Bi-Coastal Hackathons Reveal Depth of GOP Tech Bench

Deep, deep – and very wide.

That’s the measure of the bench waiting to play on the GOP tech reserve.  We’re about to see that fact brilliantly illustrated this month.

Two events later this month will clearly illustrate the width and depth of the GOP Tech bench in reaching for new digital solutions to bring to the conservative ground game in the 2014 and 2016 political races.  Both occur on the same weekend focusing on Sat, June 22, 2013.

In DC, just 5 blocks from the White House, we have the Revolt DC.com Hackathon:


… and in San Francisco, convenient to Silicon Valley, we have the 2-day Liberty Hackathon:


Here at GOP Tech Week, we think it’s likely that we’ll be live-blogging both events from the SF Liberty Hackathon.

Already showing a bit more maturity than the Liberty Hackathon is the Revolt DC Hackathon which has already posted links to suggested APIs (some already at open source haven Github) to hack against on their Eventbrite registration page.  Organized by Digital Acumen CEO Andrew Hemingway , and digital media & communications consultant Laura Aulestia.  (Disclosure: Andrew was my boss for the 2008 NewtHampshire.com digital project for the New Hampshire presidential primary;  Andrew was NH state chair for that effort.)

Revolt DC chose the 1776 incubator campus on 15th Street NW as the venue for their Hackathon.  Home to 75 new start-ups in diverse industries, the 1776 campus is becoming well known as a hot-bed of innovation.   Hackers and tech entrepreneurs will feel right at home there.

Both events will give coders, developers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to show off their stuff, win cash prizes, and most importantly, earn their way solidly onto the radar of VC managers who could consider funding their projects.

That’s a big deal, because it’s still all about free enterprise, and the merit of digital projects that promise to do the most for the conservative political effort.

It’s our hope that the RNC will be watching these events closely – or at least visit the web sites after the fact to learn who the prize winners were.   Many have been criticizing RNC digital strategy recently and the RNC staff have lashed out at its critics.  RNC digital strategist Tyler Brown has even written about the need for the RNC to go far, far beyond current demands for improved tech.  But apparently their reach exceeds their grasp as recent digital contracting decisions showed a decisive and woeful lack of new media vision.

In recent contracts, the RNC has regressed to the old crony system, hiring firms  that don’t even have web sites and headed by former RNCers for its future digital operations.

RevoltDC says so while Liberty Hackathon is a bit more circumspect, but if the merits of the marketplace fail, as they have in recent RNC contract selections, new venues will emerge to showcase technologies that will far surpass what the RNC even knows to ask for.

There are roughly 3,100 counties in the US, most hosting at least 2 parties for a total of 6,200 county parties.  Add to that the 7,382 state legislature seats with campaign opponents and you have 20,864 small campaigns on the US.  Add to that the sum of school boards, city councils, water boards, etc. in the country and you probably go well over 200,000 political web sites in the country.

Design a $19.99/month must-have web Widget to an API and rent it to only 50,000 campaigns, and you have nearly $1 million per month in revenue.    Make that must-have Widget worth $39.99/month for 50,000 campaigns and you get over $1.99 million per month in revenue.

I think numbers like that will attract a lot of entrepreneurs.  Counties and small campaigns won’t need to worry what tech they can get the RNC or the states to furnish for their local races.

Those counties and state legislators know they are on their own.   Fortunately, the price of advanced tech is falling fast – must faster than the states or RNC will be able to deliver attractive functions through their own platforms.   Whatever they deliver (and we don’t expect it to be much) will be delivered to a howling silence, because the campaigns and local parties will have already gone elsewhere for better tech.

Savvy RNC donors should watch the companies that appear at these hackathons carefully – your dollars will be much better invested (for a monetary return!) there, and will yield more political advantage, than in RNC ‘tech’ contracts with companies that don’t even have web sites.



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