[Updated] Word of Layoffs at NationBuilder

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Hi folks, we are officially back on the case after a couple of weeks of travel — let’s talk about the recent 2016 candidate launches soon. But first, any number of small birds have flown in through the vision slits in the Epolitics.com bunker over the past few days, bearing word of significant layoffs at advocacy-technology provider NationBuilder. The story I’m hearing is one of over-rapid expansion, followed by cash-burn, followed by painful contraction.

I’m also hearing that the basic technology and the company itself aren’t in danger, but assuming this news holds up (I can’t find anything public yet), customers will certainly take notice…as will NationBuilder’s growing number of competitors. On the personal side, I have many friends and acquaintances at the company, and I hope that they either weren’t on the list or will at least be able to land on their feet.

From an advocate’s point of view, I’d hate to lose any competitiveness in the market — NationBuilder’s done a great job of pushing the rest of the advocacy-technology industry to innovate. More news as soon as it’s available.

Update: After this article went online, NationBuilder founder Jim Gilliam reached out to say, “We did have to lay off some wonderful people on Friday because we tried to expand into other verticals a bit too quickly. We are 125 people strong and are in a better position today to serve our customers well.”


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • Maybe trying to play both sides of the aisle hurts far more than it helps — I know a number of people/organizations who wouldn’t consider them as an advocacy/tech partner once they started marketing their services to elephants, regardless of what tools they bring to the table.

      • The product itself may have been nonpartisan since its inception, but it was built by progressive activists and disappointed a lot of people when the first major deal was inked with the Republicans. Not too many of us want our progressive dollars to build features that will make our opponents better advocates.

          • That argument has been tried before — the comparison to Twitter just doesn’t fly (see what I did there?) when you’re giving access to your lists, your data, and often your strategy, to people who are also working with your opponents.

            The back-end of Twitter is not nearly so revealing, when Twitter strategy is pretty much WYSIWYG. You’re not consulting with Twitter itself on training and best practices, what you’re posting speaks for itself, and your followers and following are transparent. Most political and advocacy lists and campaign action plans, however, are closely-guarded secrets, with only the minimal disclosures required by the FEC revealed to the rest of the world, and the end-user seeing only what the list-holder intends them to see to prompt action.

            Somehow there are other tools that have remained true to their ideological roots, in this cold cruel competitive world, and those are the ones that will retain my business.

    • The two-party Status Quo is fucked. Anything that perpetuates it, especially software, is part of the problem. There are more than two sides of “the aisle.” Wake up.

  • Good businesses should try new things, and sometimes those things don’t work out fully. If all the things work out, you’re not pushing or innovating enough – especially in a field like advocacy or democracy tech where *many* sacred cows need to be slain.

    A smart organization/company recognizes the moments that something doesn’t work and pulls back a bit in those areas. It’s natural contraction, and very healthy. While a bummer for staff who may be laid off, if they’re working at Nation Builder, they’re very talented technologists who will definitely land on their feet.

    The whole thing just looks like smart leadership and decision making, and indicative of healthy growth of a relatively young company to me.