The Arena launches Accelerator for new civic leaders

The Arena, a new organization founded by a group of former Obama Administration alumni, tech entrepreneurs, and grassroots activists in December 2016, launched a new Accelerator program today to support up-and-coming leaders across America who have been inspired to enter the civic arena. The Arena Accelerator will provide strategic planning advice and training; access to networks of Arena Summit participants, staff, and supporters; and where necessary (for new organizations,) a stipend to help leaders focus on their core work. Applications open today for this program and will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis.

Through this Accelerator, over the next two years The Arena will incubate more than 30 new organizations that address the following needs: (i) state legislative races, (ii) congressional races, (iii) democracy protection, and (iv) bridging the political divide. In addition, by 2022 The Arena will support more than 100 new candidates for elected or appointed public office who are authentic and reflect the organization’s values.

The Arena Accelerator’s inaugural Fellow is Catherine Vaughan, co-founder and CEO of Flippable. The Arena is providing Flippable with a grant to help it operate during these critical next few months. Catherine Vaughan and her team at Flippable have been one of the best examples of the high-caliber, game-changing work that The Arena helped support at our first Arena Summit in Nashville last December. Flippable works to flip state legislative seats from red to blue across the country by mobilizing a grassroots base to spread awareness, volunteer, donate, and vote.

“There is a brewing movement across this country of young people who want to translate their feelings of frustration and resistance into concrete action — to be the change, and to build a better future,”said The Arena Co-Founder and Partner Swati Mylavarapu. “We’re so excited to seize the moment and provide the support and connective tissue these emerging leaders need.”

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented wave of civic enthusiasm and activism that, if channeled strategically and organized logically, can overwhelm the anti-democratic forces that have captured our country,” said The Arena Co-Founder and Partner Ravi Gupta. “But we must take the time to organize our community. That’s what The Arena does. We are sherpas for new civic leaders.”

Apply to the Accelerator here.

The Arena was formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, with the goal of inspiring new entrants to enter the civic and political arena. Our first Summit was held in Nashville, Tennessee, less than a month after the election. More than 400 attendees participated from 32 states — 42 percent of whom committed to run for elected office. Others committed to support new candidates with funding, operational support, and more. Speakers such as Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, the leads of the National Democratic Redistricting Commission and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and more, came to inspire meaningful action. The organization’s second summit will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 24–25, and will feature speakers such as former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Perriello.

The Arena team is anchored by two co-founders with considerable experience scaling new ventures in the for-profit, non-profit, and political worlds.

Ravi Gupta is the Founder and former CEO of RePublic Schools, a network of charter schools in the South. RePublic’s two flagship schools are the first and only two charter schools in Tennessee to rank in the top five percent of all public schools for growth and absolute performance. Ravi previously served as Special Assistant and Speechwriter to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He also spent two years working on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — joining then-Senator Obama’s exploratory committee and working through the primary and general elections. He ran fundraising and voter turnout operations in more than a half dozen states during the primary election and served as assistant to Chief Strategist David Axelrod during the general election. Ravi received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his B.A. from Binghamton University, where he was named a Truman Scholar and awarded the University Medal, the school’s highest honor. In 2012, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List.

Swati Mylavarapu is a Founding Partner at Incite Ventures. She was previously a Partner on the venture capital team at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she focused on consumer digital and hardware investments. Before KPCB, Swati built the international business and product marketing efforts at Square, a financial services company that levels the playing field for small businesses. She also serves on the non-profit boards of B Lab, Bayes Impact, and the Boston Review. Swati graduated from Harvard with an AB in Development Studies, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and a Truman Scholar. She also holds an MPhil in Economic History from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

  • Tracy Chou, Co-Founder, Elucd and Project Include
  • Jeohn Favors, Harvard Law School, Former National Security Official, Obama Administration
  • Erin Fitzgerald, Strategy, Timshel, Former Aide, Obama Senate Office, Obama 2008, Obama Administration
  • Teddy Goff, Partner at Precision Strategies, Former Chief Digital Strategist, Obama 2012 and Hillary 2016
  • Scott Goodstein, Founder and CEO of Revolution Messaging, Former Chief Digital Strategist, Bernie Sanders for President
  • Jason Green, Co-Founder and SVP of SkillSmart, Former Associate Counsel to the President, Obama Administration
  • Sejal Hathi, Stanford University School of Medicine, Co-Founder of Girltank
  • Molly Jong-Fast, Writer
  • Jason Kander, Founder of Let America Vote, Former Missouri Secretary of State, Former Candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Ben LaBolt, Co-Founder, The Incite Agency, Former National Press Secretary, Obama 2012
  • Governor Martin O’Malley, Former Governor, Maryland
  • Suraj Patel, President, Sun Companies
  • English Sall, Co-Founder, Impact Thread
  • Matt Siegel, Chief Digital Officer, Roc Nation
  • Liz Simon, General Counsel and Vice President of External Affairs, General Assembly
  • Michael Simon, Co-Founder, Elucd, Former Director of Analytics, Obama 2008
  • Allison Zelman, Former Aide, Obama 2008 and 2012, Hillary 2016

Originally published at The Arena.



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The Arena

We build communities that activate the next generation of civic entrepreneurs. Learn more at TheArena.Run