The Higher Ground Labs Landscape Report came out a few days ago, and it’s an excellent read. The report takes a bird’s-eye view of the progressive tech ecosystem, leveraging an extensive data set of companies which are in and adjacent to the ecosystem.
It’s not difficult to see the impact that the global pandemic had on the progressive tech industry - that theme permeates nearly every page of the report. There’s particular emphasis on increased digital ad spend and a shift in focus towards vote-by-mail and other socially distanced methods of political engagement. The shift in focus towards media and messaging which Micah Sifry described earlier this year also emerge as key areas of focus here. The wave of acquisitions that characterized late 2020 and early 2021 also had a pronounced effect on the report. But it’s somewhat interesting to see that the report is fairly mute on a fascinating subject: the near-collapse of progressive tech entrants with well-heeled investors, especially Alloy and Hawkfish.
What I always enjoy in these reports is the way that Higher Ground Labs points out areas for improvement, which culminate in the year’s investment thesis. These highlights tend to identify some really fascinating areas for improvement, and indeed opportunities for new startups to enter the space. To take a single example, one area of opportunity in the data analytics space - “Work data and targeting into campaign strategy in down ballot campaigns” - could easily manifest in a suite of new startups targeting all sorts of different kinds of down-ballot races. Other suggestions, like “More Context in Social Listening Tools” in the research space, read as important feature requests for industry incumbents.
The report culminates in HGL’s investment thesis. By and large this thesis follows logically from the emerging trends and areas of opportunity identified earlier in the report. There is however one item which caught my eye: “Fintech innovations for the progressive ecosystem.” Political fundraising and disbursement is infamously distorted along numerous dimensions: fundraising tends to spike closest to Election Day, when the funds can’t be well-spent; fundraising tends to benefit flashy but long-shot candidates, when the funds could be better spent on less-famous but more-competitive candidates; organizing resources tend to be focused in even years, even though off-year organizing has lasting benefits; and on and on. In a world where finances are scarce, improved allocation and use of those resources is all the more crucial. It’s very exciting to see HGL raise the profile of this area.
HGL will host a webinar to discuss this report on June 15. Should be an interesting event!