Quit my job. Time to build something new.

by Joe Kent, June 2021

From 2014 to 2020, every job I had was somewhere “mission driven”, which for me really just meant advancing a liberal or left leaning agenda. But when I was in high school trying to find a tech internship, I wasn’t looking for this kind of mission oriented work, I just wanted someone to hire me and give me a shot so I could skip going to college.

Since that first internship at DoSomething.org, I’ve wound up doing website work for numerous advocacy organizations, senate races, and a presidential campaign. I don’t think anyone, myself included, could have predicted how quickly I’d become radicalized and make advancing progressive causes a defining part of my life.

Wall of political posters

My living room wall has turned into a collection of political posters

So when I took a startup job at the very start of 2021, that had no connection to politics, it felt different. My heart was never really in it.

So after six months at a tech startup, I decided to quit, and to instead focus on building software for progressive campaigns and movements. The problem I want to focus on right now is simple, making it as easy as possible for campaigns to get a website up and running.

Campaigns spend thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, on WordPress sites that are mostly just recycled from race to race. The connections between the products in the political tech sphere and the website are janky at best. The staff have no idea how to edit or maintain the site.

I once had to swoop-in as a freelancer for a critical senate race because the agency being paid tens of thousands of dollars to maintain their website couldn’t make a basic volunteer toolkit page.

(A volunteer toolkit is just lots of words and graphics, it’s not rocket science).

I’ve been told that some senate candidates looking to announce early right now are being quoted $5,000 for just a single static landing page.

As you go down the ballot to elections for city council, mayor, state representative, and more, there are thousands of campaigns that cannot afford this, and have to hack something together using an ecommerce template from Squarespace or Wix. And don’t ask them how the data from the signup form on their website gets to their CRM — I assure you it’s a nightmare.

It’s 2021, it should not be this cost prohibitive and complicated for campaigns to have a simple, good-looking website that they can easily edit & maintain, and integrate with all of the common tools in the Democratic ecosystem.

So I’m gonna take all of the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years building websites in this space, and I’m gonna try and make something better. Something like “Squarespace for campaigns”.

There will certainly still be plenty of campaigns and organizations that pay an agency for a new, original, high-fidelity brand and site, and that’s totally fine. But I think there is a huge market for everyone else that doesn’t need that. And I want to have it ready by the midterms.

If you want to support me on this endeavour, here’s 3 key things I need help with.

  1. $$$. I’m aiming to build sustainable revenue so this infrastructure can last from cycle to cycle, but until then I’m on my own (my bank account did not endorse this decision to quit my job). If you know an investor that is aligned with the cause and is willing to cut a seed check & hear my pitch, do let me know!
  2. If you work in advocacy or politics as a digital strategist, director, or similar role, and want to keep up to date with the product development please join this mailing list.
  3. Lastly, if you live in New York City (or find yourself here this summer), please offer to say hello & catch up! I’m thrilled to be doing this, but also terrified, starting a company is a lil scary! Friends & time well spent together are a great cure for this.

To get in touch, my email is hey@joekent.nyc, and you can find me on Twitter @itsjoekent.

And if you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope to have some exciting updates soon on where this is all going.