Entries in Company history (16)
For the fifth year running, NGP held a three day weekend on a retreat in rural Vermont. We again went to my family’s land outside of Bradford, VT. Attendance was up again this year, and we made improvements to accommodate our growing numbers: a few hotel rooms (badly reviewed) for the less outdoors-friendly, a large tent for activities, catered food, badminton.
This month's Campaigns & Elections Magazine sports a fake front cover with a claim by Aristotle that "FEC Docs Reveal Huge Fundraising Advantage Tied to Software." Democrats and Republicans, they say, "raised up to $324,620.04 more by using Aristotle" than if they had used NGP. They base their ad, they say, on electronic filings by congressional campaigns in the 2006 cycle. I understand that Aristotle has also emailed the same ad, as well.
Does this fundraising disparity based on software sound like a plausible claim to you?
Their figures are derived by adding up all campaigns using information from FEC reports that also indicates which compliance software package the campaign uses.
It took me only a few minutes to discover why their figures are misleading.
I broke those same numbers down by party:
For Democrats: (NGP chooses not to service Republicans)
Average dollars raised by candidates using NGP (N=175) $1,269,307.75
Average dollars raised by candidates using Aristotle (N=33) $960,777.91
Conclusion: Far more Democratic candidates used NGP and NGP clients raised significantly more money than Aristotle clients on average.
For Republicans: (Aristotle serves either party)
Average dollars raised by candidates using NGP (N=0) $0.00
Average dollars raised by candidates using Aristotle (N=143) $1,568,806.08
Conclusion: Republican candidates in 2006, more incumbents, majority party, did well.
Ouch for them, a reverse of their big claim:
where there is a fair comparison, NGP clients raise more.
Note that, even though looking at their data by party and following Aristotle's logic (look up ecological fallacy) eviscerates their claim to superior software results, I do not maintain here that the numbers necessarily prove anything about software. As anyone who knows anything about political fundraising can attest, the dollars raised by a campaign is the result of many factors. What explains variation in fundraising by congressional candidates? Some important variables include:
1. Party (in the 2006 cycle, Republicans were advantaged by being in power)
2. Incumbency (plenty of studies show that incumbents have easier access to money)
3. Competitiveness of the race (heck, it is easier to raise money if it matters)
4. Tenure in Congress (I imagine that members who have been around longer can raise more)
5. Committees (membership in certain committees helps raise PAC funds)
6. Sponsorships (backing by groups like the National Rifle Association help)
7. Ideology (certain political positions make it easier to fundraise)
8. Candidate skills and experience
9. Other: (fundraising tools, employment of professional fundraisers, professional website, willingness of candidate to make fundraising calls, etc.) A multivariate regression that controlled for these variables might shed some light; though you would have to be sure to correct for simultaneity, because it is just as likely (or more likely) that good fundraisers choose good software, as that good software makes good fundraisers.
My educated guess about what explains why more Democrats use NGP than Aristotle is that over the course of a decade candidates have found us to be more helpful. Numerous candidates, including some of the biggest names in politics, have switched from Aristotle to NGP. And I would further guess that our candidates raise more on average because candidates in races that were close overwhelmingly chose NGP in the last cycle.
If you have made it through all these words, then I congratulate you and leave you with this parting thought -- consider what an advertisement like this tells you about the company that designed and paid for it.
We have made plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NGP Software, Inc. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It will be May 17; more details forthcoming. If you are a friend of the company, a client, a current or ex-employee, you are invited. It will be fun, and a chance for me to thank everyone that made this terrific ten-year ride possible. I have invited Dan Bern (www.danbern.com) and I am very pleased that he has agreed to come. We will hang out for a couple of hours and then Dan will sing.
Yesterday, a little after four in the afternoon, an email with the following message caught my eye: Subject: Meet Owen.
I just spent a three day weekend on a retreat with my employees in rural Vermont. For the fourth year running, we have gone to my family’s land outside of Bradford, VT--the place that I spent my summers as a kid (my parents were teachers). It is a lovely environment—a small house on a hill surrounded by a lot of gorgeous land. There is a pond, a stream, gardens, and fields where our neighbors run their sheep and horses. My dad is a nonstop gardener and landscaper. Numerous colorful daylilies and other flowers are everywhere, as well as a vegetable garden from which we harvested a few foodstuffs.
We recently had a significant acquisition at NGP Software, Inc. – an awesome new conference table. It is sweet: a lovely Killerspin Revolution table tennis table, four hundred pounds of stability with a striking blue top and orange metal arched structural underpinning. We got the “tournament used” version, which is as good as new. It has served us splendidly already, both in its official capacity as a site for meetings, as well as by renewing our tradition and commitment to fun.
This past weekend I went with almost all NGP Software employees and a few significant others, to our family’s farm in rural Vermont. I enjoyed it a great deal. I bring my company to that place because I love it and want to share it with others I care about; it is beautiful and peaceful and very much a part of me.
I was talking to Chris Casey at last night’s NGP happy hour about the fact that Meetup will start to charge a monthly fee for their services—services which facilitate the creation and management of groups and their meetings online. In the world of political campaigns where my company has expertise, Meetup has become a fairly common addition to political websites. But the new fees have already produced controversy and will apparently move many people away from the product and hasten the development and adoption of alternatives.
Over a year ago now, NGP Software, Inc., purchased its second foosball table, a very nice Tornado Cyclone II. We retired our earlier $200 Sears model after a serviceable but unimpressive career.
I just returned from a NGP happy hour at Chadwick’s in Friendship Heights (it is April 7th, 2005 , my half birthday, but no one noticed). I felt proud as I looked across a series of tables packed with attractive and energetic employees who were clearly enjoying each others’ friendship. I thought back to the month when I first incorporated the business and how little I foresaw—or aimed intentionally for—in what has transpired.
On March 21st, NGP Software, Inc. had a blast bidding for the first-ever eBay auction for banner ad space. We won, and you can see our ad on PoliticsOnline’s upcoming April Newsletters.
In early 1997, I had recently moved to Washington, DC and incorporated NGP Software, Inc. I was looking around for work for my one-person firm that might help Democrats win elections. I had a degree in computer science and some professional programming experience; I was working on a doctorate in Political Science; and I had designed and built—for other companies—two pieces of political software that were fairly successful in the early 1990s. I had some ambitious ideas about statistics, political mapping, data management, and high-level political analysis that I wanted to pursue.
In late December of 1999, I got an urgent call from a staff member on the Hillary Clinton for Senate campaign. She reported that the Clinton campaign was having major problems with the database they were using, Aristotle Campaign Manager. She told me that they had an FEC report due the next month—January—and that they were concerned about filing it properly because of those problems. She told me that Aristotle had sent a series of technicians to their DC office, but none of them had succeeded in fixing the campaign’s database issues. The staff member, who was the campaign’s compliance director, was very calm and serious. She wanted to know if we could possibly convert their data to our system in time for the filing and whether we were confident we could help them.
I continue to go through old papers and was amused to find another item that represents a very modest milestone in my circuitous path to small software company owner. I have next to me a handwritten contract from 1/13/84, which I think was the first time I was paid for a computer-programming project.
NGP Software stands for National Geographical and Political Software, and emphatically not, as some have charged, for my initials (Nathaniel G. Pearlman). Occasionally I am asked where the “Geographical” part of the company’s name comes from, since it seems to be the least emphasized part.
I incorporated NGP Software on January 15th 1997, after giving up on a search for a whimsical or clever corporate name for a new Democratic political campaign software firm. I started by loaning $10000 to the newly formed entity, wondering how long I could go without a paycheck, happy not to be working for anyone else.