I tuned in to the presidential election results last night with a few friends, with a bowl of chili on the kitchen table and NPR analysis on the radio.  No matter what your political persuasion, it was an impressive victory by President Barack Obama.

Barack Obama Tweeted this photo Tuesday night with the message: “Four more years.”

I hadn’t really thought much about the election in terms of my job here covering startups — until I spoke this morning to Seattle entrepreneur Dave Cotter (See the story of his new startup here). He asked me what lessons I thought could be applied from the Obama campaign, and it got me wondering (since we’re in the midst of building our very own startup here at GeekWire).

The lesson I took away: Persistence.

Even when Obama was battered and bruises after the first debate with Mitt Romney, he pulled things together and got his campaign back on track. That happens in startups all of the time. Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel told me recently that running a startup is like driving a bus with four very wobbly tires, just trying to keep the thing going in the right direction. If one tire falls off, as was the case at Isilon and with Obama after the first debate, you’ve got to get things back on track. That’s perhaps the biggest lesson I took away from campaign.

Dave Cotter

As for Cotter — who previously co-founded Mpire before going on to Amazon.com and starting his new company SquareHub — the lesson was all about segmentation and knowing your base. Cotter pointed out Obama’s huge support in the Hispanic, women and youth communities, a core of the president’s support.  Obama, he said, basically understood his “market” better, a market that happened to be a bigger business opportunity than Romney’s base. “Make sure your base is big enough to support your business,” said Cotter, adding that

I asked a few of my followers on Twitter what startup lessons they took out of the campaign, and here’s what some of them had to say. Seattle attorney Venkat Balasubramani offered an important lesson on fundraising when he quipped: “I hope “raise $924mm” is on the list of tips! :-)”

Fundraising aside, which of course is critical to any startup, here are some other suggestions. What lessons did you take away from the campaign — either from Obama’s victory or Romney’s defeat?

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  • hartlbb

    I never thought I would have to see a political correspondence on geekwire. I specifically came here to avoid the political crap. Not all of us are happy, thanks for ruining my time here.

    • johnhcook

      Thanks for tuning in. Sorry you didn’t like the story, but politics and technology are intertwined and we’ve been covering that convergence since we started. I hope you find some other stories of value on the site today. Thanks again.

      • hartlbb

        “but politics and technology are intertwined and we’ve been covering that convergence since we started” – possibly true. But, poltical bias has nothing to do with technology. My point is that I come here for pure technical news. The same way I go to espn for sports. If I want to hear ANYTHING about politics, I would go to one of the many news sites out there. My two cents, probably worth .5 cents with inflation.

        • lan

          First off, there is no political bias in the article. Second, this an article about what people in
          start-ups, and marketing in general, can learn from a successful
          national campaign.

          • hartlbb

            sorry but I disagree. I will leave it alone because obviously I am in the minority, but touting how great a campaign was run (Even when Obama was battered and bruises after the first debate with Mitt Romney, he pulled things together and got his campaign back on track.), etc if a bias. It has nothing to do with technology.

          • johnhcook

            Not sure I agree with that. Obama’s campaign was better run because he won. The story was about whether entrepreneurs and startups, topics we cover every day here on GeekWire, can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of both campaign efforts. That’s it.

  • guest

    Is his victory impressive because of what he did, or because of how poorly the GOP ran their campaign?

    • johnhcook

      You could probably argue both sides of that one, meaning perhaps a combination of both. I tend to agree with Mark Shields on the NewsHour who noted that Romney was the wrong candidate for this time. Could another Republican have beaten Obama? Perhaps, and David Brooks hinted at that last night on the NewsHour.

      I think there are also lessons that one can learn from Romney’s defeat, and so I’d love to hear those too.

      • guest

        This strikes me as getting closer to the heart of the matter:


        • johnhcook

          That’s a really excellent analysis of why Romney lost. Thanks for sharing that. Is there a centrist Republican who can take the reins of the party? Very interesting.

          • guest

            I’m sure there are lots. Being fiscally conservative, against big government, but socially liberal isn’t an oxymoron – except in the current Republican party. That needs to change. The fact that they couldn’t win even in this economy should be a huge wake up call that they’ve moved too far from the center.

  • http://www.kickofflabs.com/ Josh Ledgard

    Here is a great collection of tips from Obamas landing pages. IMO he killed Romney on web presence.


    And this post looks at the two donation forms:


    You can learn about good call to action from both. But in the end the Obama form was way simpler and he ended up raising a lot more small money donations online than Romney. See ( http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/sourceall.php?cycle=2012 )

  • Dave Cotter
  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com/ FrankCatalano

    My takeaway that applies to both the campaign and startups: Never take anything for granted. You may think you “know” your audience and market, but test and verify your assumptions.

  • chlai88

    Stay true. Don’t lie. Empower your customers and your employees. Treat them like human beings not numbers. Build a solid foundation that can withstand any unforeseen disaster. Play the long game, not for short sighted gains.

  • Guest

    John, I would prefer to see fewer “startup lessons I can learn from X” articles on GeekWire. Please stick to reporting news, not pithy faux-inspirational platitudes with click-bait titles.

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