Romney uses startup hatched by Obama campaign

@CNNMoneyTech April 24, 2012: 1:38 PM ET
The campaign of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has started using a service that was hatched during President Obama's 2008 run for the Whiite House.

The campaign of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has started using a service that was hatched during President Obama's 2008 run for the Whiite House.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The pioneering use of technology during President Obama's 2008 campaign gave rise to a batch of Silicon Valley startups that are commercializing tools created for politics. This article is the second in a series, "America's Choice 2012: The Data Edge," covering those startups and the role they're playing in the 2012 presidential election.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In the past few months, the Mitt Romney campaign has been using Optimizely, a startup that hatched during President Obama's 2008 election campaign.

Former Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) employee Dan Siroker joined Obama's campaign in 2008 and became the director of analytics, coming up with the idea for the technology that would better target voters during the campaign.

But while the idea was launched during Obama's campaign, Siroker commercialized the technology following the 2008 election, giving anyone the chance to test it out. As a result, Optimizely is now being used by a number of companies, and one of its most recent customers is Obama's presumptive competitor, Romney.

According to a document filed with the Federal Election Commission, Romney's campaign started using Optimizely in February, paying $399 per month of use. Obama's last FEC filing shows the campaign paid $2,000 for the service in March. Romney's campaign had no comment about their use of Optimizely.

The appeal of Optimizely is that it allows candidates to perform "A/B" testing, using live Web trials to find out how people react to different website colors, messages and pictures. That information can lead to a boost in donations and volunteer sign-ups.

According to Siroker, it helped Obama's campaign raise millions of dollars in extra donations. And in an election where experts are saying Internet data will play a huge role, Romney's campaign is jumping onboard.

"The 2008 campaign was a great first example of how technology and engineering could have a big impact on something that's typically old school like politics," Siroker said.

And while Obama's campaign utilized technology in 2008, Siroker says the playing field is beginning to level.

"In 2008, Barack Obama had a disproportionate advantage because it happened to be that the people who were supporting the campaign were young and tech savvy," he said.

But many more people have signed on to social networks in the past four years. As a result, there's a treasure trove of data and more opportunities for more targeted messages.

"In 2012 Facebook is ubiquitous," Siroker added. "Everybody is using it and I think every campaign has the same opportunity that the Obama campaign had in 2008 to use the data to help them be more effective."

CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this story.  To top of page

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