How is it that the big, bad Valley – 48 miles worth of growling, industry-eviscerating talent, ambition, and money – has become a compliant lap dog for the anti-competitive overlords of the most astonishingly broken consumer market in American society today: politics?
In announcing his $20 million donation to Democratic party organizations last week, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz said he and his wife Cari Tuna “have dedicated our lives to figuring out how to do the most good we can with the resources we’ve been given.” And so their $20 million Facebucks will go to fund five political action committees – the grimy little entities that fund substantially every attack ad you’ll see over the next seven weeks – and a few token voter registration efforts.
How utterly disappointing. And how representative of a strange anomaly in the Valley’s behavior. It’s not to which side the donation – and almost all other Valleyite donations to the 2016 presidential race – was made. I get the Stop Trump movement, even if I can’t stand, and can’t possibly vote for, either of the two major party candidates. Besides, Valley denizens donate plenty to the GOP too.
No, my revulsion at the Moskovitz-Tuna’s announcement stems from the fact that they’re saying they’re happy to buttress the continuing dominance of the competition-blocking two-party political duopoly. Instead of rallying tech’s remarkable community of professional disruptors to take up digital arms against the two hideously archaic and corrupt organizations holding our politics hostage, they’ve merely chosen to support one political mafia family against another.
I believe Silicon Valley’s talent and its algorithms for identifying, resourcing, challenging, and ultimately remaking the most broken consumer models in the largest industries on the planet is likely the greatest positive societal transformation engine in the history of the world. Does it cause economic dislocation and wealth inequality as it powers through the process? Sure it does, just as every other economic revolution in history has. Solutions and mitigants can and will come with time.
But why are Valleyites seeking to play footsie with a badly busted system and its craven leadership rather than taking it on full force competitively? Whether it’s the City or Austin or New York or Boston or Boulder, the smartest, toughest, most audacious giant-killers of our era are found in tech.
So why, in the case of the systems that ultimately control the single biggest slice of our entire GDP – the government, at all levels – does the Valley go Vichy? Why not go for the Democratic and Republican party jugulars and seek to replace them with something muscular and smart and transparent and dominant?
This past weekend, The Daily Beast published my manifesto, of sorts, on how 2016’s sorry, sorry nominees create an opening – actually, make that a mandate – for the establishment of a completely re-engineered kind of 21st century political party. One VC I interviewed for that piece pointed to the need to create a technological “kernel” that could attract the talent that could ultimately unleash the swarm dynamics capable of overwhelming the existing system.
And I believe it can happen.
I first heard Beast Editor-In-Chief John Avlon say, almost a decade ago, that “The political center is the single biggest unserved consumer market of any kind in the United States of America today.” The idea that we are a deeply divided nation – Google that phrase and see how many tens of thousands of times pundits say it – is a myth.
The reality is that, on most issues, the distribution of public opinion is normal, with the greatest numbers of us bunched right under the main part of the bell curve. It’s easy to see how you could redefine the market for policy and philosophy in a way that targeted the center 60 percent of voters instead of anchoring in the distribution’s tails.
And yet no one in the Valley seems to want take on this biggest of all TAMs. No, it’s not a profit-making opportunity – and yet reforming our electoral system by shredding it competitively holds the potential to unleash, in aggregate, the largest value creation era in American history. Because the two entities controlling this government ain’t ever, ever, ever going to reform it.
Why would they? One or the other of them has been in control since 1853.
Meanwhile you can walk into almost any venture office in the Valley and hear them say how they love backing entrepreneurs who want to solve big problems. And how good and public-spirited the tech community is.
But it keeps tithing to the two pillars of the Evil Empire, or playing smallball, or saying it’s got better things to do.
Trust me. There’s nothing better to do.
How do we start? Not by forming some K Street-based “Kumbaya America” organization and begging Paul Ryan to play kissy-face with Harry Reid. Not by some hashtag to show your outrage. Ineffectual.
Instead, we probably begin the same way your world-changing company got started – two or three or six people with differentiated skill sets and a sense of shared purpose sitting around a table at Zeke’s or Buck’s or the Creamery shaping and honing an idea. If you get hold of me and tell me when and where, I’ll bring my “Had Enough” posse with me. Hey, I’ll buy the eggs/beer/burgers.
And let’s get started.
Dave Maney is founder and CEO of Deke Digital, a Colorado-based financial and news media content company. Prior to Deke Digital, Maney was cofounder and Chairman of Headwaters MB, a Denver-based merchant and investment bank, and before that, he was founder and CEO of Worldbridge Broadband Services Inc., a broadband telecommunication technology services firm. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of WPO and a graduate of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.