December 12, 2018

Applecart: Social Graph Technology for Smarter Advertising Campaigns

Applecart deploys proprietary Social Graph technology to run smarter advertising campaigns for corporations, political candidates, and non-profit organizations.

We caught up with Matt Kalmans, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the company, to learn the story of how the company came to be, how its Social Graph technology works, and what roles the company is currently hiring for. 

Applecart is hiring! Click here for the company's latest job openings.

Can you share the background of the founders before starting the company?

We founded Applecart in our dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to starting Applecart, I worked on a number of political campaigns in Connecticut and later in the U.S. Senate. My business partner, Sacha, had just left Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign. Sacha had also previously worked on a number of other campaigns and in the U.S. House as a Page. We met as research assistants for Professor John DiIulio, a leading political scientist, who recently left a stint as an Advisor to the President at the White House to return to teaching at Penn. We’d each been hired to help him start the research and writing for a new book in the summer of 2012. Professor DiIulio introduced the two of us and said we’d either kill each other or become best friends. We stayed up until 3 am that first night talking and, nearly six years later, we have been inseparable ever since.

What was the aha moment that led them to start Applecart?

Matt Kalmans Applecart
Applecart Co-Founder and Co-CEO Matt Kalmans.

Before we were old enough to drive, Sacha and I each worked on political campaigns where we saw good candidates lose because they didn’t hold ideologically extreme enough positions to win over the small fraction of more radical voters that turn out in primary elections. We took a political science class at Penn where we read a fascinating paper about randomized, controlled experiments that a couple of Yale scientists ran to measure the impact of different methods of mobilizing voters in elections. They tested all of the conventional campaign tactics (i.e. direct mail, digital ads, phone calls, door knocking, etc.) and recorded a modest to negligible impact for each. Then they tried something new: they sent voters letters that displayed their vote histories, whether or not they voted in past elections, and noted that such information was a matter of public record. The letters also displayed their individual vote history against those of their neighbors. The message wrapped up by letting the voter know that a second, updated letter would be sent after the upcoming election to report on whether or not they had voted.

This simple social pressure treatment produced the largest recorded voter mobilization increase in U.S. history, and it did so at a very low cost. We began to ask the question: if sending this letter to neighbors worked this well, how much better could this work if you also included more salient social relationships (i.e. friends, colleagues, classmates, family, etc.)? We thought about the billions of dollars spent every two years on TV ads in elections. We asked ourselves why people don’t try to impact elections more effectively by implementing low-cost tactics like this? We specifically wondered how many of the unproductive extremists in the Tea Party and on the far-left you could oust from office by mobilizing more moderate, solutions-oriented voters in primary elections. Thinking about what a difference that would make for the country, we each quit our respective summer jobs at fancy banks and consulting firms, and set out to see whether we could “upset the Applecart” of American politics.

What does Applecart do?

Applecart deploys proprietary technology to run smarter advertising campaigns. We work with some of the nation’s most prominent corporations, political candidates, and non-profit organizations to leverage the power of their customers’ and supporters’ word-of-mouth. Our core offering, the Social Graph, uses human and artificial intelligence to identify and leverage social relationships between individuals. The Social Graph maps over 4.5 billion relationships, and it’s growing every day. We got our start in politics, where we have tested and refined our methods on countless campaigns, giving our clients a proven technological edge. Now, we’re branching out beyond political campaigns to tackle new advertising challenges, using relationship data from the Social Graph to help companies and causes harness their customers’ and supporters’ word-of-mouth as a powerful advertising channel.  We recently closed a $6 million funding round, led by Ari Emanuel, head of the global sports and entertainment leader, Endeavor, and other prominent tech investors including Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Aspect Ventures, former Yelp SVP Michael Stoppelman and Infinite Computer Solutions founder Sanjay Govil.

Where did the name come from?

Our original political products were designed to “upset the Applecart” of American politics by helping more solutions-oriented candidates get elected at scale.  Just as Applecart’s Social Graph shook up the political world, our same approach to leveraging individual relationships and word-of-mouth at scale is poised to change the way companies and brands advertise and interact with their customers.

Who are your customers? Any examples you can offer?

Our firm is unique in politics in that we are proud to service compelling, solutions-oriented candidates and organizations on both sides of the aisle, without regard to their partisan affiliations. We have been the data and analytics team for everyone from Ohio Governor John Kasich during his 2016 presidential campaign to Rep. Conor Lamb in his surprise 2018 special election victory to some of the largest bipartisan education reform organizations in the United States. Beyond politics, we’ve worked with companies ranging from Boeing to Ultimate Fighting Championship.

How many employees do you have and what are you anticipating in terms of growth?

Applecart currently has a team of 50; however, we have plans to expand rapidly as we head into 2019 and 2020.

What kind of positions are you hiring for right now?

We are currently hiring for a senior data science and two senior data engineering roles on our technology team. These team members will serve as tech leads on our Graph, Data Acquisition, and Modeling teams. As it stands, our growing tech team is about 25 people strong with team members joining Applecart from places like Google, BirchBox, and Bridgewater Technologies. Check out the job descriptions here!

Over the next couple of years, where does the future look like for Applecart?

As we increasingly work with companies and brands, Applecart is focused on using our platform to help customers share brands and products they love with others who they know will love them too. We can help companies dramatically scale their sales by going beyond paid acquisition to mobilize the most powerful sales tool for a good product: happy customers! In turn, we can help customers share things they love with their friends to help them find great products and services that they’ll love just as much.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

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