Alloy, the would-be Democratic voter data juggernaut backed by LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, says it intends to transfer the majority of the technology it developed to Civitech, another progressive get-out-the-vote tools provider.
Alloy formally launched in 2020 with lofty ambitions to build a bigger and better voter data repository for Democratic candidates and causes. But the startup announced on November 20—less than a year from its coming-out—that it would be winding down operations in 2021.
In Democratic circles, there was a perception that Alloy—flush with Silicon Valley cash, talent, and ethos—believed it could solve Democrats’ most serious voter data challenges, and a concern that Alloy intended to own and control the party’s voter data. This distrust and suspicion may have been a key factor in Alloy’s decision to cease operations next year.
Alloy and Civitech have signed a nonbinding letter of intent, but many of the details, including financial terms, are still being worked out. Austin-based Civitech is exploring its options for offering positions to Washington, D.C.-based Alloy’s employees.
“We’re excited to enter into negotiations with Civitech as potential stewards of Alloy’s technology and that our initial engagement has been grounded in a mutual commitment to keeping Alloy products radically affordable and accessible to the entire ecosystem,” said Alloy cofounder Haley Van Dyck in a statement.
During its short time in operation, Alloy assembled an impressive team of engineers and data scientists, and created some truly useful data tools for get-out-the-vote efforts. For example, the startup built a tool that informs campaigns about newly registered voters to whom they can reach out. It also can provide reports on eligible but unregistered voters who might be persuaded to register and vote for a progressive candidate or cause.
The Alloy data tools will be complementary to Civitech’s existing tools, says Alloy’s communication and politics director Luis Miranda. Civitech already offers tools to facilitate voter registration, and now will be able to integrate Alloy’s Verify API to follow registrations through processing by the state to make sure they’re not lost or rejected. Collectively, Democratic campaigns and progressive groups used Alloy’s Verify API to do 23 million voter registration status checks in the run-up to November 3. Civitech also built an online tool called BallotCure that let voters in the battleground states of Florida, Georgia, and Michigan fix signature problems with their mail-in ballots to make sure they were accepted and counted.
Alloy was built with a $35 million seed investment led by Hoffman and Todd Park, the chief technology officer of the U.S. under Obama. While the startup focused on supporting voter registration in the months before the 2020 election, it was also busy working toward a long-term goal of building a new voter file from scratch. Voter files are large databases that contain the voting status and history of millions of people, along with demographic data, contact information, and third-party data from credit bureaus and consumer data brokers.
Alloy wanted to act as a versatile and flexible cloud-based exchange where progressive campaigns and organizations could get voter data and campaign tools. It was that lofty ambition (along with Reid Hoffman’s money) that attracted first the attention, then the suspicion, of some notable players within Democratic circles, a source tells me.
Voter files, after all, were already available from several commercial vendors (TargetSmart, for one), as well as from the Democratic National Committee. Most state Democratic parties license the DNC’s voter file. The DNC is also building its own repository of apps and data tools with Democratic Data Exchange (DDeX).
There’s a finite amount of revenue to be made from political campaigns and causes, and it may not be enough to sustain the growth of numerous civic tech startups. That could be one reason for several recent consolidations in the campaign tech space. Along with the Civitech/Alloy deal, EveryAction, the parent company of long-time civic tech player NGP-VAN, acquired the events management and volunteerism recruitment platform Mobilize on November 30—its fourth acquisition in the past two years. In 2019, it acquired the BSD Tools division of Blue State Digital, ActionKit, and DonorTrends.
Alloy’s Van Dyck and her cofounder Mikey Dickerson are known names in civic tech circles. Both veterans of Obama’s campaign tech team starting back in 2009, Van Dyck and Dickerson reconnected during the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov, when Dickerson took an unplanned hiatus from Google to help lead the turnaround. The duo then joined forces to help build the U.S. Digital Service, an elite tech unit inside the Obama White House.
Van Dyck and Dickerson could end up in the Biden administration. It’s also possible they still have startup fever and intend to develop new technologies to help Democrats fend off a possible Trumpocalypse in 2024.