[Name]: Christie George
[Organization]: New Media Ventures
[Area of Expertise]: Media for Progressive Change
New media has revolutionized how we do politics, and Christie George keeps progressives technologically on track. Her passion is in media for mission-related work, which she first explored while working in films. She was a pioneer film distributor of social justice causes at the non-profit Women Make Movies where she toured television stations and film festivals to help spread female directors’ visions out into the world. Several years later, with an Oxford MBA to boot, she began thinking about “a way that [her] personal experience might be relevant to politics,” and she found her answer in start-up consulting.
Christie George is now the executive director at New Media Ventures (NMV), the first national network of early stage investors focused on political change. More specifically, NMV teams new media andpolitical tech companies with progressive-minded investors who provide them the financial support necessary to develop new methods of advancing progressive ideals.
Elections and voting systems, civic engagement tools and online organizing platforms are all examples of the kinds of “political technologies” NMV leverages to widen a citizen’s influence over politics.
Their portfolio includes Friendfactor, a new model of online organizing that brings new supporters to the gay rights movement and which recently helped garner enough support to legalize gay marriage in New York. NMV was also a major backer of NationalField, the business-oriented social networking software first adopted by “Triple O”—Obama’s online operation. According to the Washington Post, Obama raised half a billion dollars online in 2008 with an average online donation of $80 from supporters who often contributed more than once. Hence, NationalField’s unofficial title is “the private social network that helped elect a President.”
As Christie explains, “After business school, I had been interested in two things: getting films out beyond the constituency that traditionally goes to see documentaries, and to think of media more broadly than just film.” NMV offers Christie the latter in privileged form by bringing start-up teams with innovative ideas but a lack of funding before her consideration. Entrepreneurs begin with a business plan submitted in the form of an online application that determines a start-up’s potential to create progressive political change in addition to its ability to scale and generate revenue. NMV staff and screening committee evaluate applicants, and a select few are presented tothe organization’s broader network of progressively-minded investors. Then, per NMV’s site:
“If a deal garners enough member interest, we will find a lead investor and move onto another round of due diligence and then funding. Typically, the total investment from New Media Ventures members will end up being around $100,000 in one-time seed capital.”
As Christie points out, it can be difficult for political tech companies to raise money in more traditional capital markets. Questions like “What happens if it’s not an election year?” or “How do you find customers to make up for that gap?” instill certain doubt in investors unfamiliar with the political landscape. NMV investors are unique because they are interested in both political impact and financial sustainability.
Christie is hopeful that NMV will stand as an example of how politics and media are essential elements of creating social change. And, she sees NMV’s role at the Hub as a bridge between the political and social impact worlds. “We are trying to figure out how we can use New Media Ventures to bring as many people as possible to the table that might not have historically thought of themselves as political. It is one of the things that I think we do really well.”
Jasen, Your Hub Stories Writer
Jasen Talise is an intern writer for the Hub Bay Area. He is a fourth year studying Rhetoric and Theater at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests range from existential philosophy, competitive hip hop dance, to the culinary arts. He was recently a contributing writer for Issues: The Berkeley Medical Journal.