1776: The Second Wave of the Internet Revolution

Great interview by Evan Burfield on Bloomberg TV this morning about the DC startup scene and how to harness Washington DCs unique characteristics to promote entrepreneurship. Watch and learn: 

If GOP Allows It, Rand Paul’s Meteoric Rise Could Save Them

By Nick Davis

With each passing presidential election, it seems the cycle starts a little bit earlier every year.  The upcoming cycle is no different despite being over three and half years away. Let’s call March of 2013 the unofficial start to the 2016 campaign season. Hillary Clinton came out on video with the Human Rights Campaign in support of gay marriage. And Rand Paul has made it no secret that he is exploring his options as they pertain to 2016. He has taken center stage this month, most notably with his 13-hour filibuster of CIA Director nomination, John Brennan.

The junior senator from Kentucky will be the GOP’s own gut check to see if they’re ready to take on the changes proposed by the Growth and Opportunity Project. It appears Mr. Paul is ready to take on that challenge. He recently outlined his immigration stance at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and called for the decriminalization of marijuana, among other things, at the annual CPAC conference. Additionally, his constitutional and federalist bent on gay marriage could appease both liberals and conservatives, allowing each state government to determine what is best for them (at least until the Supreme Court returns its verdict sometime in June).

So what are Paul’s realistic chances of getting elected in 2016? Oddsmakers have put Mr. Paul at anywhere from 12-1 to 28-1 odds that this stage in the process, not exactly a sure bet.  Nate Silver, the election prophet over at the New York Times, recently outlined Paul’s appeal within his own party and whom he could attract from independents and Democrats. In that blog, Silver describes the Olympic Rings of the Republican Party. Its clear that Paul would fall into the libertarian category, but I’ll make the claim that he’ll have no problem attracting strong support from other factions of the party.

He has made it clear that he’s ready to deal on immigration, something that will attract moderates and reformers of the GOP. He’ll attract the Tea Party conservatives through his staunch fiscal restraint and religious conservatives should look fondly on his sponsorship of the Right to Life Act being proposed in the Senate now. His libertarian core base loves his dedication to the Constitution and his isolationist foreign policy.

So, that leaves the establishment base of the party, those who toe the party line and seem to be the most electable according to the pundits. It is these very people who are the reason why the Growth and Opportunity Project report was commissioned in the first place. Rand Paul is the very definition of the type of message and branding that this report described. His shift into immigration has the potential to win over some of the Latino vote while his idealistic and impassioned stance on the use of drones and libertarian approach to marijuana and gay marriage have strong potential to draw the youth vote.

There is still strong support for fiscal conservatism today. Republicans would do well to reconsider their positions on foreign policy and social issues. While Rand Paul will have only held political office for six years when the election rolls around, Barack Obama has proven that years of experience aren’t critical to being elected. In fact, it could be an asset. Americans, especially Republicans, are looking for a fresh face and ideas, and Rand Paul could be the one to deliver them.

How the Supreme Court Might rule on Prop 8

If you’re confused about what is going on at the Supreme Court this week regarding California’s Prop 8, see this great infographic courtesy the New York Times. 

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The Senate Social Network

Yahoo’s Chris Wilson has created a dynamic representation of voting in (arguably) the worlds greatest deliberative body. Wilson describes the exercise: 

“For every member, I calculated which other senators voted the same way at least 75 percent of the time. In effect, this organizes the Senate as a mini-Facebook of 100 users, in which any given pair of senators are friends if they meet this 75-percent threshold….Visualizations like this one work by treating the senators as particles that repel one another, and treating the connections between them as springs that hold them together. Because the Democrats vote so cohesively, with few defectors, they are held together by a large number of springs.”

Here is the output: 

What’s abundantly clear from this is that Republican and Democratic Senators are for the most part in two different universes. They almost never vote together on issues with a few exceptions. All that talk about gridlock in the Senate is pretty much true. 

CPAC and The Republican ‘Autopsy’ Highlight Why The GOP Just Doesn’t Get It

 

By Nick Davis

It’s no secret lately that the Republicans have a bit of an identity crisis on their hands. Ever since Barack Obama won a second term as President, the GOP has been doing some soul searching, and rightfully so. After losing five out of the last six popular votes, the Republican Party needs to figure out how to keep from becoming a permanent minority that represents the interests of affluent, older, white men.

Kudos to Reince Preibus and the rest of the RNC for acknowledging that there is a problem. After another GOP loss, Republicans are right to reevaluate their methods and brand. For the last 30 years or so, the general electoral trend has been eight years of one party in power followed by eight of the other with exceptions sprinkled in. If we extrapolate that into the future, that logic would tell us that a Republican would be elected in 2016. But, if there’s one thing I have learned working at Votifi is that correlation does not equal causation.

The GOP is correct in getting ahead of the curve with their Growth & Opportunity Project report. They realize the need to adapt their brand in order to account for a changing demographic, one that is becoming more diverse. Monday, they finally released that report. The 97-page document addresses a multitude of topics, covering everything from how to connect with Latinos and African Americans to bring them into the Party to campaign strategy and fundraising tactics.

In general, the report can be broken down into two broad topics: messaging and strategy.

The findings make some excellent suggestions regarding election strategy. Among those are to reduce the number of debates during the primary season, move up the date of the party convention, and overhaul fundraising practices to rival those of the Democratic Party. These are all good suggestions and probably necessary if the party wants to stay relevant. But strategy only gets you so far if your substance is lacking.  I’ve heard Republican strategist say that you take the Obama out of the Obama for America and no matter how good that campaign was run, he would still lose. I think that’s probably true.

Substance is where this report falls short. The Growth & Opportunity Project, cleverly shortened to GOP, offers absolutely nothing in terms of policy change or specific policy details. Instead, it merely states that the Party must recruit women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and LGBT people to leadership positions and hold outreach programs. The unanswered question remains why would these people want to join your cause if you’re party is constantly championing policies to ridicule and spite them? The fact is, Republicans realize the error of their ways when it comes to procedures, but not when it comes to actual message and policy.

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Will Texas turn Blue?

By Ian Rosoff

The state of Texas has a population of a little over 26 million, that’s good enough to garner the Friendship State 34 votes in the Electoral College. For the Republican Party Texas is their most important state. Two Senators and 24 Congressman roam the halls of the Capitol during the week and head back to the ranch on the weekends.

The governor of Texas is probably the best stepping stone to the Presidency for any Republican. Remember that before people realized Rick Perry didn’t know how to tie his shoes, let alone run a country, he was leading in the polls.

So what would happen to the political world if the impossible happened, Texas turned blue?

A million years ago Texas was blue. Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democratic President from Texas, but looking at the state’s political landscape over the last few decades the only way you could possible see a Democratic Texan taking the White House is if you watched the last season of The West Wing.

One of the reasons Dems have such a hard time in Texas is that the party runs laughably bad candidates in most Congressional districts. What Democrat in their right mind would volunteer to spend money and time running a race they are sure of losing? The result is that turnout on both sides becomes abysmal.

Gerrymandering certainly doesn’t help the situation. According to the NYT 2012 election map Texas had zero toss up districts and only the Texas 23rd was even close and it’s still leaning red. None of this is likely to change as long as the Republican Party controls the governorship and the statehouse, but the demographics of the state are changing in an interesting way.

Almost all of the Democratic districts in Texas are clustered together in the Deep South up against the border with Mexico. According to the last census 38% of Texans are of Hispanic decent. Electorally that translates to 4.2 million eligible Hispanic voters.

More importantly this is an extremely young constituency. According to Pew some 32% of eligible Hispanic voters are age 18 to 29 and the national average is 22%. That means Texas has a large, young, and growing minority population whose political allegiance is (if the fact that districts bordering Mexico are moving blue means anything) slightly left on non-abortion issues.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but Texas is going to get contentious. If Democrats want to compete they will have to start putting money into developing the party in a state that they have essentially abandoned.

Republicans must no longer take Texas for granted and begin to court the Latino vote in serious ways. Currently turnout in Texas is predictably low. When there is no competition that’s bound to happen, but competition is the lifeblood of our democracy. For example Rick Perry was able to win the Republican primary for governor with only 2% of the voting-age population. Beating the Democrat’s sacrificial lamb was a forgone conclusion so essentially less than half a million people in a state of 26 million decided the governorship.

I don’t think Texas will go blue in a Presidential race anytime soon, but the next race may see a Hillary or Biden or Cuomo at least make a stop in Austin. This is one argument for why more money in politics is potentially a positive. It gives the parties the chance to use precious resources in districts that seldom see any. The Electoral College places undue import on established swing states and both parties ignore opportunities to try and create new ones. Texas may be an opportunity.   

Despite Record Wall Street Profits, Main Street Is Still Hurting

By Nick Davis


http://opspark.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/wall_street_main_street-final.jpg

The stock market hit yet another all time high Tuesday afternoon as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) just barely moved into the green as the final bell hit. Meanwhile, we found out Monday that the economy added a surprising 236,000 jobs in February to take the national unemployment to a four year low of 7.7%.  So, what are we to make of these bits of good news? It might seem that we are on the road to economic recovery, but Corporate America might as well be another planet compared to the millions of Americans that work on Main Street.

I don’t think anyone can argue that we aren’t in a better position than when Obama took office. But, let’s keep some perspective. By no means are we even remotely close to returning to pre-recession economic levels. While investors and Corporate America are riding the Wall Street gravy train, the poor and middle class are still struggling to make ends meet.

Some economists, most notably Lakshman Achuthan of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, are saying that we’ve actually been in a recession since the middle of last year. He cites an 18-month low in year over year payroll jobs growth as well as a 16-month low in year over year household jobs growth. Year over year job growth is simply a comparison between this time last year and today. In the first two months of last year, the economy created 582,000 jobs compared to 385,000 this year.  Additionally, the fourth quarter of 2012 produced a measly .1% in GDP growth, hardly an economic boom.

In 2007, just before the stock market crashed, we saw the Dow reach its previous all time high. Anyone see a resemblance here? I’m not trying to say that we’ll see another great recession, but this can’t be a good sign.  It simply means that the DJIA is not a useful tool to measure economic growth.

Sometimes I think the wealthy get a bad rap when they shouldn’t. Yes, there is a significant income gap between them and everyone else. No one doubts that. It’s easy to demonize the rich when Obama talks about raising taxes on upper-income Americans. We all know they’ll survive no matter how much they pay in taxes. With that in mind, I think its time we start focusing our efforts on how we can help small businesses grow. We need to bring everyone else up, instead of bringing the 1% down. The Tax Foundation recently found that the top 10% of Americans actually pay more than their fair share of federal income taxes, a whopping 70.6%, up from 55% from 1986.

Whether or not you believe in trickle down economics, corporations are only a single part of our economy. In fact, 98% of businesses in the United States can be considered a small business. These companies don’t have big legal departments to research how Obamacare or Dodd-Frank will affect them. President Obama and Congress could do a lot of good for the American people if they could just find some common ground. The political uncertainty that comes around every couple of months with a fiscal cliff, sequestration, or a budget ceiling debate leaves employers skeptical and cautious about hiring additional help. It’s easier to get by as is rather than hire someone and eventually lay him or her off.

America needs to renew its focus on small businesses. Some of the best innovations and personalities come out of startups, just take a look at Silicon Valley. We need legislation and incentives that target Main Street, not Wall Street.

Evolution of SXSW [INFOGRAPHIC]

We like infographics

10 Things we plan to do at SXSW

  1. Present. Our panel is called “Latinos y Mobile: A Silver Bullet, and it is going to be awesome. Lou Aronson, Brent Wilkes, Kety Esquivel, and Estuardo Rodriguez will be speaking about the impact of the Hispanic voice on technology and, in turn, the impact of technology on the Hispanic voice. 5-6 on Friday! More info here.
  2. Eat tacos. Apparently this is what Austin is known for: they seem to have everything from breakfast tacos to late night tacos, even an 11th annual SXSW nuclear taco meet up. We’re intrigued.
  3. Rock on. We have to admit that we haven’t heard of most of the bands performing, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be great. Last year we ended up at a Delta Spirit concert they are still my top 3 Pandora music station. Hoping to find some more great bands this time. SXSW is known for attracting the best new ventures, films, and bands, so we figure we can’t lose. We also plan on attending Rock On, SXSW, hosted by Rocket Lawyer on Monday night. Good music, good company, and good food? Count us in.
  4. Explore Mars. This year there seems to be a multitude of space themed events due to the Curiosity Rover. We cannot wait to see an inside view of how this historic event went down, analyzed with a twist of the online community’s reaction. “Gale Crater, I am in you”, a tweet that will live in infamy. 3:30-4:30 on Sunday.
  5. Watch a movie. For the most part, the movie sector of SXSW overlaps with the interactive, so it makes sense to see a film. I have to give kudos to my friends Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq who are (almost) premiering their film These Birds Walk at SXSW. The film documents a runaway boy in Pakistan trying to figure out where his home really is.  It’s got amazing cinematography (always wanted to use that word in a blog) and the backstory details the work of Abdul Sattar Edhi, the Mother Teresa of Pakistan. SPOILER: I saw a rough cut of the film a year ago but since then they added a musical score, color correction and more editing.
  6. Meet new people. Last year we met many of our current clients during this week. Aside from the business end of things, there are brilliant and interesting people around every corner that we would never get to meet (or eat tacos with) otherwise.
  7. Watch other people present. SXSW is a trove of amazing presentations, making it possible to forget to attend events that actually pertain to our company. However, panels such as “Mobile Saturday: Re-imagine Everything” (9:30-10:30, Saturday) and meet-ups like “How do you get People to Care about your Data?” (3:30-4:30, Monday) make it easy for us, and we cannot wait to join the conversations.
  8. See the keynotes. Matthew Inman should be both insightful and hilarious (his bio centers around his love for Sriracha sauce), while Elon Musk is the genius behind SpaceX, Pay Pal, and SolarCity, who inspired the main character in Iron Man. There is no way we are missing these sure to be memorable talks.
  9. Stay flexible. There is so much to do at SXSW that it can be a little overwhelming. Some of the best events and parties we attended last year were ones we heard about after we got to Austin. We’re leaving time to talk with as many people as possible, and follow the buzz that generates around the city to events we hadn’t originally planned on going to.
  10. Take it all in, and mix it up. It is impossible to do everything you want to do at SXSW, but since everything is so awesome there is no way to truly miss out. When else can you play ping-pong against CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, interact with the MIT Media Lab, and watch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in concert in the span of 5 days? We cannot wait to branch out, explore the great city of Austin, and come back to D.C. with some new information and connections…and maybe a new album or two.

 

What do employers really want from college grads?

Marketplace (my favorite show across TV/radio/Internet) had a great story on college grads and the job market. You can listen to the whole thing here

Few things that stood out for me and which I plan to share with our team of awesome interns. 

In industries across the board, employers viewed an internship as the single most important credential for recent grads – more than where you went to school or what you majored in. Even your grades.

I tend to agree. In the startup world, if I see you’ve had at least some sort of professional experience in which you used Excel or did some research then I know you’re bringing some skill to bear which I know almost no college classroom will teach. 

The story also referenced David Boyes, who runs a technology company called Sine Nomine Associates. Boyes said 

[t]he company puts probably about a quarter of a million dollars into every single new hire. But that’s the kind of value that we get out of it. We ask people to read Cato the Elder, [w]e ask people to read Suetonius. We do that because we ask them to look at the process – the abstract process – of organizing ideas.

This is really fascinating. Earlier last week we shared the now viral video with Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and others promoting schools to teach more coding to students. But, coming from the head of an IT consulting firm, here is a clarion call for a balanced liberal arts education. 

And $250,000 in training for fresh-out-of-college grads at a firm with only 20 employees? That’s pretty phenomenal and if I lived in the DC area and was graduating from college this year I’d really think about applying.