affinity

Update #3

Matt H., Apr. 3, 2017

The big news first: we have funding!

That’s right, the wire has cleared from our first major investor, and Affinity is a going concern. Several more investors have the term sheet in hand, and are expecting to close shortly.

We are especially grateful to them for their willingness to try something new in the way they are supporting this work. We are doing a couple of creative things in the way we organize and finance Affinity, in order to ensure it remains permanently focused on building progressive power.

First, we have organized as a worker-owned cooperative. Our full legal name is “Affinity Ltd. Co-op Association”. We’ll still have a traditional management structure, but only the people working for the organization are empowered to make board-level decisions. That is meant to defend against the possibility of a buyout or takeover by a marketing firm, as has happened before to other similar projects. We’ve left open the possibility that eventually the users of the platform may also participate in the ownership of it, although that is a ways down the road.

Second, our investors will make their money from this project via profit-sharing, rather than a big “exit” or IPO. The investment terms are such that even in the (highly unlikely) event that the organization goes public or is sold for a high value, the returns to the investors are limited to no more than they would have made through the profit sharing agreement, with anything left over being donated to charity. So, not only is there no way for investors to take over control and vote to sell the company, there is also no financial incentive to try.

The fact that people are willing to put their money into this project under these unusual terms just shows how committed they are to the importance of this work for growing our movement to resist Trump and take back the country, and I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate them.

We’ve been doing a LOT of talking with organizers around the country, to make sure we’re building the right thing for them to use. We’re taking that to the next level this month, **partnering with Greenpeace to host an in-person meeting **on April 30 in Washington DC at the Greenpeace offices with a bunch of grassroots organizers. The plan is to do a big “design thinking” exercise with them, which will inform our product roadmap.

We’re also in conversations with one of the major Indivisible chapters, to begin hosting their list using the Action Network installation we use to build our prototypes. If that comes through, we’ll have a “customer base” with which to do lots of real-time experiments and MVP testing.

All of that customer testing will come in handy when we do our next presentation to the Matter.vc startup incubator in two weeks. We’re not officially accepted yet, but things are looking positive, and that will provide us with a great structure to organize our work for the next few months (as well as another cash infusion).

Speaking of MVP’s, we did another one recently. We took the 16,000 people who signed up to use our calling tools earlier this year, and we geo-matched them to their nearest Indivisible chapter and sent them an email introducing them. We got a lot of useful feedback ranging from “I’m already a member” to “Thanks, I hadn’t heard of them!” to “I don’t use Facebook and they’re only a Facebook group.” We have a bunch more ideas about how to create more connections which we’ll be trying out soon. I’m especially excited about this, since it’s the very beginning of the Commons which we always wanted to create!

We also have some other new product ideas, courtesy of our two founding Advisory Board members, Micah Sifry and Zack Exley. Thanks you two for agreeing to give us ongoing guidance, you’ve already been invaluable brains to have in the room.

The codebase itself has continued to grow, although slowly as we’ve been putting these other parts in place. We now have a functioning React front-end which is using real data from our Rails back-end, which is syncing information from the Action Network system. Once we turn full attention back coding next week we should have a real “track event attendance” feature live and ready to put into the hands of real-world testers.

It’s been a while since our last update, and I promise we’ll do better in the future. As you can see, we’ve been busy; now that we’re almost able to afford going full-time on this project, you can expect the pace to increase!

Please pass this along to anyone who you think might be interested in the Affinity project, and please be free with questions, comments, suggestions, critiques and ideas. We want to learn how to do this well, from any and all teachers.