Polis founder Kendall Tucker began her professional life as a campaign organizer in local Democratic politics, but — seeing an opportunity in her one-on-one conversations with everyday folks — has built a business taking that shoe leather approach to political campaigns to the business world.
Now the company she founded to test her thesis that Americans would welcome back the return of the door-to-door salesperson three years ago is $2.5 million richer thanks to a new round of financing from Initialized Capital (the fund founded by Garry Tan and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian) and Semil Shah’s Haystack.vc.
The Boston-based company currently straddles the line between political organizing tool and new marketing platform — a situation that even its founder admits is tenuous at the moment.
That tension is only exacerbated by the fact that the company is coming off one of its biggest political campaign seasons. Helping to power the get-out-the-vote initiative for Senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Polis’ software managed the campaign’s outreach effort to 3 million voters across the state.
However, politically focused software and services businesses are risky. Earlier this year the Sean Parker-backed Brigade shut down and there are rumblings that other startups targeting political action may follow suit.
“Essentially, we got really excited about going into the corporate space because online has gotten so nasty,” says Tucker. “And, at the end of the day, digital advertising isn’t as effective as it once was.”
Customer acquisition costs in the digital ad space are rising. For companies like NRG Energy and Inspire Energy (both Polis clients), the cost of acquisitions online can be as much as $300 per person.
Polis helps identify which doors for salespeople to target and works with companies to identify the scripts that are most persuasive for consumers, according to Tucker. The company also monitors for sales success and helps manage the process so customers aren’t getting too many house calls from persistent sales people.
“We do everything through the conversation at the door,” says Tucker. “We do targeting and we do script curation (everything from what script do you use and when do you branch out of scripts) and we have an open API so they can push that out and they run with it through the rest of their marketing.”