Blue Utopia founder Trace Anderson figures there are plenty of firms ready to roll out a Web site or campaign solutions for a Democratic Senate hopeful.
His products work for those candidates, too. But what about the campaign tribulations of candidates in statehouse politics, or hopefuls trying to get into town councils and city halls?
"That," Anderson says, "is really the problem that we're trying to solve."
Anderson founded Blue Utopia in 2002, after a private-sector career in software development that took him to giants like Oracle and Microsoft. After what he calls "one of those what's-gonna-be-next" moments, he began to dabble in Democratic Party politics.
"The technology that was available to campaigns, particularly at the lower level, it was just really bad," he says.
Blue Utopia's solution is a modular set of software — hosted on the firm's own cloud, a la Google applications — targeted specifically to Democrats running in state and local races. As the firm has grown, so has the list of modular add-ons available for its clients. Now, Anderson says, Blue Utopia's emphasis is on smart data management. The firm seeks to make it easier for clients to merge together data gathered from multiple sources in the scattershot way small organizations sometimes have to operate. The value-add from Blue Utopia is its own ever-growing amount of data, such as district-level voter records, which it allows clients to unify with their own database for a fee. The end result is supposed to allow campaigns to mobilize volunteers, donors and voters from a single robust database.
Anderson calls Blue Utopia's products a "soup-to-nuts" approach to campaign management. The core platform is a constituent relationship management database, but, to make permissions easier to handle, that data is broken down across separate modules for constituent and volunteer relationships, donor data and organization contacts. Beyond that, campaigns can invest in district-level voter data, fundraising applications, compliance reporting, walk lists for door-to-door teams — anything, Anderson says, that candidates like a council contender or state senate hopeful would need to get elected. Campaigns pay set-up fees and monthly fees, in some cases based on usage.
Blue Utopia also offers consulting and website design and development. All of its software is scalable, from out-of-the-box products for smaller operations to custom solutions for complex campaigns.
Anderson's firm is one of several looking to make tools that allow its clients to capitalize on supporters' social networks.
"A lot of our social media stuff is baked in throughout our applications," he says.
For example, campaign staff can sniff out potentially useful connections between people in a constituent database.
"You go look somebody up and you can, in a click, see who they're connected to and what their Facebook account looks like, or what their LinkedIn account looks like," says Anderson.
Insight like that comes from merging data aggregated from all kinds of sources. Cleaning and importing that data — removing duplicate entries, getting everything into the same database — is a point of emphasis for Blue Utopia, but Anderson characterizes it as just part of a bigger package.
"That's just the thing that saves them the $2,000 bill they get from their tech vendor," he says.
Software that Blue Utopia recently rolled out allows campaigns to track their donors' lives as viewed through events ranging from birthdays to appearances in the news. It checks to see if donors on a list have appeared in the news in the past day, updated their Facebook page or had a birthday, for example, says Anderson.
"It drives a ton of intel through your data," explained Blue Utopia's CEO.
Anderson's software also handles other kinds of reporting a nonprofit or a campaign might expect — it generates reports about online donations. The e-mail module tracks e-mail delivery rates, opens and bounces. Org-PAC Manager, the organizational relationship manager among Blue Utopia's back-office offerings, can track lobbyist relationships, interactions and transactions.
Blue Utopia offers installation, hosting, training and maintenance of its software. The firm handles backups, upgrades and server and data security.
Targeted to state- and local-level efforts, Blue Utopia's products are designed to be easy to learn and are supposed to be useful to the campaign manager trying to pull together data from many different sources on a shoestring budget.
"What makes it different is that it is ridiculously easy to use," Anderson says of Blue Utopia software. "The problem generically with political software is that it is not very well designed, and it is very good for professional service providers and very very bad for everyone else."
Not true of his stuff, he says.
Push-button contribution reporting compliance is available for Colorado and the state of Washington, as is push-button access to close-up data like postal and FEC lookups.
"It doesn't make their data better, it provides more and more intelligence for them," Anderson explained.
From $400 set-up and $45 monthly for online tools — a website, e-mail blast and online fundraising — to about $1200 set-up and $650 a month for everything demanded by a hypothetical U.S. Senate campaign, such as donor data tracking and other back-office tools.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wa); Democrats Work; Ohio Young Democrats; State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (NY); Craig Pridemore for Congress; Georgia House Democrats.