SAN FRANCISCO — Ed Lee and Ron Conway are the ultimate San Francisco power couple. The “tech friendly” mayor and the Silicon Valley investor billionaire have worked together for years to create a city environment that supports innovation and an ecosystem where startups can succeed.
This morning at TechCrunch Disrupt, these two pillars of local government and business laid out how technology can rejuvenate the economy. Lee has a 17 point plan to keep San Francisco the center of innovation.
“This is unabashedly the innovation capital of the world,” Lee said. “We are taking advantage of the companies here to help us improve our city, find solutions to old problems, and create an innovative air in the public and private sector. We are ahead of literally every city in California in terms of recovery.”
Lee says S.F. has 32,000 tech jobs and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Tech positions are usually well paid, so people earn and then spend money in the city. Keeping cash flowing through the local economy is important for growth, and in order to keep that cash within the city limits, Lee wants to keep entrepreneurs and their employees happy.
“ImproveSF is a platform where we invite people to tell us what they need,” Lee said. “We also have a tech chamber of commerce with over 300 member companies helping us figure out how to keep companies here comfortably, train the workforce, and keep that fantastic growth. I listen to employees because if I satisfy them and they stay in the city, tech companies will stay in city too.”
Another Lee-Conway initiative is making jobs at technology companies available to more people. The duo spearheaded an effort to offer 5,000 paid summer internships to students, targeted to disadvantaged populations, so kids can gain relevant work experience and plan for their future. They are also making technology jobs available to employees without a tech background.
“The key is that the tech community generates entry level jobs for San Francisco residents,” said Conway. “Tech employers are submitting lists to the city of entry level jobs, and they will hand that to Ed Lee’s team at Tech SF to create curricula that will specifically train for tech specific jobs.”
Last year, Lee offered tax breaks to Twitter and Zynga to encourage these companies to stay in the city. This year, Conway and Lee are fighting in favor of Proposition E, which will cut down on payroll taxes in the city.
“The biggest gift the technology community here can do is pass Proposition E,” said Conway. “This will save tech companies millions of dollars, create jobs in S.F., and help small businesses. It is the longest legacy gift we could give. One hundred years from now, S.F. will continue to be innovation capital of world because we made these concessions.”
Lee has designated October as Innovation Month. A series of activities will take place throughout the month, and local companies will open their doors to visitors to give them a glimpse of startup life. In 2013, the Mayor’s office partners with Code for America to support diversity leadership, training, and education. It is also rolling our improvements to Muni that came out of a hackathon.
Lee demonstrably resonates with the entrepreneurial spirit. He likes to shake things up and solve problems, and he finds change exciting.
“I was really enthralled yesterday when Jack Dorsey talked about the revolutionary approach,” Lee said. I want a revolution. As tech companies move in, they are helping me redo a whole new central Market Street. It used to be our skid row, and now we see it changing before our very eyes. From the Twitter rooftop, that view of the dome brings your heart to a halt.”
Lee also said he enjoyed the ice cream at Zynga.