skimmerhat

Continuing To Learn

“Nearly 230 billion tons of ice is melting into the ocean from glaciers, ice caps, and mountaintops annually—which is actually less than previous estimates, according to new research by scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder.” - US News, 2/8/12

This week has been and is an exciting one for skimmerhat as it is full of learning, and if anyone knows that the skimmerhat team can use more knowledge, it’s us the skimmerhat team.

While there are a million balls in the air, here are just a few…

The building of our prototype through iRise is going very well so far and we are making a ton of progress. It is amazing, even at a fundamental level, to see an idea be put into place. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s miles ahead of where it was two weeks ago. We are meeting with our advisor to go through and further improve our prototype later in the week.

We have also signed up to a number of groups and gatherings through Meet Up (props to a couple friends who turned us on to this). We attended a Ruby and a PHP meet up and have met people that are super passionate about development.

Tonight we are heading to a Lean Startup meet up where hopefully we will learn from other entrepreneurs and start-ups as well as bounce some of our ideas around and see how they hold up.

And in two weeks we are attending Startup Riot, a conference in Atlanta that lets start-ups pitch their ideas and where others share their experience and insight into the start-up process. We are very pumped about that one.

We are continuing to search for the right developer/team of developers who will take our prototype for skimmerhat and build it to completion. Through these meet ups and conferences and the connections we have made just in the last few weeks, we have already spoken to some great, talented people and are planning on sitting down with more soon, but the search is still going. Connected to that is our search for a CTO. Ideally, we would like to work with someone who is passionate about the project because we want to have that “fourth leg" to even out the skills the three of us provide.

And on top of all that, we have had a group of awesome people who donated to our company to help us with initial costs, which you can see on the toolbar to the right. We will never be able to thank everyone enough for what they have contributed so far. And even if you can’t give money, sharing our name is just as valuable (seriously).

We are really looking forward to seeing where the rest of the week takes us as well as the coming months. And we hope you stick around to see how skimmerhat will impact the way candidates are funded and supported.

– Spencer

“The FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police arrested a Moroccan man Friday in downtown Washington after a lengthy investigation into an alleged plot to carry out a suicide attack on the Capitol.” - Washington Post, 2/17/12

Because our platform is predicated upon supporting and funding candidates, an inevitable question comes to the forefront; what kind of donors will likely utilize skimmerhat?

We believe the large majority of our users will be small donors – or those who give $200 or less to a particular candidate. The Internet caters to this category of donors. It’s quick, easy and empowering. And while large donors will always bolster candidates, small donors in great numbers propel them to greater heights.

There is proof of strength in small donors. The image above (click to enlarge) is a chart from a recent OpenSecrets article showing the impact of small donors on current presidential candidates. As you can see, Barack Obama and Ron Paul – two of the strongest fundraising candidates in recent memory – rely heavily on small donors, hovering around 50% of their total donations. These numbers have increased since the last presidential cycle. We don’t think it is a coincidence either that both President Obama and Rep. Paul leverage the Internet and a young voter base to a greater degree than any of the other presidential candidates.

(A quick aside here. In 2008, people hailed Barack Obama for his strong small donor numbers. As it turned out, many of those small donors kept donating, making them small donors no longer. Just something to think about as you look at these numbers. But that initial donation still shows the intent of the small donor “mentality,” so to speak.)

This presidential donor talk is great; however, at skimmerhat we aren’t focusing on presidential elections. We are aiming at Congressional candidates.

A 2010 article from OpenSecrets shows how Senate candidates are propelled by small donors and the contrasting tactics you see in elections between those who concentrate on enthusiastic small donors and those who seek deep-pocketed large donors:

In Florida, individual donors account for about 95 percent of the more than $10 million in the war chest of Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who last week declared he would skip the GOP primary and run as an independent for the Sunshine State’s open Senate seat. Yet less than 1 percent of this overall haul comes from small donors who give $200 or less, the threshold used by the Federal Election Commission for itemized disclosure.

Rubio, a Republican whose bid forced Crist out of the GOP field has, by contrast, raised 37 percent of his funds from donors who gave $200 or less. Rubio, overall, has raised $7 million through March, and about 96 percent of his campaign funds have come from individual donors who gave any amount.

In Kentucky, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is following in his father’s fund-raising footsteps.

On the 2008 presidential campaign trail, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), pictured left, collected vast sums from small donors via the Internet. Now, small donors are fueling younger Paul’s campaign as well.

Through March, 52 percent of all of Rand Paul’s nearly $2.4 million has come from individuals who gave $200 or less. Furthermore, less than 0.4 percent of Rand Paul’s war chest has come from PACs.

In Missouri, Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan has collected 20 percent of her $5.5 million war chest from small donors, while Republican Roy Blunt has raised about 5 percent of his funds from individuals who give $200 or less. Blunt, meanwhile has relied on PACs to a much greater extent, pulling in about 27 percent of his total $6 million haul from PACs. Carnahan has raised about 14 percent of her money from these groups.

There is a ton of growth opportunity with the small donor community for many Congressional candidates while others are already showing how effective it can be for a campaign. With skimmerhat and the power of the Internet, we hope to further empower voters to support and donate to candidates who share their ideology, rather than their party affiliation, in order to make a difference in Washington.

Keep up with the growth of skimmerhat as we work to build a better way to fund candidates by signing up on our email list here.

– Spencer

“Republican Newt Gingrich vowed on Sunday to press ahead with his struggling presidential bid after a big loss in Nevada.” - Reuters, 2/6/12

So far, we’ve given you a general glimpse into the flow of skimmerhat, while also touching on geographic navigation and ideological navigation.

The graphic above (click to enlarge) is a rough draft of the third aspect of navigation you will find within skimmerhat – matching. To quickly match you to candidates, we are working on a short, simple survey that addresses the core pillars present within one’s ideology. Once completed, you will begin to form your ideology within skimmerhat and be matched with candidates that best align with your answers, regardless of district lines.

Obviously, it is difficult to encapsulate your ideology as well as a candidate’s ideology within a ten question quiz; however, as we first roll out skimmerhat we want to make this process as simple as possible. Then, as the base of users and candidates grow, we will expand our survey to even more accurately pinpoint your match. Further, we want each question to be framed in a way where you can supply a definite stance – whether it is yes, no or no opinion.

The above is a working draft as you see only six questions, but this gives you an idea of the template/design we are looking at for the matching/survey navigation.

– Spencer

“The parade, borne out of a simple conversation between two St. Louis friends a month ago, was the nation’s first big welcome-home for veterans of the war since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December.” - AP, 1/28/12

Here is a quick look at the various functions/paths that users and candidates will utilize within skimmerhat. We will get into more of the details of each as we go, but this graphic provides a solid early glimpse (click on the picture to enlarge).

– Spencer

The List That Never Ends, And That's OK

“Real GDP increased 1.7 percent in 2011 (that is, from the 2010 annual level to the 2011 annual level), compared with an increase of 3.0 percent in 2010.” - Business Insider, 1/27/12

I made a list last night that combined tasks, goals and ideas for the next few weeks. Not surprisingly, it got real long, real quick.

We’ve made quite a bit of progress over the last month in a number of important areas (business documents, business plan/pitch, advisor meetings, competition research, developer communication), but when you begin to think of what is on the horizon, it is simultaneously daunting and thrilling.

The thrill far outweighs the apprehension, however. Because when your risk – and any business is a risk – is calculated and you believe in it, the possibility is seemingly endless.

Luckily, as we have been moving forward, there are plenty of avenues to find guidance in taking on the innumerable amount of hurdles in the beginning, thanks to selfless bloggers and information providers on the Internet. Also, I have found that in looking at a list of tasks even small accomplishments, like research, in an afternoon or evening provides us with solid momentum. Chunking helps a lot, too (Props to that Tony Robbins video I had to watch at work. Still haven’t walked across hot coals, though).

Here are just a few of the blogs/sites that have been of great value to us thus far:

  • Startup Lawyer – Ryan covers so many topics (incorporation, vesting, agreements) that founders must know when creating a business and making it valuable.

  • Guy Kawasaki – Guy thinks big, but puts things in a way that makes them real and rational, which is important when putting your best foot forward.

  • Startable – Combines information and news from the start-up world that you can pull from and apply to your business.

  • Founder’s Workbench – If you don’t know where to start in terms of practices, forms and documents for your start-up, this is an awesome place to begin.

  • How To Launch A Startup – Akshay is a guy who has been there and done that with a start-up in Atlanta and he shares a ton of great resources to peruse through.

I have always been apprehensive of “experts” and “gurus” – especially as it involves human or social behavior – because they often speak in absolutes. And often they are wrong because humans don’t work in absolutes.

However, information gathering and research from a number of different outlets is vital. It inevitably melds opinions together at which point you can make the best decision that is right for your situation, or at least the one that you believe is correct.

So, as I look at my list from last night and we begin tackling each aspect head-on, I am constantly motivated in knowing that we have a superb idea, have done the legwork thus far and can be stabilized by methods that have proven to be effective.

– Spencer

The U.S. Army identified the soldier implicated in the massacre of 16 villagers in Afghanistan this week as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, and said he arrived on Friday at a Kansas base where he will be held in a solitary cell.” - Reuters, 3/17/12

We have been throwing around taglines for skimmerhat since we first launched the idea two months ago, but we did not settle on anything because nothing seemed to really click with us.

We want to capture what skimmerhat does, but also encapsulate what we can do. It is a big idea, and an idealistic one.

So Andrew tweeted a line earlier in the week, which you can see here that read, “An idea is powerful. An action can change history.”

It resonated with us. We did a little retooling with verbiage, and produced the tagline you see above.

It is a big, far-reaching concept. But we want skimmerhat to have a big, far-reaching effect on our country where citizens can educate and learn about candidates’ ideas and stances on issues, but then have the option to take action through donation and support, regardless of district lines or party affiliation.

As we’ve written multiple times (here, here, here and here), action is what fuels candidates to victories. Not just saying you believe in an idea, but backing it up with volunteership or a $20 dollar donation. That goes much further than ideas.

Let us know what you think of the tagline in the comments. And if you believe in it, sign up to our email list here to follow us as we grow.

– Spencer

Education, Action

“The benchmark S&P 500 closed at its highest level since mid-2008 on Monday, extending gains for a third session as oil prices retreated after a recent rally and data showed further improvement in the U.S. housing market.” - Reuters, 2/27/12

If the “Power” image from our post a few days ago quickly symbolizes skimmerhat, then two words quickly define it – education and action.

The idea of skimmerhat emerged out of necessity. Where do you go to find how Federal or state level candidates – especially challengers – stand on the issues? If you are like many, including us, you don’t have a solid answer. And if you do, does your option quickly and intuitively supply you with the information about a candidate that is significant to you?

Skimmerhat is here to help with this process. We want to supply you with the information that will educate you on candidates who are out there across the country, regardless of party affiliation. Voters often know what issues are important to them, so why not make it easier to educate voters on the candidates who align with their ideology?

But, what do you do once you are educated? With skimmerhat, you take action.

Action is the next logical step. It is where you will truly make a difference on a campaign and, thus, our country. Donations build the healthy infrastructure that every candidate needs to win an election.

This is especially true when a candidate is facing the deep pocketed candidates of the political establishment; the ones who have been in Congress for decades. Candidates with access to a wider base of donors – and skimmerhat aims to give every campaign and every candidate the potential power of national fundraising – will then have a better chance to make an impact on our country.

As we’ve mentioned here plenty, Congressional approval ratings are at an all-time low and people are angry, but re-election rates for the House and the Senate are healthy – around 85%.

The disconnect is alarming. And though there is no one way to explain it, we at skimmerhat believe the right tools will make a difference. Tools that educate and encourage action.

That is what we are building; a better way to find, support and fund candidates. Sign up on our email list if you are interested in keeping up with our growth.

– Spencer

“The U.S. trade deficit surged to the widest imbalance in more than three years in January as imports hit an all-time high, reflecting big demand for foreign-made cars, computers and food products.” - AP, 3/9/12

Compounding on our post from earlier in the week when we shared a glimpse at the homepage of skimmerhat from our visual prototype, the above (click to enlarge) is a look at the Ideological navigation users will utilize inside skimmerhat.

Here, you will be able to pick a particular ideological pillar – or a group of pillars – that is important to you. In the example above, you will see it is Budget. There you will answer a few survey questions.

Once completed, you can then match yourself to Congressional candidates, regardless of district lines, based on your answers. When you see the candidates you align with on the issues that resonate with you, you have the opportunity to donate to his/her campaign. Education, then action.

This is one of three forms of navigation we have built out through our demo with another being a geographical navigation where you can dig down into districts by state and the other being a more generalized survey form that covers all the pillars of one’s ideology. All three help you quickly and intuitively find and fund candidates.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to send them to info@skimmerhat.com or if you are interested in following our growth, sign up on our email list here.

– Spencer

“Ben Bernanke struck a downbeat tone on the health of the US economy - in spite of an upward revision of growth in the fourth quarter of 2011 - leaving it unclear whether the Federal Reserve would further ease monetary policy.” - The Financial Times, 2/29/12

We’ve written a great deal about the power of fundraising and how important it is to candidates and elections. It is especially true for challengers, as the above graph shows in convincing fashion (thanks to OpenSecrets, they are awesome).

Simply, it is becoming more and more expensive for candidates – no matter the party affiliation – to defeat incumbents. Although, the graph is specifically for House seats, one can assume the same is true for Senate seats as well as state seats. It demonstrates the absolute need for a healthy donor base in order to win elections, and points to one reason why incumbents get re-elected at high rates despite perpetually low approval ratings.

And it is why skimmerhat – and you – can make a difference; with the Internet and its strength in mobilization, large groups of people can align with candidates based on their ideology and, next, support and donate to candidates, regardless of district lines, so the candidate will be able to take on incumbents. Then, win elections.

Regional elections can have the power of national fundraising though skimmerhat, all geared by the strength of one’s ideology.

The need for a new tool for how Americans find, support and fund candidates is more apparent than ever.

– Spencer

Rick Santorum ended his improbable run for the White House on Tuesday after leading a Republican tilt to the right that could dog the more moderate front-runner, Mitt Romney, in November’s election.” - Reuters, 4/10/12

As we’ve said before, political cartoons are often a great way to convey a message that might otherwise require a few hundred words. So, we’ve been sharing them on the blog here and there. And here is another one (not exactly the pledge we remember in elementary school).

We also started a political cartoon board on Pinterest. Check it out; we are hoping to start releasing some skimmerhat original political cartoons in the coming months.

Ultimately, though, we want to help change the problems we see in these political cartoons so our government is held more accountable and our representatives more accurately reflect the voices of Americans.

– Spencer

time to get un-lost

“Nearly everyone in Sanford agrees on one thing: The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. But his death has taken on a whole new meaning here, where media outlets from around the world have descended, to figure out just what happened more than a month ago when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.” - CNN, 3/29/12

According to the most recent data from RealClearPolitics.com, 81.5 percent of Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing. And, this is not to suggest that 18.5 percent of Americans actually approve of Congress. No, that number is just 11.8 percent. That’s right. Barely one out of every 10 Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. 

Americans aren’t happy. In fact, it’s more than just not being happy. They’re angry. Very angry. And, they want change. 

But, there’s a problem.

“I’m really grateful to be part of a generation that wants change, ‘cause we should all want change,” Hofstra University graduate student Jennifer Campbell told the AP. “But I’m not sure what that change is, or if they know what that change is.”

Ah. There’s the rub. It’s impossible to effect change if one is not sure what that change should be. It is much like being lost in the woods without a clear sense of where to go to get out.

To make matters worse, some people, including some of those within the Occupy Movement, are actually against taking any direction at all. 

Spencer, skimmerhat’s Chief Operations Officer, once visited Occupy Atlanta to hand out literature for a candidate with whom he was volunteering at the time. The response he got from those down there was neither positive, nor negative. They weren’t against his candidate, or for the candidate. 

They weren’t with any candidate at all. ‘We don’t support anyone,’ Spencer was told in effect. 

And, that’s the major problem with where our country is. We’re all angry. We all want change. But, many don’t have any idea what that change looks like, and those that do have some idea refuse to take action.

Not taking action is like sitting lost in the woods, hugging a tree, hoping to be rescued. While that may work in survival situations, where trained rescuers are actively searching for you…it doesn’t work that way with politics. 

The Establishment likes an electorate that is confused, frightened, and directionless. It makes it easier to take advantage of them. What they fear is an electorate that is educated, aware, and – worse of all – actively working for change.

Skimmerhat wants to rescue people from the woods. Skimmerhat knows that only by taking an active role in making change will people finally have the government they want. 

That’s why we’re not only providing the tools to make people more educated about candidates, but we’re also providing the tools for people to take that next step – the action step. Donating to candidates is the easiest – and, in a sense – the best way to start taking control of our government.

Skimmerhat will let voters find candidates they want to support. And, it will allow them to do just that. 

We can’t sit back and wait for someone to rescue us from our current problems. That isn’t happening. We must do what’s within our power to save ourselves. 

We have more power than we think. 

– Andrew

Working with the FEC

“Less than a week after a US staff sergeant allegedly massacred 16 civilians in Kandahar, American soldiers were banned from bringing guns into a talk by Mr Panetta at a base in Helmand province” - Daily Telegraph, 3/14/12

Our Advisory Opinion Request to the FEC has been mailed. It is pictured below.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the governing body of all things related to money and federal elections. Based in D.C., the FEC keeps an “eye” on our elections to ensure nothing is rotten in Denmark, so to speak. Because skimmerhat is both a) at its core, a fundraising tool, and b) associated with federal elections, we answer to them when it comes to how we operate.

It’s standard procedure for any entity like skimmerhat to approach the FEC in the beginning stages of organizing, or when pursuing a new activity, to petition the FEC for their opinion on the permissibility of said action/organization under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). It’s actually a pretty cool process, especially since it spares you having to get fined to realize you’re doing something wrong.

A very, very, very heartfelt and special thanks to those who helped get this document together.

External image

– Spencer

Housekeeping News & Notes

“Just days before what could be the most consequential meeting of U.S. and Israeli leaders in years, aides to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are scrambling to bridge stark differences over what Washington fears could be an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.” - Reuters, 3/2/12

A few housekeeping notes we wanted to pass along:

  • As you can see by looking at our ChipIn widget on the right side of the screen, we are closing in on our last day for this round of donations, which is Saturday, March 3. We are so grateful to the people who have helped fund skimmerhat already; your contributions are going a long way in producing and sending marketing materials, paying for our domain, future hosting/development fees and undoubtedly for more plans we are preparing to carry out in the coming months. To have the support of family and friends on this project is immeasurable. If you haven’t chipped in, no amount is too small to help us meet our goals. So, go ahead. Regardless, please share our mission of building a better way to find, support and fund candidates with your family and friends.

  • We have added an FAQ section to the site. It is on the right toolbar, under About Us. See it? Yep, right there. Check it out. We are pretty positive we will be adding more as we continue to grow and go through the process of building skimmerhat, but we wanted to have a resource to answer any initial questions about who we are and what we are doing. If you happen to have any questions that we don’t address – or don’t address well enough – please pass them along to us in the comments or by emailing info@skimmerhat.com.

  • We are set to complete our high fidelity demo of skimmerhat this weekend, and we are really excited about it. Be on the lookout for some screenshots in the coming days (and if you are on our email list, you will get an even better glimpse than what we post on the blog…sign up for our email list here). We are including this demo in our application for Y Combinator in addition to using it when we begin pitching to investors in the coming weeks. The demo itself gives a full visualization of skimmerhat and the functionality you will get to know when the site itself goes live. Essentially, it is the site without the code. Big thanks is in order to Scott McDowell and iRise; both have been instrumental in making our prototype a reality

  • In relation to the demo, we are in continuous talks with a few folks who could join skimmerhat as a technical partner/lead. We have talked to a bunch of talented and inspired developers; it really just comes down to finding the right fit as far as a partner goes. But as that search continues, we are exploring ways to begin development for skimmerhat ASAP, and we are confident this will begin soon, which is super exciting.

As always, keep checking up on us. Things are starting to move really fast as we meet more and more people and knock down more and more of our goals. The news should continue to get bigger and better.

We are pumped about what we are building, and we hope you are, too.

– Spencer

Afghanistan wants the United States to clearly spell out what sort of military presence it will leave behind once most of its combat troops leave by the end of 2014, a senior Afghan official said.” - Reuters, 3/31/12

We’ve shared a few political cartoons before that exhibit the country’s anger at Congress, so here is another. Although many Americans certainly feel this way, does it have to be a cyclical or constant emotion?

We don’t think so.

– Spencer

Startup Riot Tomorrow

“The Dow briefly broke through the key 13,000 level for the first time since May 2008, but failed to close above the milestone.” - CNBC, 2/21/12

We’ve mentioned it in past blog posts, but tomorrow we are attending Startup Riot here in Atlanta. Thirty startups will be presenting along with a couple keynote talks and plenty of networking and discussion amongst people heavily involved in the startup community across the Southeast.

Although we aren’t presenting it should be an awesome opportunity to learn from other startups, meet people and spread the word of skimmerhat. Below is the email we received from Startup Riot this morning which outlines what to expect (ignore the typo about Seattle…we are not going to Seattle). Diggin’ the headline.

We’ll definitely be posting over the next couple days on the experience, so be on the lookout for that.

External image

– Spencer

Good Luck!

“China, the largest foreign lender to the U.S., reduced its holdings of Treasuries in December to the least since June 2010 amid efforts to assist Europe in addressing its debt crisis.” - Bloomberg, 2/15/12

Last week, we dropped in at a coworking space called Strongbox West here in Atlanta, mainly to check out the digs and the set-up in case we are ever interested in the future.

Upon arrival, we traded pleasantries with the woman who helps run the space and, naturally, she asked what our startup was all about.

We replied with the tagline you see in the info box on the right – we are a non-partisan crowdsourcing platform dedicated to funding candidates based upon ideology rather than party.

Her response was, “Wow, well if you can do that….good luck!”

It had the same tone and temperament many use when they throw their arms up in the air and say, “DC is awful, but it is what it is. What’s gonna change anyway?”

We at skimmerhat are not naive enough to believe that we won’t encounter plenty of skeptics on our journey to build a better way to fund candidates. Nor are we proud enough to think that we don’t deserve it. Skepticism is plentiful in relation to politics.

Distrust and anger fuel skepticism. Both of which are abundant in America right now when it comes to D.C., especially Congress (exemplified here, here and here). It’s pretty easy to understand why Congressional approval ratings are so low as our representatives continue to befuddle Americans

So, when we hear “Good luck,” we understand it.

But we wouldn’t be going down this road if we didn’t believe it was already being paved.

Voters are embracing solid ideas over party affiliation more than ever, for a variety of reasons. Case in point, more than 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 elections. And it is representative of a decades-long decline.

Therefore, when we hear, “Good luck,” we believe you aren’t just telling us you are skeptical the way we fund and support candidates can evolve, you are saying “Good luck” to Americans across the country who are already taking it upon themselves to begin this evolution of sorts.

It won’t happen quickly or easily, but if finding, supporting and funding candidates based upon the merits of their ideology rather than their party affiliation sounds like a worthwhile endeavor, or is something you already partake in, we hope you stay with us.

And if you are interested in keeping up with our own evolution here at skimmerhat, sign up to our email list. Or pass our name along to your friends and family.

– Spencer

Our Goals This Week

“Catholic bishops said Friday night that they would not support the Obama administration’s proposed compromise on a controversial rule that requires most employers to fully cover contraception in their workers’ health plans.” - WSJ, 2/12/12

Every Sunday night we at skimmerhat have a conference call. Although we obviously speak with each other more than one day a week and communicate in some fashion on essentially a daily basis, the weekly conference call is a solid way to wrap up what happened the week before and begin moving forward for the next.

It assures we are on the same page.

With that in mind, and having just finished our weekly call, here is a look into a few of our goals for this week.

  • Move prototype to high-fidelity
    • Due: ASAP
    • Our prototype is beginning to get the finishing touches put on it, at which point we will begin pitching it.
  • Get further FEC info
    • Due: Wednesday
    • While we have gathered a ton of information on FEC compliance, we still need to get a few final aspects nailed down. This will include an Advisory Opinion from the FEC to ensure we – in the way we are formed – are conducting business the right way as it pertains to donations.
  • Complete Marketing Package
    • Due: Friday
    • We are close to finishing a marketing package that we will be able to use for various targets in the future.
  • Complete Financial Projections
    • Due: Friday
    • Having a full projection of the expenses, profits and driving metrics will be key in our business pitch and plan.
  • Complete Y Combinator Application
    • February 29th
    • Y Combinator provides an unparalleled experience for start-ups like us and we know it would be an opportunity that would change our future for the better.
  • Finalize Lean Canvas Model
    • Sunday
    • Lean Canvas is a great tool in visualizing and validating skimmerhat’s business model. It is something we picked up at a recent Meet Up, and we are glad we found it.
  • Narrow Developer Search
    • This is an ongoing goal as we continue to talk to possible CTO’s for skimmerhat as well as agencies that can build our platform.
  • Target Investors
    • Another ongoing goal to ready ourselves when we begin pitching.

There is never a shortage of tasks (this is just a portion of our larger goals), but defining each helps us attack them with refreshed fervor every week.

– Spencer

It's Happening All Around You

“A federal appeals court here ruled Tuesday that California’s voter-mandated ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional, in a closely watched case that eventually could lead the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.” - Wall Street Journal, 2/7/12

When you look to the right, you see that skimmerhat is a non-partisan crowdsourcing platform dedicated to funding candidates based upon ideology rather than party. If the last month is any indication, we expect to repeat that phrase at least 6,789 more times in the coming year to quickly encapsulate who we are and what we are doing (We actually hope to exceed that number as it would mean we are gaining traction).

So far, many people are saying. “Wow, that is a great idea!” Others might be withholding vocal judgment until we are out of earshot.

However, the word in that description that a large percentage get caught up in is crowdsourcing.

They ask, “Well, what does that mean?” Or, “How does it work?”

While we could point them toward Wikipedia (here you go) or the growing number of experts who wax poetic on the merits of crowdsourcing, it is easier to say, “Look around. It’s happening all around you.”

Because it is. In commercials, journalism, music and the list goes on.

There’s not much sense to get into the semantics of what online crowdsourcing is because it is a concept everyone is familiar with, especially offline – large groups of people collaborating and collectively determining the best end result.

Kinda sounds democratic.

And that’s why it is a great fit for politics. Luckily, we are seeing technology infiltrate the political scene more and more.

For example, Representative Darrell Issa – a Republican from California – recently crowdsourced sections of the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. Internet users generated improvements to six sections of the bill using the Madison platform. 

Issa said, “We developed Madison to empower those shut out from the process that produced SOPA and PIPA. It is an ongoing experiment in direct digital democracy, but the introduced version of the OPEN Act is proof that crowdsourcing can deliver better bills and a more accountable government.”

That is pretty inspiring stuff.

Further, Alex Howard of O'Reilly Radar wrote a very interesting and lengthy 2011 year in review of a space being called Gov 2.0, which is interpreted as the Internet’s influence on the role of the government.

He takes note of a growing number of civic start-ups looking to make an impact:

This year, early entrants like SeeClickFix and Citysourced became relatively old hat with the rise of a new class of civic startups that aspire to interface with the existing architectures of democracy. (Update: SeeClickFix founder Ben Berkowitz sent in an email to let us know that “80 new cities signed onto SeeClickFix with Open311 in 2011, 4x last year. ‘Old hat’ but growing.”) Some hope to augment what exists, others to replicate democratic institutions in digital form. 

This year, new players like ElectNext

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, OpenGovernment.org, Civic Commons, Votizen and POPVOX entered the mix alongside many other examples of social media and government innovation.

It is exciting to see so many different start-ups taking it upon themselves to inspire change in the way government is performed in this country through the force of the Internet. Each one fills a different void.

We believe skimmerhat fills another void; one that is present in the way we support and fund candidates in light of the current political environment.

– Spencer

reporting.sunlightfoundation.com
Following the Stream of Money

If you’ve perused through the skimmerhat blog, you know we are building a platform to engage small donors through the strength of ideology. But, as we do this, Super PACs continue to funnel massive amounts of money into political races. The Sunlight Foundation – through the above link – does a great job showing just how much money that is and how large the stream has become. Check it out.

– Spencer

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President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is front and center at the Supreme Court for three days of hearings to determine the fate of a law aimed at extending health insurance to more than 30 million Americans.” - AP, 3/26/12

This new video is hot off the press and delves into how and why we are building a better way to find and fund candidates. It is predicated upon our belief that ideas are powerful. But actions change history.