From the campaign trail to the corporate office, NationalField looks to broaden its software business

October 16, 2011

District-based NationalField counted President Obama as its first customer before the founders even realized they had a business.

The software firm got its start during the summer of 2008 in a Savannah, Ga., field office where three Obama campaign workers set out to solve a very narrow problem: There were scores of volunteers and no way to efficiently document and quantify their efforts.

So within two weeks, Aharon Wasserman, Edward Saatchi and Justin Lewis had assembled the prototype for an intra-office social network that allowed the campaign staff to share information and track key metrics such as how many doors were knocked on or voters were registered.

“It sort of caught on like wildfire,” Wasserman said.

The software’s application didn’t end that November. The next year brought $1 million in revenue from contracts with political groups and nonprofits. Then came deals with big organizations such as Kaiser Permanente and the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.


Aharon Wasserman and Justin Lewis have raised $1.2 million. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)

Today the company counts 11 staff members at its Dupont Circle headquarters and another four in San Francisco. Its advisers include Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Jabe Blumenthal, creator of the original Microsoft Excel program.

NationalField also raised $1.2 million from a slate of angel investors earlier this year, and Wasserman said it’s on the hunt for even more cash as it prepares to hire workers and pursue new contracts.

“We’re going into the enterprise software space — that’s not something I ever thought I was going to say,” Wasserman said, letting out a laugh. “You can’t go into the enterprise software space on a tiny budget.”

Indeed, the company has its share of competition. Data analytics has become a hot-ticket business now that companies can store and digest large volumes of information more easily and cheaply than ever before.

“When you want to talk about actually getting things done, when you want to talk about work, you’re talking about numbers,” Wasserman said. “That was our experience on the Obama campaign and that is sort of the mantra we bring to every organization we work with.”

The software creates a Facebook-like forum where colleagues can communicate with one another about daily tasks, projects and best practices. Quick and constant communication allows problems to be resolved faster, they said.

“All of the data isn’t just data that’s sitting in a spreadsheet somewhere,” said Lewis, the chief technology officer. “It’s attached with real people inside of your organization. ”

From door knocks on the campaign trail to leads in a sales department, organizations can customize the metrics used to evaluate staff. “Progress bars” display where workers stand on individual goals and how they compare to each other.

“We’ve been criticized a lot that ... this is too like video game culture or something like that,” Wasserman said. “But every single person here believes that every business in the world will be run like this.”

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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