New Media Ventures, the first national network of angel investors focused on creating political change, launched last week in New York. Investors in the network intend to provide seed funding to new media and tech startups that are developing "disruptive uses of technology" and, according to the press release, "have the potential to build progressive political power."
The Obama campaign is often touted as the premiere example of how social change can be affected by new technologies. From text messaging to Facebook to Twitter, these technologies were seen as key to engaging and motivating voters. But the history of Internet technologies and progressive political change certainly predates the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign.
New Technologies for Political Change
As Matt Ewing, New Media Ventures director and former field director for MoveOn.org says, "MoveOn is a good example of the type of impact we're thinking about. Before MoveOn started (12 years ago), no one thought that online organizing could have impact on politics. The idea that people would donate online was seen as crazy. Now hundreds of millions of dollars are raised that way every year and it's allowed candidates to get elected that wouldn't have stood a chance if they solely relied on traditional fundraising."
In a Huffington Post article announcing the angel network, Advisory Board member Mike Mathieu writes, "Over the last three years I've incubated a number of projects in this space (ObamaCTO.org, CountMore.org, WalkScore.com, PredatoryLendingAssociation.com), and I have learned that real impact comes from backing passionate entrepreneurs and helping them build well-functioning organizations around their mission, not just creating innovative web sites."
According to Mathieu, more innovation in the tech sector will bring about more political change, and this notion was the impetus for forming New Media Ventures.
Investors Supporting Innovation and Political Change
"Our member investors know that supporting innovation is critical for the progressive movement's ability to continue to leverage new technology and new media," says Ewing. "We'll be taking lessons from the best angel investors in Silicon Valley and applying the model to progressive politics and new media efforts. We're looking for entrepreneurs with big ideas for creating progressive political change that could quickly scale with the right help."
James Rucker, another Advisory Board member says, "Our approach will allow us to work with organizations that have huge potential, but are too risky for traditional non-profit funders, and don't come with the expected returns of venture capital funded efforts," said James Rucker, New Media Ventures Advisory Board member and Color of Change co-founder.
New Media Ventures is a pilot project of the Democracy Alliance.