May 20, 2013
In political campaigns, from city councilman to president, candidates first have to fight to get the official party nomination. With that blessing from above comes financing and support, including access to the party’s software and database.
If you don’t get nominated, you’re faced with an uphill battle raising money solely from donors. That money is crucial, as it funds advertising and software that assesses that advertising (and your get-out-the-vote efforts) to see what works and what doesn’t.
Lillian Cavalieri saw this process firsthand as a campaign manager for a 2010 supervisor candidate in California. As she recounts, her team was paying $7,500 per month for software that didn’t always work. So, at the urging of her colleague and now-COO Alexa Straker, she decided to build something better.
It was a leap into the unknown of entrepreneurship, but Cavalieri had survived worse. She had just emerged from a fight with cancer during college.
“When you get a mortality check at the age of 20, it kind of gives you the confidence and energy to know that even if you’re $20,000 in debt, at least you’re not on a bed having things pumped into your system,” she says. “I think it’s definitely given me a level of confidence as well as a disposition that, even if it’s a problem today, you can’t sweat the small stuff.”
The solution she built is iPrecinct, and it costs as little as $400 per month (depending on your voter base). It targets politicians running for city council all the way up to the congressional level. iPrecinct handles lots of the organization that is traditionally done in Excel or on paper, wasting time that could be spent talking to voters. The app creates the best routes for volunteers going door-to-door, automatically generates unbiased questions to ask, lets volunteers submit voter responses in real time, and detects fraud by volunteers (e.g., making up responses).
“We need to reform the democratic process,” says Cavalieri. “It’s not fair that campaigns that have ample warchests are the only ones that have access to quality software.”
If less mainstream candidates have access to that quality software, she believes, they will attract more attention and the public will have more options. In turn, competition will force the candidates to really listen to their constituents, and come up with a clear message.
iPrecinct launched in April and has mostly attracted politicians in Los Angeles, although word is spreading across the country. In fact, Cavalieri likens running a company to running a campaign.
“It’s about efficiency, organization, and making sure you have trusted allies,” she says.
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