Proximity Launches Disruptive Technology for Political Campaigns
By Elainna Ciaramella
You’d think political campaigns would be high tech and sophisticated, but before Proximity, they resembled outdated, haphazard systems more than anything else. So, what is Proximity? It’s an all-in-one, comprehensive campaign management platform created by Becki Wright, who saw the desperate need for an overhaul as she personally worked on campaigns.
Proximity gives users all the tools they need to successfully run their campaigns. For example, if someone new to the campaign world decides to run for office and they don’t know where to begin, they enter the platform and through guided questions, start to consider things they may have not known about—they are made aware of dates, deadlines, and requirements.
Wright attended Brigham Young University for her undergrad and earned her Master of Public Administration from the University of Utah. As Wright worked on her master’s degree, she began working for Friends of Great Salt Lake, where her focus was on education, advocacy, membership, and fundraising—and soon Wright was doing advocacy work for additional organizations.
Wright ended up helping a friend run for political office and started getting a taste for campaign work. Then, she went on to do legislative advocacy work for the PTA and served on the Legislative Advocacy Committee (LAC) for the Utah PTA.
The turning point
In 2015, Wright ran for Centerville City Council and she lost by 11 votes. That campaign was one of the pivotal moments that inspired Wright to start Proximity. She recognized that a lot of the resources she needed just didn’t exist. Even though Wright was getting assistance and help from others who had run, and she was tapping into her own experience from previous campaigns, she realized people were running campaigns off a Google spreadsheet.
“I thought to myself, ‘There just has to be a better way,’” Wright says. “As that idea started formulating in my brain, I went out and did a bunch of fundraising for the community and found I was actually really successful at fundraising and making connections.”
In 2021, Wright heard Becky Edwards was running for U.S. Senate—someone Wright had followed since Edwards was elected to the Utah State House of Representatives. In the Utah Legislature, Edwards wasn’t technically Wright’s representative, but Wright was impressed by how engaged and transparent Edwards was in sharing what was happening on the Hill. Wright used Edwards as an example to help people in her neighborhood understand what was happening on the Hill and in their little community of Centerville.
“When I found out Edwards was running, I told her I’d love to help on her campaign and she said, ‘Great, we need a Finance Director,’ and that’s where I went,” Wright says.
By the time Wright started Proximity, she had worked on a number of small-scale statewide campaigns and on larger exploratory committees as well as Becky Edwards’ Senate campaign. Those campaigns opened Wright’s eyes and she realized, “Wow, inefficiencies really happen at all levels.” The tools and resources to make campaigns effective just didn’t exist. “I was using six different programs on my last campaign, and none of them talked to each other,” Wright says
Wright continued, “Becky’s campaign was sophisticated—we needed efficiency and collaboration among different teams, but also among the resources providing data for each system or process. We needed the various data to show up in other parts of the system, but there was no platform that accomplished that, so this pain point helped me realize that the operations of a campaign need to be centralized. They need to provide a comprehensive look at things and make sure all those different systems are talking to each other.”
Wright told TechBuzz News that she had been thinking about Proximity for a number of years, over which time she mapped out in her mind the essentials of Proximity’s MVP—and what was sorely needed to help candidates.
In October of 2022, Wright started vetting local development shops and she asked friends in the tech space who have been CTOs to introduce her to software developers. After vetting different developers, Wright landed on Amazatic because their leadership team said, “You’re not a technical founder, but you actually know what you’re talking about.” They recognized her as a subject matter expert and said, “Okay, let’s solve these problems.”
Wright created Proximity as a public benefit corporation like Utah-based Cotopaxi. Public benefit corporations have a double bottom line and desire to make money and do good. “I intentionally built Proximity as a public benefit corporation because I’m passionate about removing the barriers to entry for people into political leadership, and to improve election literacy and to spur campaign innovation,” Wright says.
Disrupting archaic campaign processes
“The way campaigns are run—it’s an archaic process because there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the past number of years,” she says. “In so many other industries, you see this innovation. You see tech leading the way, solving problems and making life easier for people, but in politics and campaigns—that hasn’t happened.”
According to Wright, when technical innovation does happen, it’s in a politicized way. Meaning, it’s either a progressive set of tools or it’s a conservative set of tools. The races Proximity is designed for are largely nonpartisan, like municipal races, which include city council, school board, county, and mayoral races.
“The candidates don’t have tools and resources, and a lot of these people who are entering the race—it’s their first time, so they don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know what tools they need to do it,” Wright says.
Wright developed Proximity to address the pain points she saw on the campaigns she worked on, and this includes her role as Finance Director on the sophisticated Senate campaign. In the Senate campaign, her role involved a lot of fundraising, and reporting that information in a way that could be utilized by the candidate.
Reflecting on her campaign work, Wright spoke of the importance of strategy. “In the midst of campaigns, things change quickly,” Wright says. “Running a campaign is like creating a startup: going from zero to 60 in a matter of months. You’re expected to create something, but also be really agile and ready to pivot when the need arises.”
If the candidate doesn’t have data that’s talking to each other, and they don’t have the tools that give them a clear picture of what’s happening in the campaign, they can’t pivot and they can’t use that for their benefit. “I really wanted to allow the candidate to have a clearer understanding of what's happening on the campaign—where they've been effective, and then where they might need to shore up their efforts.”
Proximity offers tailored tools for candidates
In a nutshell, Proximity’s platform offers tailored tools for political candidates, giving them a distinct “data advantage.” The platform’s features include donation processing, voter mapping, and finance reporting—providing essential campaign data all in one place.
“One thing we’re rolling out is our AI campaign manager,” Wright says. “It’s an important component for smaller campaigns, which are often single-run campaigns where the candidate is solo, hitting the pavement on their own, trying to make things happen.” It’s called CLAIM (Campaign Logistics Artificial Intelligence Manager). For users to claim success in their campaigns, they can use AI to look at the data in the system and make decisions based on that information.
In the future, Proximity plans to incorporate texting, and using the AI component with polling responses—further helping the candidate guide strategy. Also, they plan on adding demographic data to the platform as an add-on feature for customers.
Proximity’s target customers for 2023 are municipal candidates. The candidate can potentially share the username, but it’s a single-user platform for 2023 as Proximity builds out, develops, gets more users, and receives more feedback. In the future, Proximity will have a multi-user system granting different permissions and levels of availability for the different modules.
To date, Proximity has been bootstrapped. “I've had requests to invest, and I've told them ‘not yet’ because I feel like it needs to be really strategic when you take money,” Wright explained.
“I’ve been wanting control over what the development of the application looks like, and also maintain that equity stake as much as possible. That said, I am ramping up for a raise so I can get Proximity out to the nation. We are touching a lot of small campaigns, and in order to do that, we have to scale at a large rate; we’re preparing for a raise so we can make that happen.”
The filing period for 2023 elections opens on June 1 and runs June 1-7, so with a launch date of May 30, Proximity will be there when candidates need them.
Elainna Ciaramella is a business journalist and writer living in St. George. Elainna interviews business owners, researchers, university leaders, and c-suite executives from all over the country. Her curiosity is endless and she is constantly seeking information that will intrigue and inspire readers.