Is the American political system a 250 year old OS, filled with bugs and patched so many times that it can barely function? We’ve all experienced frustration of one sort or another at local, state and federal level. While government seems to move slowly, the tech industry professes to be all about speed and disruption. Given these opposing natural rhythms it’s all too easy for our community to say “fuck it” and lean away from getting involved in the political system. Up until a few years ago, this was certainly my reaction. But recently through grassroots involvement in the SOPA/PIPA movement and a chance to spend time assisting the Obama For America tech team, I’ve realized we instead must educate. Out of both opportunity to bring our collective voices to bear and out of necessity given the numerous ways our startups are impacted by legislation.
Josh Mendelsohn has given me the opportunity to join the Advisory Board of Engine, a research group and policy coalition he co-founded to help bring startups and government closer together. Alongside a great staff and fellow Advisors such as Ron Conway, Brad Feld, John Lilly, we’re using data and ideas, not paid lobbying, in order drive future legislation. For example, Engine was behind the Keep Us Here immigration reform campaign this past May, bringing the tech community together to tell the Senate how vital high quality global talent is to US entrepreneurship. Engine is also funding an increasing amount of economic research, beginning in 2012 with their first Technology Works Study [pdf] and continuing to provide hard evidence that technology companies and technical efficiencies are the drivers of job growth and wealth creations for Americans. Engine also plays an ongoing role working to expose politicians to key startups and thought leaders during their trips to Silicon Valley and other tech hubs.
My newly launched seed stage venture fund Homebrew is focused on the Bottom Up Economy, where SMBs and individuals are driving economic growth and innovation. This is in contrast to a Top Down Economy where only large corporations had access to the resources and marketplaces needed to succeed. A hallmark of the Top Down Economy is using politics as a weapon to maintain status quo. I’m excited to use my new position at Engine to help provide lawmakers with very tangible examples of innovation and introduce them to not just the businesses we’ve invested in, but our community as a whole.
Learn more about Engine and opportunities to get involved by visiting their website.