Open Call / For Investors / For Startups / News & Events
February 10th, 2020

On Iowa, Political Tech, and Funding Innovation

By Christie George

Last week we launched our 2020 Open Call, inviting pitches from startups working at the crossroads of media, technology, and politics. That same night, the use of a new app caused delays and confusion in reporting results from the Iowa Caucuses. NMV’s own Julie Menter recently sat down with Bill Allison at Bloomberg to share how we think about the relationship between technology and politics, and we wanted to add a few reflections here. 

TLDR; We continue to believe that technology has an important role to play in the future of our movements and campaigns, and that it’s critical to invest in innovation during big election years.

On the role of tech, and whether tech should even be in politics:

  • Tech is not good or bad. Yes, tech can be incredibly dangerous, undermine trust, and mess up our democracy. At the same time, it can amplify our movements, lift up new voices, and help us reach and mobilize far more people than ever before. 
  • Tech alone will not save us. It’s no substitute for the hard work of organizing on the ground and bringing people together around shared values. In fact, the best tech is in service of people. So we need to be investing in training, adoption, and capacity building, as well. 
  • Tech takes time. That’s why it’s so important to invest early, so groups have time to learn, do user testing, and iterate – in lower stakes settings.
  • While what happened in Iowa was a failure, it is one failure. This is not the moment to throw the tech baby out with the bath water.

On NMV and why we’re excited about our 2020 Open Call

  • NMV was created to fund thoughtful innovation year-in, year-out, not just in election years. We’ve just launched our 2020 Open Call and look forward to funding a new group of companies and organizations.
  • Some people have asked us whether we should be funding new things in a big election year. We think it’s critical to continue the cycle of innovation – knowing that many of the things we fund may be months or years away from scale, and they need time and resources to grow thoughtfully. 
  • Organizations we’ve funded over the last ten years are poised to have a huge impact in 2020. From PushBlack to MobilizeAmerica to Mijente to Swing Left, we’ve seen the power of betting early on big ideas. 
  • To shift the balance of power in the US, we need to build narrative power, people power, and electoral power. This means investing in political technology, yes, but also funding organizers, media makers, and more. And we need to move resources to folks who deeply understand the problems they’re working to solve. The NMV Open Call is designed to do just that.

Interested in applying to the NMV Open Call? We’re hosting a webinar next Wednesday, February 19 to answer any questions you may have.