Universe is a campaign-in-a-box for underserved local organizers. We provide affordable data services, outreach tools, and owned media to grassroots campaigns of any size to ensure Democratic and progressive organizers are equipped to engage at every level of civic discourse – up and down the ballot.
We asked Adam Miller to share a little bit more about his vision for Universe and loved learning more about him.
Tell us more about why you started your company and its mission.
I began thinking about Universe while volunteering on my first local San Francisco campaign back in 2018. Having just wrapped up two national-level organizing projects, I was shocked at the disparity between the different operations. Even here, in the tech capital of the U.S., staffers lost countless hours each week to spreadsheets and paper. The team simply did not have the budget flexibility or technical staff to effectively use the tools built for larger campaigns.
The campaign tech industry is oriented toward these “big fish” – large races with the ability to pay for 8-20 different digital tools, and the internal tech teams to support them. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of down ballot races are left behind each year and forced to either do without, or fall back to slower, less effective methods – a crippling handicap when every second (and every dollar) could be the difference between winning and losing.
At the end of 2019, I left my engineering job at LinkedIn to focus on the prototype of Universe full-time. By November 2020 Universe had users in every competitive race in San Francisco, and made landfall in four neighboring counties, demonstrating the appetite for a consumer product with integrated data, voter outreach, and owned media tools, targeted specifically at grassroots campaigns.
If we want to maintain control over the next decade, we need to better support our down-ballot candidates and grassroots organizations, and ensure our organizers are equipped to engage at every level of civic discourse – up and down the ballot.
Where are your founders from? Where is the company based now?
I’ve been in San Francisco for the past 8 years, but am originally from Williamstown, MA. (Hey @jonlovett what’s your favorite Papa Charlie’s sandwich?)
Universe is San Francisco based, but remote friendly.
What are the features you’re most excited about at the moment?
The team has just finished up Phase 1 – our initial polish of our core field and voter outreach tooling.
We’re now all hands on deck with Phase 2, where we’ll focus on integrating our campaign website platform, email mailing lists, broadcast SMS, and our volunteer management flows. These new features will let us take even more off of organizers’ plates and let them focus on what they do best – building their community. Keep an eye out for our Phase 2 launch announcement in September.
What has been the most challenging part of being a founder?
My background and training is in technology and design, but founding Universe has forced me to wear more hats than any role in the past. Every day, I need to bounce back and forth between business development, sales, legal, product development, and team management with a degree of chaos that is challenging, but exhilarating.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Travel is one of the things I missed most over the past year! I’ve traveled a lot throughout Europe and South Asia, but would love to visit South America or Southern Africa next. Post-midterms trip to Peru or Botswana, anyone?
What is your favorite hobby that you’ve started in the last year?
With cocktail bars closed due to COVID, I needed a way to keep my liver in shape during lockdown. To that end, while my better half took up the much healthier hobby of gardening, I discovered the joy of craft cocktails (Fat-washing! Tea infusions! A smoker!). I now consider my back patio to be one of the best hidden bars in SF, so if you’re ever in the area, come by for a drink!