By Mare Ahmed
Monday, November 13, 2023
Leah Bae is the Community Director at Higher Ground Labs, a start-up accelerator and venture fund that helps companies scale in an effort to strengthen the political technology ecosystem. I sat down with Leah to discuss her career, the state of political technology/data, and her thoughts on how AI might shape the landscape.
Before joining HGL, Leah worked at other organizations where she focused on strategy and engagement. As the daughter of immigrant parents, politics was not a focal point for her family. When she realized how interconnected social issues and politics are, she decided to tackle social issues through politics.
Generative AI has been one of the buzziest topics this year. Leah believes it has great potential to improve campaigns and benefit staffers. In fact, Higher Ground Labs just launched the Progressive AI Lab, which will support AI innovation for the upcoming election year. With the endless opportunities that generative AI can bring forth, HGL wants to fund ideas that will transform capacity and capability. Leah and I spoke at 2 pm EST, and she said just that day, she’d already had three calls, all related to AI.
Republicans are already integrating AI into their campaigns and advertisements. Leah is optimistic about AI because it can help campaigns scale their work, reduce costs, and decrease the tedious manual labor that often takes up precious staff and volunteer time. However, Leah acknowledges that with any new technology, there are risks we need to consider. In the case of AI, misinformation is one which we need to be careful about.
The team at Higher Ground Labs works collaboratively on an investment thesis that guides what they look for each year when assembling the accelerator program cohort - the investment thesis examines to find solutions to the unmet needs in the market.
More and more campaigns are getting technology sooner. In 2020, HGL’s tech survey found that 17% of campaigns got the technology last minute (defined as 1-2 months). In 2022, the number dropped to 7%. Leah highlighted this positive statistic because campaigns must get familiar with the technology to use it most effectively.
I asked Leah what advice she could offer to people interested in pursuing a full-time job career in this space. Though this space appears intimidating, she insists that “we want you!” Leah remarks that it would be hard-pressed to plot a linear path to get here. She encourages individuals to reach out and ask for mentorship. Websites like “Allhands and Gain Power” are dedicated to recruiting and retaining talent. Leah emphasized that people are at the center of everything, and it is essential that we have diverse talent. Interested in learning more about the space? Reach out to Leah through her LinkedIn.