Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Andreessen Horowitz Funds Community Organizing Tool NationBuilder

Marc Andreessen declared last year that “software is eating the world.” Examples like Amazon “eating” the book industry, and Skype “eating” telecom make sense, but can software really transform the crazy business of politics? That’s what Andreessen’s firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is now betting, with a $6.25 million bet on NationBuilder, which sells enterprise software to politicians for community organizing.

While politics is NationBuilder’s initial focus, it’s already being used by filmmakers as well. The company helps customers run their Web sites, with tools for both content production and user engagement and retention. For instance, one feature offers a “political currency” system that assigns point values to all sorts of actions on each site.

NationBuilder costs $19 per month for communities with fewer than 10,000 users, and more for larger communities, like that of Newark mayor Cory Booker and Newt Gingrich’s New Hampshire primary campaign. It currently has 500 “nations” with 2 million supporters.

NationBuilder was founded in 2009 by Jim Gilliam, a remarkable guy who started online movements around his own double lung transplant and documentaries for Brave New Films.

Gilliam said his main competition is consulting firms that build sites for politicians, often with a focus on Democrat or Republican candidates. These products tend to be expensive and get obsolete fast, and campaigns that want to experiment with new things like texting their supporters have had to invest in separate tools. Plus, tools aimed at getting someone elected are often different from those aimed at helping someone govern. Not so with NationBuilder.

In addition to Andreessen Horowitz, whose Ben Horowitz is taking a seat on NationBuilder’s board of directors, other prominent folks getting involved in NationBuilder include Causes founder Joe Green, who is joining as president, and investor Sean Parker, who is also now on the board. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes was a NationBuilder seed investor, while Parker is heavily involved in another online politics start-up called Votizen. Green, Parker and Hughes were all involved in the early days of Facebook.

Horowitz said he believes NationBuilder does fit the “software eats the world” thesis, even if politics might seem a bit far afield from his firm’s expertise. What he’s particularly interested in is NationBuilder’s focus on activism and participation. “NationBuilder solves the hard part,” Horowitz said. “People are excited, but then what do they do?”

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google