Jim Gilliam

Author of The Internet is My Religion, and Founder & CEO of NationBuilder, the software platform for leaders



Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
Hi, I'm Jim Gilliam. I'm the founder and CEO of NationBuilder as well as the author of "The Internet is My Religion." The book is my story about growing up as a Christian fundamentalist all the way through being saved - literally - by people connected through the internet. If you use this link you can get the book for free online. It's a quick read, but there's also a 12 minute video here.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's been the biggest critique of the book and idea that you've been the most sympathetic to?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@eriktorenberg Because it is called "The Internet is My Religion," some people have had an expectation that I go into quite a lot of detail as to what the internet religion is. Like, what are the 10 commandments? The sins? That sort of thing. I wish I knew. I have ideas, but I can't for a moment pretend to know how to live a holy life for a faith that I'm only beginning to understand myself. What I do know is what someone's purpose is if they share my faith. It's about finding that thing inside of you that no one else has, your contribution to the world, and having the guts and determination to make it happen no matter what.
@jgilliam Jim, I was on that first conference call when you introduced NationBuilder to the world back in 2012. It's been amazing to watch the company and platform grow. The 2011 speech that you linked to has always inspired me. Few questions... - You took ALOT of heat for launching as a non-partisan platform while companies like Google & Facebook have been doing business on both sides of the aisle with no trouble for years. What was the big problem people seemed to have with NationBuilder? - You've had success expanding NationBuilder into a number of verticals outside of the political and nonprofit spheres. What's been the most surprising or exciting niche to move into? - What resources would you suggest to a young person (high school or college student) learning to become a stronger storyteller?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@jhtdc "You took ALOT of heat for launching as a non-partisan platform while companies like Google & Facebook have been doing business on both sides of the aisle with no trouble for years. What was the big problem people seemed to have with NationBuilder?" So true. The folks who have a problem with it, many of them are partisan competitors and their friends, so that's a fair bit of it. But I think another big element is how unapologetic I've been about it. I can be very moralistic about it, which just instigates them more. Some people think it's fine because we're a business and it's about making money, but that's not at all why we are nonpartisan. We are nonpartisan because it is flat out wrong to discriminate against people based on any criteria, most of all what they believe in. I talk a bit about that here: http://nationbuilder.com/the_sec...
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@jhtdc "You've had success expanding NationBuilder into a number of verticals outside of the political and nonprofit spheres. What's been the most surprising or exciting niche to move into?" Probably the most exciting has been political parties outside the U.S. I didn't realize how much that would be a thing for us. Political parties I've never even heard of are starting up all over Europe and the fact that they can get a world class digital infrastructure set up without spending years trying to build it is really exciting.
Narek Khachatryan@narekk · Product Designer
@jgilliam Hey Jim! I recently helped a friend run for City Council and we used NationBuilder as his communication and management platform. How can Internet platforms like NB help change election dynamics in the next 10 years, and what can we start doing today to escalate the process? Thanks!
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@narekk I believe civic engagement shouldn't just be about voting, it should be about running for office and serving. Especially at the local level where you can genuinely have a real impact. But as you go higher up into federal politics, Congress, etc. the system is increasingly broken and ineffective. If you get underneath the problem, politics is just a highly inefficient form of leadership. You need permission from 50%+1 of voters to then go and get permission from another group of people before you can do anything. And then everyone sits around and wonders why nothing happens!! There's another model of leadership, largely thanks to the internet, where you don't need 50%+1 of voters, you just need the 5, 10, 100, or a million other people that are with you to make it happen. Crowdfunding, the sharing economy - these are all glimpses into new ways that communities can create things together. NationBuilder is a platform to help leaders be successful whether they need to get elected or not. So I see this new model of leadership as a way to reduce our dependence on largely ineffective national leadership that is all based on a broken pre-internet model of representative democracy.
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@jgilliam Why give your book away for free?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@russfrushtick A couple reasons. The first is that It's about the internet, so it just felt right to let the digital version spread freely online. But the main thing is I didn't work on this book for so long to make money, and books don't make much money anyway. I did it because I really want people to hear the message: Don't waste your life, it's precious. Find what you are meant to contribute to the world and create it.
Michael Flores@mike_flores23 · Crafting Ms, Vs, and Cs
@jgwilliam thanks for doing this chat! I'm wondering: how do you think about spreading NB to political orgs/campaigns in places like Ohio, where party dynamics can make it difficult to replace legacy services? In a large way, NB represents a threat to Votebuilder, and along with misinformation about NB it can be difficult to convince some county and local-level orgs/campaigns that it's worth the switch simply due to pressure from state-level actors to stay with NGP. How would you approach such a staid organization?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@mike_flores23 Changing the parties is really hard, particularly because there is so much invested in keeping things the way they are. What I love about the internet, and NationBuilder is set up well for this, is that you don't have to ask for permission from the party to do what you want to do. You can just do it. The fact that the party is behind the times, or moving slowly, is frustrating, but it's also an opportunity...for you. Work with the folks who aren't being taken care of by the party, share info with each other (NB helps with this) build momentum, create a power base, and make the party less relevant. The technology infrastructure to do that used to be hard, but it's not with NationBuilder.
Michael Flores@mike_flores23 · Crafting Ms, Vs, and Cs
@jgilliam love the point about focusing on those who aren't being taken care of. Too often those of us in the middle of it look at a party structure in a place and say, "the party is small here; must be none of us here" rather than realizing the party may not be serving that area effectively! Would love to see NB come out with a "starter package" for new orgs who want to grow with NB but are on shoestring budgets. We're planning on using NB for seatohio.org regardless, but I could see new orgs (esp. non-profits like ours) struggling to make the leap when they're not yet funded or not yet received their 501(c)(3) status and every dollar counts. Thanks for your response! :)
Jim - What is the ideal use of NB in the for-profit space? Is movement building a la NB a new paradigm for companies offering products and services?
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
@jgilliam What’s the major difference between nation builder, wordpress and squarespace?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@lejlahunts If you just want a website, you wouldn't want to use NationBuilder. Squarespace and Wordpress are great options for building a website. But if you want to lead people to make things happen, and your website is a component of that where people take action, then NationBuilder is perfect for you and there's nothing like it. Practically, instead of just a blog or a content site, you can have dozens of different action pages - donations, events, tickets, petitions, suggestions, etc - all completely integrated with who all the people are that are doing the things. On website building platforms, it's generally very difficult to have any idea who the people are, everyone is just a page view. With NationBuilder that person on your website is an actual human that you can start to build a relationship with.
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Trump or Bernie and why?
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
What's the best thing that happened to you since you are online?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@colazionearoma Aside from finding Tori Amos when I was a teenager, it would definitely be a community of people coming together to save my life because of an angry blog post. http://www.jimgilliam.com/2005/0...
Matt Langan@mattlangan
@jgilliam Jim, how has battling health ailments affected your role as CEO at NB? Has it made you feel the need to push harder (because life seems like it could be shorter) or has it had the opposite impact (it makes you slow down and be more contemplative)? Something else?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@mattklangan It's made me intensely focused. I push really really hard and have cut out virtually everything in my life that doesn't support me getting done what I need to get done on this planet.
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
What's your philosophy on professional development? What are practices / habits that people and organizations can do to accelerate their personal growth?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@positivitydan I've spent a lot of time in the last year and a half or so diving into what it means to be a Deliberately Developmental Organization. There's good stuff there to check out: https://hbr.org/2014/01/does-you... People mistakenly think that culture at a company is all about people being happy, but for us, it's about everyone becoming closer together, growing and pushing each other to be better humans. Which isn't always fun or easy, but it is enormously rewarding.
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
Jim, you're very inspirational for lots of different reasons but who inspires you and why?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
@daniellenewnham Rick Warren really inspires me. His combination of humility and audacity. His approach to leadership and organizing -- building a network of churches by providing services to help them grow and connect with their membership -- along with his amazing storytelling skills, and community building work.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@jgilliam Whats the revenue model for Nation builder?
Jim Gilliam@jgilliam · NationBuilder Founder and CEO
Thanks everyone for coming!
Do you have an opinion on the future of news / information flow for politics or the broader Internet community? Reddit and BuzzFeed are beasts but somehow it feels there's something missing and I'm curious how 2016 will look different for citizens looking to follow the election and beyond.