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Silicon Valley built an app to beat Trump where it matters

#NeverTrump wants to help you rally voters you know in swing states.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Event In Pensacola, Florida Mark Wallheiser / Getty
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Silicon Valley has signed petitions against Donald Trump. It is also writing checks and telling employees that it’s important to vote.

But so far the brightest minds in tech haven’t deployed much in the way of ... tech to defeat the Republican nominee.

Amit Kumar says he wants to try, with a mobile app designed to rally votes against Trump where it matters: In swing states.

Kumar is CEO of Trimian, a sort-of-stealth company that is building networking apps for groups like college alumni. But last month he built #NeverTrump, an app that’s supposed to tell mobile users about people they know in battleground states, so they can reach out to them and ask them to vote.

If you want, #NeverTrump will do the asking, too, with pre-programmed messages it will send up to four times before the election.

It’s an explicit acknowledgement that Silicon Valley workers’ votes won’t have any impact on the electoral college, since California is already a lock for Hillary Clinton.

“Even if you got all of the tech workers to take the day off and vote,” Kumar said, “if your goal is to prevent Trump from winning, it’s not going to work out that way.”

#NeverTrump is a low-frills bit of programming that Kumar’s team built in a week with input from Zach Coelius, a tech investor who used to run a voting nonprofit aimed at students. You download it, you upload your contacts and it spits out a list of people you know in battleground states and offers to message them for you.

Kumar says it’s a bit more complicated than it looks. Since many of your contacts don’t list a mailing address, and in some cases won’t have a phone number, it has to match the info you do have about your friends and associates with publicly available data to figure out where they live.

The other tricky part of the app is convincing users to trust a startup with their contact info. Kumar, a serial entrepreneur who built app-platform Lexity and sold it to Yahoo in 2013 (then left after a year), says his company won’t use the data it collects for any of Trimian’s other projects.

Kumar argues that Trump is an “existential threat,” both to the country at large and particularly to immigrants like himself. Kumar first came to the U.S. from India in 1998; he and his wife, Abha Jain, became citizens in 2013.

“I fell in love with the notion of America,” he said. “My wife and I found this to be a more inclusive place to foreigners than any place we had been.”

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