San Francisco, CA
Current job: Founder and Director of TechCongress
Past job: Legislative Director, Rep. Henry Waxman
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting:
DC: The Coffee Bar on S St or Pleasant Pops on 15th St.
SF: Four Barrel on Valencia or Red Door @ 111 Minna
Q. Job advice in three words? Humility + hard work
Q. Describe one way how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your new job.
Congress taught me how to be comfortable asking for help, which is a hugely important skill for a startup founder. As an LD in the House, I was never going to be an expert on the range of policy issues on the Hill, so I learned to own my ignorance when there were things I didn’t know or understand, and build a broad network of people that I trusted for advice. I relied on colleagues and mentors and friends and advisors to help me make policy recommendations and decisions.
Launching a startup requires you to ask for help on almost everything you do—-raising money, finding customers, testing users, understanding competition and building product. If you’re not constantly learning, you won’t survive. And because I starting TechCongress as a solo founder— which the smartest people in tech will tell you is a horrible idea (and, frankly, was my biggest mistake building the nonprofit)-- asking for help and advice was even more important. Advisors and friends helped me refine our value proposition, meet funders, recruit fellows and build a pitch deck that didn’t suck, among many, many other things.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? We place technologists to work directly for Members of Congress or Congressional Committee through our one-year Congressional Innovation Fellowship. Fellows have worked on encryption, the OPM breach, autonomous vehicle regs, facial recognition privacy, surveillance reform, health IT and a whole range of other issues. Our goal is to build a Congress that’s equipped to legislate in the digital age and a tech industry— which is increasingly operating in highly regulated industries— that understands the complexity and nuance of government.
Q. Favorite app? Seat Alerts. Plug in your flight info and you get push notifications when certain kinds of seat (Aisle, Exit Row) become available. Hugely helpful for the cross-country flights so you’re not stuck in a middle seat or the back row next to the bathroom for five hours.
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? Camp Grounded in Mendocino County CA in May 2016.
Q. Best advice you’ve received? Choose your boss, not your job.
Q. What can Silicon Valley teach DC? The playbook for starting things— understand your customers/users and then build something they want by starting small and improving incrementally.
Q. What can DC teach Silicon Valley? That government and the political world are complex and nuanced and operate based on trusted relationships within big institutions and that’s not something you can just “disrupt” with an app or a bunch of money.