NGP VAN is bullish on the Democrats' ability to stay ahead in the tech race.
The Democratic National Committee this week launched Project Ivy, a multi-million dollar effort to put tools like NGP VAN's Votebuilder into the hands of downballot candidates. Naturally, the firm was "honored" to expand its market reach.
"Not only do Democrats have the message and technology to run smart, data driven campaigns up and down the ballot – they have a culture that values and knows how to apply that technology”, Bryan Whitaker, COO of NGP VAN, said in a statement. “No one is resting on their laurels, and we’re all-in to help build on our technological competitive advantage over Republicans."
The GOP this month launched Para Bellum Labs, its incubator project designed to help Republicans close the so-called technology gap. But the party's recent efforts drew ridicule from unnamed DNC sources. “They haven’t been able to reverse engineer what we did three years ago, let alone what we’ll do this year,” one DNC official taunted the GOP in Time.
The DNC said Project Ivy, which will have "dozens" of staff, will "take what we've learned and the tools built for the 2012 Obama Campaign and scale them so every Democratic campaign up and down the ballot can deliver [the party's message] more effectively." But making the Obama tools scaleable is easier said than done.
“That’s one of the big things we’re trying to do—scalability,” Matthew Holleque, a statistician who worked for Obama last year before co-founding BlueLabs, a data analytics firm, recently told C&E. “The Obama campaign was a massive organization and was a great place for a lot of innovation and testing and coming up with best practices. Now the challenge that we’re facing is how to bring that down to races of different sizes—statewide races, congressional races, even local races.”
According Dan Wagner, who founded Civis Analytics after going through both cycles with Obama, the question of scalability has already been answered, and that’s the reason why Obama-style data analytics is gaining more adherents. “In 2010, if you wanted analytics you needed lots of money, you needed a ton of resources,” he says. “In 2012, if you wanted [what the Obama campaign had] you needed to pay lots of money.”
Now, the technology is significantly cheaper, he says, pointing to a server that cost $20,000 in 2009, which now costs $100 on Amazon.com.
“The big thing this does is it lowers the barriers to entry for smaller candidates,” says Wagner.