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The Cave

A tight-knit team of Vitamin D-deficient statisticians and engineers spent more than 18 months in The Cave — a cramped, windowless space within the Obama presidential reelection campaign’s Chicago headquarters — plying the tools of their trade to reinvent one of the world’s oldest industries: politics.

They believed that if they used the tiny pieces of information they knew about people, in aggregate — the kinds of information people share every day — they could talk to the voters they needed to reach in a way that would resonate.

They were correct.

The day after Barack Obama’s landslide win, Dan Wagner — the campaign’s Chief Analytics Officer — met with then-Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who’d advised the Obama team on technology. Schmidt wanted to discuss what might come next — specifically, the role that data analytics could play outside of the campaign trail.

Data Meets Influence

It continued on a small, rustic table occupying a corner in Wagner’s 400-square-foot Chicago Loop apartment, where in 2013 he founded Civis Analytics, a company dedicated to bringing objective, data-driven truth to organizational decision-making.

Buoyed by Schmidt’s strategic advice and financial backing, Wagner and other former Cave-dwellers set out to take the lessons learned from a national presidential campaign and make them more broadly applicable and widely available.

The result is a software-as-a-service application that empowers organizations with the same tools, technology, and scientific expertise that energized the Obama staff — in essence, the first application to combine the audience segmentation capabilities of traditional customer data platforms with the features of a data science workbench, tackling the complex marketing challenges neither solution properly addresses on its own.

Civis quickly attracted customers from across the public and private sectors — everything from media to government to technology, all with a real and demonstrated need for the infrastructure and insight to transform their data into action. In 2016, the company closed a $22 million Series A funding round led by Drive Capital, with participation from Eric Schmidt, Verizon Ventures, and WPP.


Growth-Minded, Laser-Focused

Civis now powers effective, data-driven audience campaigns for some of the world’s leading consumer brands, nonprofits, advocacy groups, and government agencies. Our unified data platform enables these organizations to collaboratively find, reach, and engage the people they care about most.

Over time, we’ve:

  • Teamed with McDonald’s to leverage its 360-degree customer database to design, launch, and measure highly personalized marketing campaigns that drive 3–5x higher same-store sales.
  • Partnered with the State of Illinois to persuade citizens to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — a campaign that increased mask-wearing across Illinois by 21 percent.
  • Worked with Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign to scientifically evaluate 3,000+ ads from across the political spectrum to identify the messages that resonated deepest with target audiences.
  • Quadrupled our government data science business in three years, deploying our Civis Platform to analytics teams in the four largest cities in the U.S. — work that earned honors from Fast Company, Government Technology, and Engaging Local Government Leaders Network (ELGL).

In 2020, Civis enjoyed its best year to date, posting revenue growth topping 60 percent and reporting its first full-year profit.

In 2021, we closed a $30.7 million Series B round, with participation from Alumni Ventures and existing investors Drive Capital, Verizon Ventures, and Eric Schmidt, among others.

View All of Our News-worthy Work

We’re a long way from The Cave,
but we’re just getting started.

Find out how your organization can benefit from Civis’ unified data platform.

Contact Civis