As the election season goes into full swing, candidates around the country are hoping to build some of the grassroots infrastructure that helped bring Barack Obama into office four years ago. They can either build their own platform — like Obama’s campaign did — or they can turn to tools such NationBuilder, a startup that has created an online community organizing platform that can be used by politicians but also anyone looking to build a campaign around a cause.
NationBuilder is ramping up to capitalize on the election opportunity this year, announcing today that it has raised a $6.25 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from a host of angels including Sean Parker, Path’s Dave Morin, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz, SV Angel, Mike Volpi of Index Ventures. Other Facebook Mafia members also invested, including Scott Marlette, Justin Schaffer, Kevin Colleran and Sam Lessin. Parker and Ben Horowitz will join NationBuilder’s board while co-founder Joe Green, who also founded Causes, is taking on the role of President.
Los Angeles-based NationBuilder fuses a content management system with a customer relationship management platform into a single online product, which allows people to run their campaign, rally supporters, solicit donations, create calendars and other functions. Users can create a slick campaign site, track their supporters, manage communications, coordinate volunteers, all though a platform that is designed to be used like a social network. Since launching almost a year ago, NationBuilder has signed up more than 500 “nations” with 2 million supporters.
Green said the focus for this year is on political campaigns; there are half a million elected positions in the U.S. at all levels, many of them up for grabs this year. But the promise is in extending this to all kinds of people with a constituency. That could be filmmakers or artists or craft makers. In some ways, this could be what Kickstarter users graduate up to as they look to maintain their community.
Founder and CEO Jim Gilliam also said bloggers could also be natural customers. He said as some bloggers look to build a bigger community around their work, they might look at NationBuilder to engage their audience. This can also work for impromptu campaigns built around causes like the fight to stop SOPA. NationBuilder charges anywhere from $20 a month for individuals to $499 a month for companies
Gilliam, a former documentary producer, CTO at Business.com and veteran of Lycos, built the service on the side after seeing the power first hand in community organizing. He was able to get a vital lung operation through organizing a campaign online. The new money comes on top of $500,000 raised last year from Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who helped lead Obama’s online campaign in 2008. The money should help NationBuilder compete with companies like Rally.org, a social fund-raising platform. And it comes at a time when people are learning through sites like Kickstarter to rally around projects and campaigns. If NationBuilder can become the go-to resource for candidates, artists and community organizers, that could be a pretty opportunity.