TrendPo and the Big Market Opportunity for Political Startups

June 14, 2013

1:00 pm

In the 2012 election, TrendPo’s political rankings predicted victories in all 11 of the gubernatorial races, and 24 out of 33 Senate wins.

The edge TrendPo has on other social media analysis companies is the TrendPo rank, which ranks politicians on “how effective they are in social and news arenas,” using factors including keywords, sentiment analysis, and social media buzz, says TrendPo founder J.D. Chang. That feature comes from TrendPo’s roots as the online fantasy politics game Fanitics.

The data analysis business has entered the era of “data relevancy,” says Chang, who is pivoting his company from social gaming and data mining to selling tailored reports about social media engagement to political groups hungry for information.

TrendPo’s new dashboard feature allows its clients to customize daily reports on who is clicking relevant links to a certain politician or issue on Facebook or Twitter, and what news reports about a politician are gathering the most online buzz.

Offering data research tailored for a client’s needs is the best strategy for a data analysis startup because larger companies have already saturated the market for raw data mining, Chang says.

“A data mining startup would really have to find some unique, niche data that no one is aggregating,” Chang explains.

The company began selling to politicians and political groups in April, but Chang says he wants to apply TrendPo’s rankings and personalized data reports to other sectors, including small businesses and startups. This “TrendPo Startups” service should have a private beta launch by September, Chang predicts.

“As the division matures, we will develop more custom products strictly for the startup and small business markets,” Chang says.

Political groups value customized data because it helps them to engage people on the topics they care about, says Beth Becker, a partner at Indigo Strategies political consultant firm, which subscribes to TrendPo’s service for $300 per month.

“People can retweet you [on Twitter] but are they actually looking at the link? Are people actually signing your petitions?”  Becker says. “I know people who are at larger unions, and they are looking for larger data repositories. This would make their jobs much easier. Campaign workers are already busy canvassing and reviewing email lists.”

There is a huge potential for startups to improve operation for political offices and to sell more specific data to political campaigns, says Donna Harris, cofounder of tech startup hub 1776 in Washington, DC, where TrendPo is a member company.

“It’s a whole genre of startups that I think we have barely begun to see,” Harris says.

Startups selling data to groups in politics or other sectors should not rely on traditional business-to-business models – just in case a startup does not march their software to Congress and get every member to buy a subscription, Harris cautions.

“Start with one revenue source if you can, and layer on others as you grow,” she says. “Think about not just who can I sell it to, but who is interested in being a sponsor? Who is interested in advertising on the site? Who is interested in having exclusive rights to something?”

Guest author Tom Risen remembers LAN parties and custom-building computers before the rise of the smartphone. He started reporting on the tech stock market at the Medill School of Journalism, and has written about the tech industry for Government Executive, National Journal, Slate, Policy and Regulatory Report, and for newspapers in Maryland and California. He’s on Twitter @TomRisen.

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