It turns out, some political campaigns are good for more than negative TV ads. Obama's last campaign gave rise to a hot startup, NationalField, with a little help from Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes.
Today, enterprises and politicos alike are using it.
NationalField is a tool for the social enterprise that has one up on Chatter, Yammer, and Jive, cofounder Edward Saatchi says. It doesn't just let people post stuff to a feed. It tracks their activities and uses social features to let them compete for glory, recognition, and bigger paychecks.
It all started in 2008, when Saatchi, an energetic young British citizen, moved to the United States to help Barack Obama become president. There he met up with two other campaign workers, Aharon Wasserman and Justin Lewis. The three of them were frustrated with the tools being used to manage the campaign.
"We were using Google Docs, an Access database," to keep track of phone calls, door-knocks, funds raised, and so on, Saatchi told Business Insider. The system was "a nightmare" so they "decided to build something and modeled it on Facebook."
This being the Obama campaign, they tapped Hughes to help them. To this day Hughes is listed as an advisor to the company.
The tool lets everyone log their own day's work. The Facebook part lets people compete, showing off how much money they raised, or how many phone calls they made. Team leaders can easily see the day's work. NationalField's founders discovered that "when you marry a business intelligence tool with something social there's a weird alchemy that makes people competitive," Saatchi says. It's like turning work into a high-scores list on a video game.
The tool spread from one field office to the next. After the election, people told the three amigos to start a company because they wanted to keep using the thing. So they did, gaining customers immediately as friends got jobs at other nonprofits and companies. It turns out, the tool was good for sales teams trying to increase leads, and lots of other jobs.
Today, the company has an impressive list of customers including Kaiser Permanente and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, the fundraising arm of the House Democrats.
NationalField, based in D.C., employs 13 people. It has organically grown to over a quarter of million users, each customer paying $10 per user plus bonuses when employees hit high quotas. It just landed a new contract with the U.K.'s National Health Service, who signed a five-year, million-user deal.
Saatchi says the company regularly beats out Salesforce.com's Chatter and Microsoft's Yammer on enterprise deals, too.
"People are tired of the social enterprise," he say. "You can't just be Facebook."
Instead, companies want to be able to measure the productivity gains for using social tools instead of email.
Now the startup is ramping up to grow even faster. Last week, it took its first bite of investment money when it nabbed $1.5 million from angel investors including Excel creator Jabe Blumethal and DirecTV cofounder Jim Ramo.
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