Last month, EveryAction announced that it had been acquired by Apax Partners and will merge with two other companies. This $2 billion deal is unprecedented in political technology. The acquisition multiple is higher than what we have seen from past transactions and this change of ownership control raises legitimate questions about the future of the Democratic Party’s central infrastructure.
From a purely business perspective, this was a great outcome for the political tech industry. While the exact sale price of EveryAction is not known (it was bundled with two other companies), we do know that the price and multiple of the deal significantly outpaces industry precedents. Apax is new to the political space as an acquirer; their presence broadens acquisition opportunities and demonstrates a successful expansion into new markets for political tech companies. While an exit of this size will remain incredibly rare in the political tech space, it is an important data point that demonstrates the growth and maturation of our tiny market.
Politically, this deal begs numerous questions about how the space might proceed. NGP/VAN has arguably been the core piece of Democratic campaign infrastructure for the last 15 years. A change in control of this infrastructure should cause everyone in the industry to take a step back and evaluate the most prudent path forward. It is too soon to say exactly what the impact of this shift will be, but there are several things we can take with us as we begin to plan for the midterms:
- EveryAction now has more economic resources to do what they have been doing. With an influx of capital from this acquisition, the team at EveryAction finally has the ability to do some of the maintenance work on their platform that has been needed for some time.
- NGP/VAN, EveryAction’s political business, is a small revenue stream in a big pond. As EveryAction shifted more into the more profitable non-profit sphere, the needs of political clients stopped driving the business and platform as the revenue became less significant. This dynamic has only deepened now that EveryAction is part of an even larger company owned by a private equity firm.
- A central piece of infrastructure for the progressive movement is now owned by a larger, non-partisan firm. This was also the case in the Insight acquisition, and to the credit of EveryAction, the technology remained partisan. Though some have concerns over the future status of the VAN platform given the new ownership, past decision-making has been encouraging. This does, however, validate a concern raised by some in our movement – that the opportunity for profitable exits could threaten the impact of these platforms. While I see no reason for alarm in the short term, it is something we all (including the team at NGP/VAN) will need to remain vigilant about protecting the technology and data in the years to come.
- Campaigners know and trust NGP/VAN. Organizers and volunteers across the country have been trained on the platform and use it faithfully. The mantra from my organizing experience in ‘07 still exists today – “If it is not in VAN, it never happened”. It is the one true source of field data for campaigns. Any change to this core platform has enormous costs. Adopting new technology remains the number one barrier to new products moving into politics… And VAN has done a lot of work to be loved and used by so many.
As EveryAction makes the transition into a larger newco and the political industry ramps up for next year’s midterms, we have a lot of work to do to ensure our tech stack remains secure, cutting edge, and flexible to meet the needs of lots of different campaigns and organizations. We need continued innovation to keep our tech stack strong and flexible. The EveryAction acquisition forces our industry to grapple with the long-term vision of our technology and infrastructure, while preparing for yet another electoral battle, now just right around the corner.