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Political Crowdfunding Startup Launches From Stealth

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The 2020 Iowa Democratic primary caucuses are less than two months away. One Boston startup is ready to capitalize on the political mayhem.

Booster, a software company that enables political campaigns to crowdfund their social media advertising efforts, launched from stealth on Tuesday. Based in Boston, with offices in New York and Washington, the startup allows individuals to make small-dollar contributions specifically to let campaigns “boost” political ads on Facebook. Boosted ads have a stronger chance of appearing on users’ News Feeds.

According to a statement, the startup uses the payment processor Stripe to manage transactions and has API integrations with the Facebook platform to automate and optimize media investment.

Booster’s team has also created what it calls the “2020 Social Spend Presidential Tracker,” a tool that shows spending trends on a weekly basis.

Booster is headed up by Jamie Tedford, who was the CEO and co-founder of Brand Networks. That company offers tools for brands to market themselves on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest.

Joining Tedford on the executive team are chief technology officer Mike Garsin, who co-founded Brand Networks with Tedford, and chief commercial officer Aaron Earls, an experienced political operative and co-founder of New Media Strategies.

“As veterans from the social advertising industry, we set out to empower the American people with the same tools and expertise that big companies use to invest media dollars behind content on Facebook,” Tedford said in the statement. “Booster is on a mission to democratize social media influence; giving people a new ‘superpower’ to cast votes everyday with their wallet and digital devices.”

Booster counts several experienced political operatives on its advisory board, including Dewey Square Group’s Charles Baker III and former director of strategic communications for Hillary Clinton 2016 Adrienne Elrod.

Personally, Tedford said in an interview with BostInno that he was soured by the influence of social media on the 2016 presidential election.

“I recognized that social media could be used for evil,” he said.

Tedford wanted to make a direct impact on social media’s use for political movement. Instead of writing a check to a candidate’s general fund, users of Booster give money directly to boost a specific post on Facebook. It’s a chance for individuals to get involved in politics on a more personal level—and for Booster to potentially become an “antidote to fake news,” Tedford said.

I asked Tedford what he thought about Facebook’s decision to allow political ads that include false information. As recently as last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended that stance, telling reporters, “What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments.”

Tedford acknowledges that his startup relies on Facebook, but he has faith in the social media giant’s commitment to transparency.

“I think Facebook has done a pretty incredible job, if you look at their Transparency [Report] and the guardrails they’ve put around political advertising,” Tedford said.

Tedford said Booster also plans to branch out to other social media platforms, including Snapchat, whose political advertising platform has had an increasing influence. (Unlike Facebook, Snapchat fact-checks political ads that appear on the app.)

So far, Booster has financial support from a handful of private investors. The startup conducted a soft launch in the runup to the 2018 midterms with a handful of congressional candidates, political action committees and nonprofits. It has gained early traction with 2020 presidential candidates, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, according to the statement. Tedford said Booster plans to announce another candidate using the startup as early as next week.

“Booster puts the power to elevate candidates and causes in the hands of the American people, while also increasing small dollar donations,” Earls said in the statement. “Booster gives supporters visibility into the real time impact of their donation, representing a sea change in politics and issue advocacy.”

Correction: This article originally stated that Charles Baker III was the father of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. While Gov. Baker’s father is also named Charles Baker III, they are different people. We regret the error.


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