SF CHRONICLE: ‘THE CHARGE OF THE BYTE BRIGADE’

As the San Francisco Chronicle points out this morning, “Brigade has been quiet about its plans for months, but company leaders are poking their heads out of the startup cave with appearances at major online political gatherings.” Through interviews with our CEO Matt Mahan and President James Windon, political reporter Joe Garofoli describes our vision, along with some of the potential challenges and opportunities ahead. It’s worth a read with your morning coffee.

Check out the full story here.

Let’s Connect at Netroots Nation, Reboot & CampaignTech West

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Here at Brigade, we’re hard at work building an easy, effective and enjoyable platform that we hope will bring political power back to the people. Part of that effort involves talking to and learning from strategists, technologists, advocates, and academics who hail from diverse backgrounds with varying views about the future of civic engagement. Over the next few days, we’re delighted to be part of several events that will allow us to connect with some of the most engaged players in this space.

Starting today, members of the Brigade team will be in Detroit for the ninth annual Netroots Nation conference where thousands of progressive bloggers and leaders will convene to share best practices and build stronger relationships with others working on issues they care most about.

On Friday, Brigade will host a hackathon in San Francisco in conjunction with the right-leaning Reboot conference. Participants will collaborate on technological solutions to a range of problems and a panel of judges (one of whom is our Director of Impact Partnerships Jessica Dahl) will award $10,000 in prize money. The next day, our CEO Matt Mahan will moderate a session at the summit.

Next week, Hillary Lehr, a senior strategist on our Impact Partnerships team, will participate in a Tuesday panel about the future of integrating online and offline data at  CampaignTech West, Campaigns & Elections’ premiere West Coast tech and politics conference. Later that day, Matt will deliver the event’s closing keynote where he’ll discuss ways technology can help reignite public participation in democracy.

We’re excited to participate in Netroots Nation, Reboot and CampaignTech West and we look forward to additional opportunities where we can exchange ideas with smart, creative individuals who are as motivated as we are to upend the status quo and restore the people’s rightful place as the most important part of our democracy.

In the meantime, #JoinBrigade on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and request an invite to Brigade here.

WHAT’S MISSING FROM JULY’S CAMPAIGN FINANCE FILINGS

This week’s Federal Election Commission deadline for congressional candidates and committees to disclose their quarterly campaign finances means that once again financial numbers are being held up as a measure of power. Brigade CEO Matt Mahan argues in The Huffington Post that creating platforms that allow Americans to more easily harness their collective strength and become actively engaged is where our focus should be.

It should come as no surprise that the candidates who raised the most during the second quarter of 2014 will garner the most media coverage and attention. Cable news network pundits will talk exuberantly about the explosion of spending by outside groups, which has quadrupled since 2006, and the sheer volume of reported dollars raised and spent will leave Americans wondering whether their vote matters when matched up against the deep pockets of a wealthy few.

Read the full column here.

WHY WE NEED TECH TO EMPOWER OUR ELECTORATE

Check out Brigade CEO Matt Mahan’s Campaigns & Elections column ahead of his keynote at the CampaignTech West conference on July 22.

In November 2012, a record 18.2 million Californians were registered to vote. Last month, a little over 18 percent of them cast a ballot in the state’s primary election, making it among the worst ever in terms of voter turnout. At a time when issues like energy, the economy, and education are driving concerned conversations statewide, why did voters stay home? And why is this trend growing more prevalent across the country?.

These are good questions and the answers are complicated. But the short version is that people feel disconnected from their government and disenfranchised from the electoral process that selects their representatives. Big interest groups and big money increasingly determine candidates’ viability long before citizens vote in a primary.

Read the full column here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA LEARNS ABOUT BRIGADE

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Jessica Dahl, Brigade’s Director of Impact Partnerships, had a chance to talk with President Barack Obama on July 3 about our company’s mission to reenergize public participation in democracy during his visit to 1776, a startup incubator where our Washington, DC office is housed. “I am into that,” Obama told her, and then followed up with a series of questions about our platform. “You’ve done a great job explaining your company. I’m done grilling you now,” he said. During remarks to the crowd who gathered for the visit, he spoke about “economic patriotism,” linking the concept to Independence Day. The president also commented on the look of 1776’s collaborative, open floor plan: “This is a cool place to work out of,” he said. We agree!

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING…

BRIGADE MEDIA ACQUIRES CAUSES AND VOTIZEN

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Earlier this year, you might have read or heard about our mission to leverage technology to tackle the problem of declining citizen power and engagement in democracy, along with news about a $9.5 million investment from Silicon Valley heavyweights Ron Conway and Marc Benioff and our Executive Chairman Sean Parker.

Today we’re pleased to announce that Brigade Media has acquired a controlling stake in Philotic Inc., the company that owns Causes, the world’s largest online campaigning platform, and political advocacy startup Votizen, which was bought by Philotic in 2013. This is one of the first steps we’re taking to re-energize interest in democracy by bringing together people who are passionate about different issues in their communities, cities, states and countries, and allowing them to take action.

Since Causes launched in 2007 as the first social good app on Facebook, 186 million registered users in 156 countries have raised over $48 million for nonprofits, collected 34 million signatures for grassroots advocacy campaigns and created hundreds of thousands of online groups around important social issues. Separately, Votizen helped voters learn about issues and elections, and take collective action through social media. We believe there is great power in the technology that Causes and Votizen helped build and today’s acquisition supports Brigade’s goal of tackling one of the last areas of our society nearly untouched by technology: civic engagement.

Brigade will serve as a tool to empower people civically, enabling any person to engage with their representatives in a way that is easy, social and enjoyable. Acquiring Causes, which was focused on the non-profit space, adds the unique expertise needed to build an infrastructure powerful enough to elevate the voices of citizens and improve the relationship between elected officials and their constituents.

Causes.com and campaigns built on the platform will continue to function for now, however the Causes brand and technology will eventually be retired. Our engineering and product teams have already begun working on building out Brigade.com, which will open up new and better opportunities for civic engagement.

In addition to the community and technology, a couple of leaders from Causes are moving into key executive roles at Brigade. Matt Mahan, who played a strategic role in growing Causes as its CEO, will become CEO of Brigade. James Windon, who served as VP of Revenue at Causes, will become President of Brigade and will be responsible for overseeing partnerships and future monetization. Sean will continue to drive product vision and will work with Matt and James on certain strategic functions of the company.

Matt previously managed business development at Causes and has experience in political campaigning and community organizing. In a former life, James worked as a corporate lawyer and in international development for the World Trade Organization. Matt and James will manage the day-to-day operations of Brigade and build out a world-class team to bring political power back to the people.

Filling out the Brigade leadership team are Jason Putorti, former lead designer at Mint.com and Votizen co-founder, who will serve as VP of Design; Miche Capone, former designer at 500 Startups and Votizen’s head of product, who will become VP of Product; and Andrew Noyes, longtime journalist and former Uber Technologies and Facebook PR executive, who will serve as VP of Communications.

Matt, James, Jason, Miche and Andrew will join recently announced Brigade staff including Adam Conner, VP of Politics and former Manager of Public Policy at Facebook, and John Thrall, Chief Technology Officer and former Yahoo! VP of Mobile Engineering.

So what’s next for Brigade? Overcoming 50 years of declining participation in democracy and feelings of powerlessness, disconnectedness and disenfranchisement by big interest groups and big money takes time, energy, and resources. As we ramp up, we’re looking for engineers, product designers and political strategists who share our vision to build an easy, effective, and enjoyable platform that brings political power back to the people.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements and be sure to follow us on Twitter!

— The Brigade Team

NAPSTER COFOUNDER SEAN PARKER TO LEAD CIVIC STARTUP

POLITICO:

Big tech-industry players want to help get out the vote and are pouring millions into a new startup to boost American civic engagement. The company, called Brigade, is designed to combat a lack of political engagement and interest in all levels of government across America — although the firm’s road map is unclear at this time. Silicon Valley magnates Sean Parker, Ron Conway and Marc Benioff are among the big-name investors in the company, according to two sources familiar with the effort.

Read the full story here.

TechCrunch:

Stealthy, unlaunched startup Brigade Media has raised $9.3 million from Sean Parker of Facebook fame, along with unknown sums from Ron Conway and Marc Benioff, TechCrunch has learned. Parker’s investment is personal, and not from Founders Fund, a group that he has stepped back from.

Read the full story here.