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ElectNext Scores $1.3 million To Bring Contextual Political Information To News Sites

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, April 2 2013

ElectNext, a political data startup, has just raised $1.3 million. Brooklyn Bridge Ventures in New York City led the round, which also includes Comcast Ventures, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Digital News Ventures, Gabriel Investments, Liberty City Ventures and Investor's Circle.

The company began in 2011 by aggregating the policy positions of presidential candidates and enabling voters to take online quizzes in order to decide which of the candidates' positions in the 2012 election cycle matched their own. It partnered with a number of big name publishers during the cycle. They include The Washington Post, PBS Newshour, NBC Politics and Hearst.

It now plans to provide media companies with widgets that contain contextual information about politicians both on the federal and municipal levels. So far, the company has aggregated profile information on all 535 members of Congress. It has also created profiles of all of the governors and lieutenant governors, as well as every member of the state legislatures of all 50 states: The end goal is to create "baseball card" profile widgets on every politician from the local dogcatcher to the president.

The contextual information includes basic biographical information, committee memberships and campaign finance data, relevant legislative text, and roll call votes. The information comes from the Sunlight Foundation, Joshua Tauberer's Civic Impulse, the Center for Responsive Politics, and government data feeds.

ElectNext's founder and CEO Keya Dannenbaum is hoping that politicians and political groups will pay to subscribe to a dashboard version of the service as a way to monitor press coverage of themselves.

The additional funding will help the company build up all this information on the local level. It plans to add to its coverage by moving from region to region. The first geographical area it's focused on is Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Mark Headd, Philadelphia's chief data officer, has taken an interest in the project and enabled much of ElectNext's work in the city, Dannenbaum said.

The initial national media launch partner is the PBS Newshour. On the state level ElectNext has partnered with the Philadelphia Inquirer, and PoliticsPA, a state and local political blog. Politicians in New Jersey and Virginia (where there are hot races for the governorships, in case you hadn't noticed) will be the next group that will be covered by ElectNext's work.

The ElectNext team is distributed all over the United States. Dannenbaum and Dan Whateley, the company's head of partnerships, are based in New York City. The company's Chief Technology Officer John Mertens is in San Francisco, as is Manya Scheps, its head of product design. Mike Toppa, the company's Rails engineer and Dave Zega, its national political director, work out of Philadelphia. (Dannenbaum is looking for a chief data scientist and an additional user experience and product design person, as well as summer interns.)

Brooklyn Bridge Ventures' Charlie O'Donnell has a blog post on the transformation that ElectNext has gone through in the time since its founding in 2011.