Category: Civics

Perfecting a More Digital Union: Ro Khanna’s Dignity In A Digital Age

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

When you hear a member of Congress talking about the tech industry these days, there’s a good chance it’s in a negative context. Republicans rail against the companies that have enabled everyday citizens to project their voices with a freedom and scope that even presidents could not have matched just a couple decades ago. Democrats rhapsodize about dismantling some of America’s biggest domestic job creators and most successful exporters. And that’s just on Twitter.

They’re also pitching bills like the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on last week, whose intended and unintended consequences include weakening security on iPhoneseliminating Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping, and making it harder for Google Search to steer users to small businesses using Google Maps, to name just a few.

But while some of America’s most powerful lawmakers focus on cutting Big Tech down to size, how many of the major challenges we face, as a country and as part of the greater global community, can we solve without major technological activity and innovation? 

That’s why Ro Khanna’s perspective is valuable in this moment. A member of the House of Representatives (D – CA) since 2016, Khanna is one of just a handful of current Congresspeople who has experience working in the tech industry. In his important new book, Dignity In A Digital Age, he explores how the tech industry can work harder to ensure the benefits it produces are equitably distributed, (Read more...)

Scaling Solutions to Climate Change — A review of John Doerr’s “Speed and Scale”​

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

When I first started sharing the concept of blitzscaling, then later wrote a book about it, I was primarily focused on a very specific business context. For start-ups looking to achieve leadership positions in emerging and highly competitive global markets, it makes sense to prioritize speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.

Over the last few years, I’ve also come to realize there are much broader applications for a blitzscaling approach. For example, blitzscaling can be used in public health efforts. The decision to ramp up pre-approval production on multiple COVID-19 vaccines so they’d be ready to distribute if proven effective was a classic blitzscaling tactic. Then, there’s climate change. At this point, it’s clear that we must take a blitzscaling approach to funding, developing, and scaling both the existing technologies and new innovations that will allow us to cut greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avert looming planetary disaster. 

Even as the consequences of climate change grow more tangible, the question of how to address this incredibly complex challenge can be paralyzing. With time for effective intervention running out, where should we focus our efforts for maximum impact? How do we achieve cooperation amongst a diverse range of governments, industries, and communities, all of whom have different and often competing interests? Can we innovate fast enough to make a difference?

Amidst such uncertainty and doubt, John Doerr lays out a focused plan for how to move forward in his new book, Speed and Scale. As John (Read more...)

Making Risk More Accessible: a Review of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Renewal”​

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

Bitter political partisanship continues to divide America. Devastating wildfires, floods, and hurricanes leave no part of the country untouched. Rapid technological innovation has altered global business patterns and relationships, and left individual workers, companies, and even entire industries wondering what the future holds for them. Now throw in a global pandemic. It’s not an environment conducive to risk-taking. 

And yet risk is how you find breakout opportunities that lead to life-changing gains — in your career and life in general. Slow incremental progress is good. But massive progress all at once is even better, because it doesn’t just propel you forward in that instant. The benefits you reap from your new place in the world compound over time. If you join an unknown start-up right out of college and that start-up becomes Google, the opportunities that follow for the rest of your career will likely be significantly better than if you’d started out at a less consequential company. 

Of course, there’s always a downside to risk. That unknown start-up you join could crash and burn before you’ve even had a chance to pay off a semester’s worth of student loans. That’s why learning to effectively evaluate risk is a key career skill. But as I discuss in my book The Start-up of You, what constitutes an intelligent risk — where the upside significantly outweighs the downside — is highly dependent upon how much tolerance for risk you have. And that varies greatly from person to person. If you have ample (Read more...)

Protecting Voting Rights: Good for America, Good for American Business

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

“A government of the people, by the people. A beautifully American ideal, but a reality denied to many for much of this nation’s history. As Americans, we know that in our democracy we should not expect to agree on everything. However, regardless of our political affiliations we believe the very foundation of our electoral process rests upon the ability of each of us to cast our ballots for the candidates of our choice. For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us. We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot. Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.”

This statement appeared as an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post today, and was signed by hundreds of American business leaders, including myself.

The statement exists because former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier led corporate America to take an active role in this situation, by explicitly advocating for the rights of all American citizens to make their voices heard through the core democratic act of voting.

Their leadership on this issue benefits both the business community and every (Read more...)

UK appoints entrepreneur Joe White as first Tech Envoy to the United States

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

Earlier this year, I was pleased to learn that the UK Government was planning to appoint a Tech Envoy to the U.S. – a dedicated point person who would live in the Bay Area and function as a conduit between our tech industry and the UK. Later, when I learned that Joe White would take on this newly created role, I grew even more excited about the positive impact this new position will have on fostering innovation and entrepreneurism on a local and global scale.

In addition to having 66 million Internet users, the UK is home to its own rapidly growing tech sector, which attracted $13.2 billion in investment capital in 2019 and now employs nearly 3 million people. Increasing cooperation and collaboration between U.S. companies and U.K. ones will create benefits for both countries and the world at large, and Joe is extremely well-suited to manage this cross-cultural effort.

I first met Joe when he was working as a General Partner for Entrepreneur First, a Greylock-backed early stage tech fund which has gone on to raise and run $200 million in capital for start-ups, creating a global portfolio with an aggregate value of more than $2 billion. And I have gotten to know Joe as a friend after he moved to Silicon Valley last year.

Now, in addition to assuming the role of Consul General in San Francisco on behalf of the UK Government, Joe will also serve as Tech Envoy, managing tech and entrepreneur relationships (Read more...)

How Business Leaders Can Contribute to Civic Engagement This Election

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

Since states around the country began offering early voting in mid-September, inspiring images of citizens lining up to exercise their franchise have become commonplace. In some cities, they’re showing up well before dawn to claim their place in line. In others, they endure rainstorms or turn the wait in line into an outdoor dance party. 

The electorate’s enthusiasm extends to mail-in voting as well. According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 90 million Americans requested absentee ballots this year, and as of October 30th, more than 55 million of them have already been returned.

All told, we’re seeing massive voter engagement, with predictions that “a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.” 

This year, I hope business leaders in communities across the U.S. mirror this engagement. While many businesses and business leaders understandably refrain from explicit partisan engagement because their ultimate goal is to serve their communities at large, the current moment offers a clear chance to do that. And there’s a real need to do so as well.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the massive commercial shutdowns that have arisen because of it, the central role that business plays in America’s civic life has never been clearer. While business obviously forms the basis of our economic prosperity, our jobs and workplaces also create the relationships and routines that form a substantial part of our individual identities. In any (Read more...)

Attention Lawyers: Help Rule of Law Win at the Polls This Year

This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman

As we head into the home stretch of the most consequential election of our lifetimes, it has never been more critical to ensure that every American voter has the ability to exercise this most fundamental democratic right of voting, and that we maintain our commitment to free and fair elections in which every vote is counted.

One critical resource in this effort is attorneys, especially in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona. But ultimately we need a nationwide response. That’s because it’s not just the Covid-19 outbreak that is introducing new challenges to voting this year. This will also be the first presidential election in 40 years that will take place without the protections of a federal “consent decree” that prevented the RNC from engaging in so-called “ballot security” measures designed to intimidate and suppress voters in polling places through a variety of confrontational and anti-democratic tactics.

In 2017, a federal judge allowed the consent decree to expire, and now, along with the other voter suppression efforts we’ve already seen this year, like limiting ballot drop-off boxes in Texas to one per country or setting up private, unauthorized drop-off boxes in gun shops and churches in California, the GOP has been recruiting what it literally calls an “Army for Trump” to maintain an explicitly militarized presence at the polls on November 3rd.

In the face of such efforts to chip away at the very heart of democracy, we must counter with a (Read more...)