Start-up Spotlight: NationBuilder, linking politics and tech, gets funding


NationBuilder -- a Los Angeles start-up that helps politicos and other leaders build support -- has gotten some big backing of its own.

On Thursday the company announced a $6.25-million Series A funding round, led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Former Facebook executive and Silicon Valley veteran Sean Parker participated in the round and joined the board of NationBuilder along with Andreessen Horowitz’s Ben Horowitz.

Founded by Jim Gilliam of Brave New Media, NationBuilder harnesses the power of technology and the Internet to help leaders (usually politicians) build and organize support for their movements.


The company helps level the political playing field by making campaign technology easily accessible to candidates, no matter whether they are running for school board, mayor or U.S. Senate. Calling itself the first community organizing system, NationBuilder is a one-stop shop for many campaign must-haves: custom websites, petitions, donation pages, volunteer coordination, people databases and real-time newsfeeds.

“This is the first time that a Silicon Valley-type software company is going after the political market,” Gilliam said. “Historically, the political world has been ignored by the technology world.”

“For 20 bucks a month, we’re providing more functionality than the Obama campaign had in 2008 for millions of dollars,” said Joe Green, who Thursday was named president of the company. Green is also the founder of Causes, a Facebook app that encourages people to give time and money to their favorite causes.

NationBuilder says its software platform has already helped more than 1,800 leaders organize more than 500 groups with 2 million supporters. “Leaders use NationBuilder to drive political campaigns, rally support around films, mobilize volunteers for education reform and more -- from grassroots movements to nationwide crusades,” the company said.

But perhaps the most compelling part of NationBuilder is the personal story of Gilliam, who is chief executive of the company and has survived cancer twice. The second time, the documentary filmmaker needed a double lung transplant, which he got after friends and family rallied support for him on the Internet.

“Quite literally, the power of organizing people online saved my life,” he says.

Gilliam spoke about his experience and his childhood as a Christian fundamentalist during a talk called “The Internet is My Religion,” which he gave last year at the Personal Democracy Forum.

NationBuilder is based in downtown Los Angeles, a surprise given its ties to Silicon Valley influence and funding and to Washington, D.C., political types. It also resisted setting up shop in Silicon Beach, the growing tech scene in the Santa Monica area.


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