Facebook co-founder Sean Parker has funded Brigade to pull out the vote and stimulate the civic debate, but after five years and little progress, the start-up is separating, many sources confirm for TechCrunch. We learned that Pinterest had recruited about 20 members of the brigade's technical team. The rest of the brigade is looking for a buyer or potential partner in the policy space to confront the rest of the team, as well as its technology and product. Pinterest and Matt Mahan, CEO of Brigade, confirmed the fate of the startup at TechCrunch.
While the Brigade had officially raised only $ 9.3 million in a single round in 2014, the company had quietly expanded this round of Series A with more funds. A former employee said that he had burned tens of millions of extra dollars over the years. Brigade had also acquired Causes, Sean Parker's previous community action and charity tool. For now, Brigade's product will continue to be managed by a small team until a partner or buyer is found.
After Brigade was launched as an app for debating positions on hot political issues but failed to gain ground, it tipped into what Causes had been trying to be : a place of support for social movements. More recently, he focused on a Rep Tracker to track the positions and votes of elected officials. However, the campaigns 2016 and 2018 seem to fly over the head of the brigade. It has never managed to become a center of activism, to have a significant impact on voter turnout or even to be part of the conversation.
After several electoral cycles, the brigade team felt that there must be better ways to influence democracy or at least to create a sustainable enterprise. A former employee jokingly said that Brigade could have had a bigger impact simply by channeling its funds into display boards of voter turnout rather than in the expensive premises and talents of San Francisco.
The company's mission of creating civic engagement was inadvertently accomplished when Donald Trump's election polarized the country and prompted many people on both sides to get involved. He managed to predict Trump's victory after his user poll revealed that many Democrats had planned to vote against their party. But if Facebook and Twitter were not necessarily the most organized or rational forums for discussion, it was becoming increasingly pointless to try to create a new hub out of nothing.
Brigade admitted that his best choice was to refocus on government infrastructure, such as voter identification and accountability tools of elected officials, rather than being a consumer destination. His expensive, high-class engineering team was too big to fit into a potential acquirer or partner in political technology. Many of these staff had partnered to create consumer products, not government scaffolding.
Mahan, co-founder and CEO of Brigade, as well as the former CEO of Causes, confirm the breakup and agreement with Pinterest, explaining to us, "We first organized the event with Pinterest because we wanted to make sure we took care of as many people as possible. team as possible. We were incredibly pleased to see that through the process, 19 members of our engineering team received offers and eventually moved to Pinterest. That's about two-thirds of our engineering team. They were very excited about staying in consumer products and saw career opportunities at Pinterest. A spokesperson for Pinterest told us, "We are delighted to welcome the brigade engineers to Pinterest, including former CTO Brigade John Thrall and Vice President of the Brigade. engineering, Trish Gray. As experts in areas such as growth and product engineering, they have spent years designing products that drive people to the real world and take action. "
Brigade attracted the interest of many potential buyers and allowed the technical team leaders to choose to use Pinterest. Several Brigade engineers and former Vice President of Engineering, Trish Gray, have already indicated on LinkedIn that they have moved to Pinterest in recent months. "We had a group of employees who took a very ambitious plan to improve our democracy and we did not want to drop them," says Mahan. "We have spent more time, money and effort in taking care of our employees over the past few months than most companies, and I think it speaks to Sean and his values. . "
Mahan is currently in talks with several potential hosts for the next phase of the brigade and hopes to have a transition plan in place next month. "At the same time, we have been exploring the future of technology and the user base. We want to be sure that this continues and that we can continue the mission we have set ourselves, even if it does not look like what it is today. Although the company's production is difficult to measure, Mahan tells me that "Brigade builds many basic technologies, such as high-quality algorithms for voter matching and a whole pattern of voter distribution to their elected representatives. I hope that our heritage will allow us to solve some of these problems that other people can support. Given Parker's previous work with the Prop 64 Marijuana Legalization Campaign in California and his new tax relief effort from Opportunity Zones, the end of Brigade is not Parker's exit from politics.
The dissolution of the brigade could nevertheless cast a disturbing shadow on the government ecosystem. Along with the recent layoffs at Hustle, the text messaging tool of the grassroots campaign, it has been difficult for some startups in the political sector to become sustainable businesses. Exceptions like Palantir succeed by providing governments with computer databases that can be turned into weapons against citizens. Yet, in the run-up to the 2020 elections, false news and election propaganda remain a threat and technology applied to new detrimental political goals, society could benefit from additional tools designed to strengthen social justice and a fair democratic process.