Our Annual Political Tech Landscape Report
Read our latest landscape report.

Landscape Report

HGL Team   /  

The 2020 cycle felt like the Olympics. Four years of quiet investment, sacrifice, and preparation were all expended over a few short weeks of intense competition with the whole world watching. After the 2016 election, some yearned for a silver-bullet solution that would guarantee us victory. Of course no such solution ever existed. A diverse army of resistance organizations rose up instead, and everything we did helped make the difference. 

We needed to recruit stronger candidates. Build resilient state parties. Invest in underrepresented communities. Persuade undecided voters. Train and retain staff. Protect voting rights. Generate and optimize better digital content. Raise more small dollars online. Fight disinformation. Share and integrate our data. Build a progressive media ecosystem… 

…and, yes, invest in a wide array of underlying technologies that buttress this ecosystem. 

Higher Ground Labs was a small piece of a much larger wave of work that started many years ago. We tip our hats to the outside groups that did big things and salute the campaign staff, volunteers, and election workers who placed themselves on the line. We are lucky to have been joined by our founders, investors, advisors, staff, and supporters in our journey. This victory rightfully belongs to everyone on the front lines and behind the scenes.

We take great pride in the contributions our startups made. Almost none of these companies pre-dated Higher Ground Labs, and in most cases, HGL represented the earliest and largest investments. The startups did the quiet yeoman’s work, powering the technology layer that made this election season hum. Here’s some of the work they did this cycle:

  • Mobilize had over 4 million Democratic volunteers on the platform that filled over 13 million volunteer shifts. In the last months of October and November, a Mobilize link was tweeted out once every 2 seconds.
  • BallotReady powered voter tools for many of the largest progressive groups and large corporations such as Snapchat, TikTok, Tinder, and the NBA. BallotReady helped over 35 million American voters make plans to vote. 
  • Outvote built the Biden Campaign’s app and served almost every House and Senate race, Planned Parenthood, and many others. They hosted over 350,000 active users that sent 1 million friend-to-friend messages and over 62 million peer-to-peer texts. A recent study on Outvote by Columbia University found that text messages from friends increased likelihood to vote by 8.3%, far exceeding any effects from traditional organizing methods.
  • Deck served close to 1,000 active down-ballot campaigns that used Deck’s data and targeting daily. Deck’s margin of error across those races was 3.6%, which appears to be the lowest observable margin of error of any polling or predictive analytics company in the industry. Deck’s targeting has helped Democratic campaigns and PACs net over 550,000 additional votes.
  • ChangeResearch conducted over 800 polls this year in 48 states for down-ballot campaigns that were previously priced out of polling access.
  • Avalanche Insights guided messaging strategy for more than $1 billion of ad spend in 2020.
  • Civitech registered 1.7 million new American voters online and processed 8 million pieces of mail.
  • Swayable deployed advertising experiments across many of the major House and Senate races in the country and believes it doubled the impact of these races’ ad spend. In the 2018 cycle, Swayable saw a 1.2% bump in vote share for all races than used Swayable compared to those that did not.
  • Countable built the infrastructure that helped 1,900 companies provide voting resources and time off to over 8 million employees on Election Day. Countable also powered much of the digital infrastructure for the Democratic Convention.
  • SpeakEasy Political provided low-cost mail and digital ads for close to 500 downballot campaigns in 45 states and helped those campaigns reach tens of millions of American voters.
  • OpenField built the ballot cure communications system relied upon by Democratic groups in major battleground states. Their system’s average user made1,500 calls per day over the past 30 days

These founders and their teams put in work and deserve some rest. But know this: they will all be coming back with fresh legs, ready to refine their product, improve design and experience, and deliver a superior offering for the next fight. This is the way to win.

As for Higher Ground Labs, we will continue to do what we do best – to invest in and continue building a strong technology ecosystem for Democratic campaigns and causes everywhere. We’ll see you soon. We’re going back to work.