New Media Ventures is sinking money into organizations that are disrupting the world of politics and citizen engagement, in the hopes of supporting companies that are linking technology and change.
The tiny size of New Media Ventures’ San Francisco office–there’s just enough space for a handful of people–belies its big ambitions. As the first national network of angel investors sinking time and money into organizations working on progressive change, NMV has made bets on promising companies and nonprofits like Upworthy,NationalField, and Turbovote. NMV’s theory: New media and technology can shake up the world of progressive politics and citizen engagement.
NMV’s roots lie in the Democracy Alliance, another initiative that funds progressive organizations (see this Washington Post piece for a history on the alliance). NMV, however, is more focused on early-stage, new media and tech-focused innovation–think the next MoveOn.org or Huffington Post. “For philanthropists that wanted to invest in technology, the mechanism might look different than Democracy Alliance Funding,” says Christie George, director of New Media Ventures.
In 2010, George was hired as NMV’s first employee. She quickly began recruiting investors from within the Democracy Alliance and elsewhere–“everything from entrepreneurs drinking the tech Kool-Aid to philanthropists interested in impact investors to investors interested in being more political with their money,” she says. Today, NMV has a network of 60 investors around the country that have made investments in 10 organizations, including the ones listed above.
George admits that the space NMV works in is still new and relatively unformed (she says that most startups are still in the idea stage), but it has been pushed along by the interest in technology used during the 2012 presidential election. Obama’s tech team in particular garnered attention for its effective operation. “For us it’s a great thing because it means people are really thinking about what it means to have top-tier technologists working for progressive change,” says George.
NMV sees itself as having a role in growing the political impact investing space. As George explains, “It’s so new that part of our work is in talking about the tensions that exist between for-profit capital and progressive political impact. We’re giving examples of what political impact investing looks like.”
For its first 10 investments, NMV sorted through over 300 applications. The successful ones had solid revenue models and a technological bent. “The team is very important. … Having a team that can adapt, be self-aware, and responsive to what the market is telling them. There were a whole bunch of [applications] that were clearly not sustainable, that don’t have real business models, with people who took nonprofit ideas and pasted them onto a business model,” explains Mike Mathieu, an investor and founding board member of New Media Ventures as well as the founder of FrontSeat.
via FastCoExist – Ariel Schwartz
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