Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a new tech lobby today, FWD.us, that he created in collaboration with powerful friends in Silicon Valley. But with so many lobbies already in the technology industry, some critics have asked what Zuckerberg’s initiative will bring to the table.
FWD.us is described as a bipartisan group, designed to promote policies that will keep the American workforce competitive. Among its top priorities are a push for comprehensive immigration reform, education reform, and scientific research.
More specifically, FWD.us hopes to attract foreign talent, keep entrepreneurs in the county, and improving education from the ground up. Because this is a lobby group, the considerable wealth and influence of each member isn’t going into charities of programs per se, but to candidates and legislation that aims to fix the problems defined by FWD.us.
Because the tech industry is already well represented on Capitol Hill (many members of FWD.us are involved in other tech lobbies, and have been for years), a few critics wonder whether Zuckerberg’s initiative is a bit redundant.
In an effort to differentiate FWD.us from others, TechCrunch offered the group some pretty solid advice. Since the board members of FWD.us aren’t strangers to politics, Gregory Ferenstein offered a few tips to help them differentiate themselves from other tech lobbies:
- Get the board members vocal in non-generic ways. Zuckerberg’s Washington Post OpEd was elegant and powerful, but it didn’t say anything new. In order for the message to get into the DC psyche, FWD.us members need to be the epicenter of bold, sticky ideas.
- A viral campaign. FWD.us is smartly targeting Silicon Valley’s employees in a grassroots campaign, many of whome are personally impacted by immigration reform. Last Election, Ron Conway’s Sf.citi managed to score a win at the ballot box for a local tax measure by reaching out directly to the citizens of San Francisco. Bloomberg has his own immigration-themed social media campaign, The March For Innovation; it’s unclear whether FWD.us will compliment or compete with Bloomberg
- Nonpartisan cash. Most members are Democrats, but sometimes small-government Republicans are better on tech issues. I’d be impressed if FWD.us could get board members to contribute to someone like Congress’s resident tech guru and part-time Obama nemesis House Oversight Chairman, Darrell Issa. In order for policymakers, especially Democrats, to take FWD.us seriously, they’ll need to believe the money isn’t already coming their way.
As noted, FWD.us isn’t much of anything other than a dream right now, but it could end up being a pretty serious power player. It has all the raw ingredients, all the right faces, heaps of money and influence, etc. etc. ad nauseam.
The challenge is avoiding redundancy.
You can read Gregory Ferenstein’s entire column (from which the numbered list above is quoted) here, and the FWD.us announcement/press release/manifesto below. What do you think? Does Washington really need another tech lobby?