

Since making our first investments in 2017, we now find the political tech ecosystem at a maturation point. Systems, tactics, and tools that were mere ideas then are now the industry norm. With the next presidential cycle just around the corner, now is the moment to not only examine the gaps that remain but also invest in unmet ecosystem-wide needs. By definition, innovation is never finished. 

With this backdrop, we are focusing our Fund IV investments on six pillars:

  1. Improve data accessibility
  2. Solve for downballot campaigns
  3. Simplify donor tracking & compliance
  4. Advance the applications of AI
  5. Develop FinTech for campaigns
  6. Support infrastructure for the future of work

This is our investment strategy for 2023. 

  1. Improve data accessibility

The progressive ecosystem needs better data accessibility, integrations, and analytics. In our 2022 Election Tech Survey, political tech buyers cited a lack of easy data integration among tools as one of their top challenges. We are seeking tools that are not only capable of coordinating and integrating data, but also providing value-added functionalities that enhance the efficacy and relevancy of this data.

  1. Solve for downballot campaigns

Too often political technology is presidential-sized and priced, making it difficult for small campaigns and organizations to adopt best practices that are common on larger campaigns. We seek solutions that will work specifically for small campaigns and that solve the problems of local races to power victories for races and organizations of all sizes. 

  1. Simplify donor tracking and compliance

Donor tracking and compliance is a highly complex yet mandatory operation for progressive campaigns. While “top of the funnel” donation tools and tactics are ubiquitous, advanced tracking and compliance have not kept up. We are seeking innovation in this underinvested space, especially those with a focus on downballot campaigns and small organizations.

  1. Advance the applications of AI

Generative artificial intelligence is exploding around the world, transforming industries in real-time and foreshadowing great potential for politics and campaigns. Trends also point to volunteer recruitment, cold voter contact, and fundraising becoming more expensive and less effective for campaigns. There is the potential to lower the cost of all of these critical functions by automating time-intensive functions, freeing up precious staff and volunteer time to do what they’re best at. 

  1. Develop FinTech for campaigns 

This builds on our 2022 investment thesis. Political spending has increased at an astounding ~8% annually since 1980, yet campaigns that fundraise typically receive money too late in the cycle to make full use of it. Many campaigns also lack powerful, enterprise-grade, user-friendly financial tools to effectively manage it. We continue to seek solutions for campaign fintech, including for media rate forecasting, automated compliance, integrations with mobile transaction platforms, and lending.

  1. Support infrastructure for the future of work 

The future of work is rapidly transforming, further accelerated by pandemic-induced changes. Remote work is the norm, affordability and inflation are rampant, employees are juggling caregiving, and much more. We seek solutions that help ease this transition and support our ecosystem to practice the progressive values we preach. Tech solutions we seek include but are not limited to innovative training, HR and benefits software, employee wellbeing, and remote collaboration.

To form this thesis, we interviewed and collaborated with partners across the progressive movement. 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, especially through the 2022 Election Tech Debrief and 2022 Election Tech Buyers’ Survey.

What’s next?

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 also open to complementary ideas and opportunities that expand and benefit our space. We especially encourage applications from those who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, female, gender-diverse, and/or disabled. We aim to create an inclusive community and hope your idea can be a part of it. 

To learn more, apply to our 6th accelerator cohort or reach out with any questions.