Ruck.us founder Nathan Daschle isn’t exaggerating when he says he’s been involved with politics and campaigns his entire life. Not only is he the former Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association, he’s also the son of former Senator Tom Daschle.
So it’s only fitting that his startup, Ruck.us, is making it easier for local politicians to create beautiful—and functional—websites. Ruck.us just received a new infusion of capital and moved in at 1776, where we got the chance to chat with Daschle about where Ruck.us will go from here.
Can you describe to us what Ruck.us does?
Ruck.us is a super-simple political website builder. Using an intuitive template, Ruck.us lets candidates and organizations create their own attractive, highly functional websites in minutes. We aim to put intuitive and powerful tools in the hands of America’s million-plus local elected officials and organizations, making digital fundraising and organizing less intimidating and more effective.
When did you first notice the need for a company like Ruck.us?
About a year ago, when we were pivoting away from a prior business model, we began to spend more time with state and local candidates. We realized that while technology has revolutionized the more well-funded campaigns, basic tools were still out of reach for the over 1 million candidates at the state and local level. Many of these candidates don’t have a website, much less social integration or donation processing.
We realized that we could build a sleek, powerful template and allow candidates to “drag and drop” their information into pre-set fields to produce an attractive, professional and highly functional campaign website in just a few minutes. It was a simple solution to a big problem.
What inspired you to start the company—to go from ‘seeing a need’ to ‘solving the need’?
I have worked in politics for most of my life, and I have watched technology significantly enhance the capabilities of the top of ticket campaigns. But very little attention has been given to candidates who run for state and local office, who often have far less money than their federal counterparts. Building a company that could make technology more accessible to these candidates seemed like not only a smart business, but also a chance to level the playing field and democratize technology.
How is Ruck.us different from other community-building sites, such as NationBuilder? What distinguishes your platform?
NationBuilder is a terrific company, and we often recommend it for candidates looking for something more powerful than what we can provide. But you can’t be everything to everyone, and Ruck.us’ mission is to pursue smaller budget candidates who don’t necessarily need all of the tools that companies like NationBuilder can provide. These candidates want something very simple, and we have made a Ruck.us website as easy to build and maintain as a Facebook page. It’s the perfect solution for candidates who are easily intimidated by technology and/or don’t want to have to hire a consultant just to have a website.
How do you ensure that every candidate has a unique website that fits him or her individually?
Customization is important, but too many options can lead to confusion for the user. Ruck.us is very similar to Facebook in the sense that content, not layout, drives customization. Every user uploads her own photos, videos, issue statements, press, etc. to make her website unique.
When working in politics, it’s easy to get categorized as being a partisan product. How will Ruck.us ensure that it remains non-partisan—and convince users of the same?
We are a pretty simple company. We don’t integrate voter files or handle sensitive political information, so we avoid many of the concerns partisans have about shared technology. The same way that both sides can use Microsoft Word, both sides could use Ruck.us for their campaign technology.
What is your background? How has it helped you reach where you are today?
While I spent a few years practicing law in D.C., my background is mostly in politics and campaigns. From 2007-2010, I was the Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association, where I worked on 52 campaigns in a period of four years. During this time, I became acutely aware of how technology was rapidly changing politics, and I started to look for inefficiencies in the market or places where I thought my co-founders and I could add value. It took a few twists and turns to get where we are, but I am very excited about the future of our company.
What brought you to 1776?
While 1776 cofounder Evan Burfield introduced me to 1776, I have been amazed and impressed with how its grown over the last couple of years. It seemed like exactly the type of vibrant, creative atmosphere that we wanted to be a part of, so when it came time to find space, the decision was a no-brainer.