Lightweight Advocacy

I was at a board meeting of a non profit this week and the talk turned to "advocacy" and whether or not the non profit should be doing any of that. I had to ask what the definition of advocacy was just to be clear what we were talking about. It's not something I've traditionally been involved in.

When I think of advocacy, I think of politics, lobbying, public relations, and a bunch of other "heavyweight" behaviors that I abhor. Wikipedia's definition of advocacy is:

Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing outcomes โ€” including public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions โ€” that directly affect peopleโ€™s current lives. (Cohen, 2001)

Thankfully, the non profit concluded that it should largely keep doing what it is doing and let the work they do, the people they engage, and the outcomes they produce send the message. That's my kind of advocacy.

Later in the week, I read Brad Feld's blog post urging immigrant startup founders to tell their story. The "startup visa working group" which I am a member of is recruiting immigrant startup founders to tell their story online here. If you are an immigrant startup founder, I urge you to go do that. It won't take long and will be incredibly valuable "advocacy" on an important issue.

And it occurred to me that the "startup visa movement" is a case study in lightweight advocacy.

The problem is relatively simple and should be easy to fix. If you are an immigrant starting a company here in the US, you can get kicked out of the country if you don't have the right visa. I've seen it happen a couple times in the past year to founders in our portfolio.

And these are people starting new companies here in the US who are hiring people and creating new jobs, and not just any job, but high paying jobs. It makes no sense to kick these people out of the country. It's hurtful to them, their companies, and our country and economy.

So last September, Brad Feld wrote a post about this issue on his blog. It attracted a fair bit of interest in the VC and entrepreneur community, got a lot of comments, and got some people talking to each other. Brad's post was inspired by an essay Paul Graham had written last spring.

As a result of Brad's post, we formed a working group of a few VCs and a few entrepreneurs that we call the "startup visa group." We've continued to blog about this issue, but more importantly, we've started calling and talking to our elected officials and their staffs. We have a plan and we have a legislative proposal to fix this issue.

Now we are collecting the stories that we need to galvanize the elected officials to act. When that is done, the group is headed to Washington to push this forward.

There are no lobbyists involved. There is no PR firm involved. No campaign contributions have been made. No PACs or other advocacy groups have been formed.

Everyone involved has a full time job either starting and running a company or building and managing a portfolio of companies. We are doing this "nights and weekends."

And we can do that because this is "lightweight advocacy". We are using our blogs, the internet, social media, and our relationships with our elected officials to move this issue forward. We'll see if we are effective. I sure hope we will be. It will fix an important issue in the startup economy and it will be yet another example of the internet is providing tools to do things the way they should be done.

#Politics#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    FredYou have a series of posts that fall under the unspoken title of ‘Doing the right thing”. This one worked for me as I took my morning walk along the water and shot a pic of the Statue of Liberty.You could have potentially called this “Hacking Advocacy’ as well.Thnx for the post–I’ve sent the message along to a bunch of founders I know on the west coast.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Crowdsourcing Commonsense.

      1. Aviah Laor


        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Fair enough.

      2. awaldstein

        Community Sourcing Commonsence.Still an oxymoron Aviah?

        1. Aviah Laor

          No. That’s much better :). Community Commonsense. It sounds OK. Despite the fact that community may suffer from group effects, crowds proved that they can really mess commonsense. Large enough community is better, i think.

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            I’m glad that’s been – so quickly – cleared up! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. jerrycolonna

    Lightweight advocacy feels to me a bit like another term for being socially engaged not as a driving force behind who you are but as a by product of the way you live. There’s a desperately needed place for hardcore advocacy but there’s also an equally strong but somewhat less obviously needed place for simple every day acts of engagement. Not only is it our moral responsibility; it’s a path to happiness.

    1. fredwilson

      i’d like the system to work in such a way that the “by product of the way we live” can be as powerful a force in our society (ideally more powerful) as “hardcore advocacy”

      1. Michael Lewkowitz

        i think that’s a natural progression as our lives are increasingly defined by what we do vs. who we do it for. Easier still with the ecosystem of social technologies that bring us together, make it easier to say and share what’s important to us, and make it easier to find others that feel the same way. Invariably, when people come together about something they care about, those who care the most move to action. That’s how movements form. It’s how change happens. And that’s a good thing, because that’s something we need more than ever.

        1. Aviah Laor

          True. But we need the killer tool. The Internet provided the engines for advocacy:1. Connect to large audience2. Multi channeled rich communication3. Resources, especially time, pooling (you can contribute a little, the combined time is enough)So everything is set. But the is missing. The Wikipedia, eBay, Twitter for this purpose is missing. Experiments didn’t really took off for an ongoing effect. Though enterprise web-based work sharing towards common goals works, it does not really work for the public advocacy .I re-mention it: maybe it’s the next project for the non-virtual-ville. Currently, there is no app for that.

          1. Michael Lewkowitz

            I don’t think there needs to be any ‘one’ tool. Advocacy is a continuum, from each individual exploring and declaring what’s important to them to mass organized actions and campaigns. There are a host of things that are working on pieces of it – like which aggregates published voluntary and donation opportunities (and makes it available through an open api) to which is reimaging citizenship in the age of participation, to intensive advocacy campaigns like There are countless tools and will only be more. There is no need to wait. There is only the opportunity to get involved. The need to say something – to do something – to do it now. That’s the beauty of where we are at.That said – if you, or anyone wants to create ‘the killer tool’ – go do it. Tell us. Build it. Share it. It’ll be another piece of the medium of change.

          2. Aviah Laor

            Tnx for the refs, these are nice. I will certainly check them more (and sure there are many others). However, they are not enough. We still need the killer platform, the paradigm changer, the 800 pounds gorilla. Like many others I do have ideas – but i feel they are rooted in what works now, and this area needs something new because we aim to form a new social construct. Not easy to keep the spirit of a real participative democracy in large scale. It’s like scaling ancient Athene.

          3. Michael Lewkowitz

            It’s never too early to try. Best way to test and refine ideas.

          4. Aviah Laor

            Your presentation about social entrepreneurship is amazing.anybody interested:

          5. Michael Lewkowitz

            Thx. It’s a start. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Aviah Laor

        Exactly. Let the silent majority influence. Let the people who are busy working influence. Let the people who are not professional politicians influence.This is the next Internet big challenge. Content, games, commerce, communication, social sharing, work sharing etc – already sorted out. Real influence on policies and agenda – not.

        1. David Binetti

          Politics is typically 4-5 years behind the curve. But it is happening, right now.Example: Ben Nelson in Nebraska. He did a standard, old-style deal on Health Care that secured a remarkable deal for the people in his state. The result? A backlash (mostly online) from his own constituents so severe that he tried — in vain — to give it back.Think about that for a second: he is desperately trying to *reject* the pork that he originally secured, and the ones forcing him to do that are not professionals but the very people who ostensibly would benefit from the largess.It was a stinging rebuke for the ‘hardcore’ lobbying approach. There will be more. Lightweight is the future.

          1. ShanaC

            I think that reaction is more normal than we want to admit. Especially as the internet and the social changes that come with it, there will be an increase in pushback from those who do not like/want the change, and they will use the exact same technologies to push back. Just because you or I want a change, doesn’t mean your or my opponents want that change as well.No conception of power is simple. And the internet, radicalizes power and its distribution. Just because it is lightweight, doesn’t mean it isn’t so powerful that those even from the “hardcore” will not use these sorts of techniques to push back even harder. Advocacy can become even more ‘hardcore’ because it is so much easier to effect change, that you need more power behind you to combat your opponents…

          2. Prokofy

            This is all such tripe, Shana. I use all the social media, I’m hip on all the technology, but I have to cry foul here when you claim that this is going to automagically convert to some special new politics that removes all the age-old human flaws of bias and corruption. If anything, it’s *less* accountable.Your notion that the right whom you hate can’t use the same technologies to push back against you on the left that you love is exactly what I mean by bias and unaccountability. You cannot prejudge the tools. The tools are for everyone. They aren’t just for those coders who tried to weld in their leftwing views into them. They are for teapartiers and Palin lovers just as much as they are for savvy urban New York students. Internet communications don’t radicalize power, don’t be silly. If anything, they make it unaccountable. You can flashmob votes; you can love-bomb hate Youtubes; you can power up a twitter hash tag with mindless clicking — this isn’t politics, it’s the byproduct of code.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            “Automagically” is a great word.

          4. fredwilson

            I agree

          5. ShanaC

            I was trying to say what you are saying…I actually think the right canpush back…except I don’t think it is just the right, I was thinkingmore fundamentalist groups on both sides.

        2. Prokofy

          This is such a mistaken illusion.The silent majority isn’t somehow on the left, and something you can count on to invoke to do your bidding and fit with your politics. Massachusetts should show you that, and town halls and tea parties should show you that.The idea that there is something evil and suspect about “professional politics” who are *elected*belongs to the unaccountable wired left. It’s a ruse and a scam, quite frankly. You do not take precedence over the people I elected to do the job of governance. They may have their flaws and even corruptions, but I’d rather have that dealt with institutionally, than have the unseen vices of the wired left operating to influence politics.You pretend you are sanitized and blessed because you are not organized and funded. But you are an affluent class that in fact is funded in other more subtle ways, and unaccountable.There’s another piece of this which is reprehensible. And that is that there is some “big Internet change” and some “wave of people’s democracy” coming, and if you question it, you are a Luddite, filled with FUD, blah blah. Baloney. This people’s democracy is the same kind of shill as it was in the last century when the Soviets used the terminology. It is not institutionalized and not accountable. You don’t represent me just because I might follow you on Twitter. You don’t represent me just because I post on your blog or become your Facebook friend, and neither does Biz Stone or Mark Zuckerberg.It’s magical thinking to say that the Internet is going to make some new politics occur auto-magically. It’s not a responsible and truly liberal democratic politics, and it will fail. We don’t need you to “sort us out”.

          1. Aviah Laor

            I’m sorry dude, you can shit all over the place but it comes down to this: People have the right to influence their daily life. Even if they have an iPhone.

          2. Prokofy

            You are typical of people on forums who confuse criticism of a thought or resistance to blanket Bolshevik tactics which are illiberal as what is illiberal.You imagine I’m telling someone they “can’t” influence who they like.But I’m doing something different. I’m exposing this act of influence as unaccountable, and worse than all the “evil Republicans” that are always “caught out” by people like you doing this with *their* i-phones.I’ll bet Fred — and you — were among the people howling about the recent Supreme Court decision that favoured corporate campaign contributions. And even if you or he didn’t oppose it, you’d see it now as your duty to combat this “evil” by getting on your buddy lists and flogging them.I can’t help suspecting that with the disdain of the legislative process, the lack of knowledge of how non-profit and PACs work, the belief that there is some supra-organizing capacity in social media, there is actually naivete and magical thinking.

          3. Aviah Laor

            Wow!You are making a progress here! You are not sure – you bet! It’s a tiny start, but let me encourage you: with (enormous) effort you may just succeed to get out your stereotypes.Now please repeat after me: People have the right to influence their daily life. Period.

          4. fredwilson

            prokofy is not a dude. she’s a very intelligent woman who i disagree with onmany things

          5. Aviah Laor

            Mistakan on the gender, sorry. But It’s not about IQ (i did read her blogs a little after Seth Godin was crucified here). The rhetorics is magnificent, indeed, but the argument, are shallow and hollow. And she follow proven and well known influence strategies. It’s like “influence for dummies”.It’s simply not true, and all the hoolla hoops will not help. The “system” is not corrupted, yet it’s far from perfect and there is nothing wrong trying to let people influence more, despite their busy life. The startup visa is exactly an example to the very limited power of some of the very people who support it, and not that they lack money or brain or popularity.. And all that Bolshevism crap is stupid. But while we are at it, and if we are at it, her comments about how we have to praise the greatness of the institutions (or we are evil) reminds me another great speech on behalf of this idea:

          6. fredwilson

            I don’t agree with prokofy on much but I celebrate her right to speak her mind, here and everywhere

          7. Aviah Laor

            Off course.

          8. Aviah Laor

            And final thought from Mark Twain again: Not money is the root of all evil, but LACK of money is. ๐Ÿ˜€

          9. Dave Pinsen

            Not too far from Ayn Rand’s line about money being the root of all good.

          10. Dave Pinsen

            Whoops — meant to click “reply” and accidentally gave you a like. Anyway, here’s my reply.Instead of advocating the vague notion of people’s “right to influence their daily life”, why not advocate the injection of some direct democracy at the federal level, via initiatives and referenda? It would probably take a Constitutional Amendment, but why not try to make that happen, if you think the people would do a better job than their elected representatives?As Prokofy has intimated above, I’m not sure the Left would like the results of this: when given the means to vote directly on issues, the people have a frustrating habit of frequently voting the “wrong” way on issues such as gay marriage, affirmative action, bilingual education, etc.

          11. Aviah Laor

            Dave thanks. I’ll try to give a little longer – but i hope reasonable – answer.First just to clear it up (a) I’m not that “Left” , and (b) I will not participate in initiatives and referenda, at least not frequently, because I’ll have to cross an ocean and a little sea in the way, and (c) I never said that people would be better than elected representative. But to the issue. 1. The last 100 years or so changed the way we leave. Life expectancy more than doubled. We no longer leave in tight communities but in a huge, heavily populated urban space.2. People have much less time. Personal productivity increases sharply, but it’s not all tech. its’ also less time per capita. Everyday family dinner or friends meetup is less common (US and Europe are different here)So the result is a much larger and scattered society. More individualism, but more isolation. This is part of the reason that web based social networks are so successful: people seek company, but don’t have the time to hang around as they would like to.Drucker (he is a great read on this subject. not just because he is Drucker, but also since he was around from the 1920s until 2005) thought back in the 50s that corporate America will replace the community as the big, trusting and caring institute. Later he realized that he was very wrong. CEOs could fly in private jets and layoff thousands in the same time. His next idea was the non-profit, as the new sense of community. Can the gov do it? not it’s job. Too much gov inovlvment always had a down side.Future will tell. But I think that there is no question that there is a growing gap between the “management” and “gov” and the everyday life. It’s not anarchist attitude or something, it’s just the way it is. Everything got bigger, more complex, more busy, and representative democracy as we know it for centuries can’t scale forever (actually it scaled remarkably). The participant in voting diminishes and it’s a world wide phenomena. Why? people do not feel it matters too much. Obama may not have delivered (yet?) but s a phenomena it showed that many people do feel alienated, and so they embraced the promised “change”. What can they do? throw a vote every few years? then what? The way things are now, to really influence you need a full time week and a sponsor. This doesn’t work for the rest of us. So what’s wrong to leverage the new open technology and Internet in order to let people – people who work, who have family and who have to make a living – communicate and influence more often with their representatives? With gov employees? Wall Street (sorry-again) is a great example. When they discussed the bailout, who was there to influence? Not anybody that comments here. Did somebody asked you? Nope They listened to the people that were near, the people who had sponsors.In tech and business we always talk about customer support. Understand the customer mind. Some companies do it, some not. But does your representative, and gov employees care about customer support? their voters? I assume my hosting company provides me much better feedback in email and 24×7 chat and phone than most gov agencies. This should be the standard also in political systems, because people work, and busy, and not always have the time. They are still entitled to influence the environment they leave in, and the web can just help.

          12. fredwilson

            there’s a manifesto in there. Nicely done

          13. Aviah Laor


          14. Dave Pinsen

            Aviah,A few thoughts in response to your manifesto there (as Fred calls it).1) As someone intimately familiar with technology, why doesn’t it come to mind when you think of initiatives and referenda? Why couldn’t we move toward voting in them electronically? We already buy stock and sign documents online. We already have absentee balloting via paper ballots. Why not electronically? The distance shouldn’t be an issue.2) I never really bought the reaction to the Obama campaign as a “movement” anyway. It was unique in that he won, thanks in part to a confluence of factors, but the reaction to him as an avatar of a new kind of politics using grass roots engagement — that was an old pitch that gets dusted off by a new candidate every few election cycles. Howard Dean offered a version of it in 2004; Jerry Brown offered one in 1992; etc.3) Instead of thinking of ways to use social media to influence national politicians, why not think of ways to devolve more political power and responsibility back to the local level? You have a better chance of getting face time in RL with @corybooker than with @barackobama, right? You can even tag along with Cory Booker and help him shovel out snowed-in cars in Newark, if you want.

          15. Aviah Laor

            That’s a brilliant reply Dave, since you nicely nailed the key issues here.In a nutshell, the case for lightweight advocacy claims that currently, in order to influence, you need a lot of commitment, which is typically beyond most people time/financial resources. Personal commitment can work well for most people only on smaller community base – point #3, but it’s totally broken on large scale – point #2. So we seek something between local community and national, maybe with technology support – point #1. Voila.The voting idea is compelling. Proper use of social media shouldn’t be (just) bombarding dummy twits, but to gather a critical mass. Instead of a few narrow-interests organizations that invest a lot of resources, we will get more people each invest much less, in accordance with his/her capabilities, and not just wait years for the next elections. We’ll see.

      3. aarondelcohen

        Now this is interesting. There was always a lot of friction in the “write to your congressmen” process. As technology was deployed in the grassroots participation movement we got automated telephone messages and most recently social media gets co-opted as another form of television. I got a text message from the Obama movement today urging me to join him for a conversation at 5:45 and to send in a question. It doesn’t feel very intimate or authentic, but it certainly a step in the right direction.I don’t often get asked by the causes I support to participate in light or heavyweight advocacy. They ask for money. What you’re arguing is that we should self-organize and motivate ourselves to advocate for causes. How would such loosely coupled approaches find the kind of scale that leads to legislative change?I would

        1. David Binetti

          Scale comes from an attractive cost/benefit equation. The argument for lightweight is that it reduces the cost side of the equation, as the cost of participation is low. But that’s only half the equation; still needed are mechanisms to improve the perceived benefit. The key, as you’ve identified, is authenticity — but on the side of the citizen, not the elected official.Officials are bombarded with astroturf and filtering out the signal from the noise is incredibly difficult. As a result, they make the cost of participation very high in an attempt to ensure that anything that gets through is something worthy of attention. Instead, what’s needed is a means to authenticate the person, increasing the benefit of participation. The combination will increase scale significantly

        2. Prokofy

          The real question then is: then what?Organize and go…where?Do you think that if you tell congress you have 500,000 people in your Facebook group you can make them do something?Which congressmen will you tell this too?Or will you merely be like 4-chan and physically threaten the president of AT&T unless he stops blocking a site of theirs because it was under DNS attack?What is the process by which the i-phoners will manifest their will? To whom? To which levers of power? Or do they think they’ll merely reach the Community-Organizer-in-Chief and all will be well?

          1. Dave Pinsen

            “What is the process by which the i-phoners will manifest their will?”Maybe they’ll all chip in a few bucks, establish a PAC, hire lobbyists, succeed in changing government policy, and then realize the sort of like the current system after all.

          2. fredwilson

            I’ve tried that. It sucks. A total drain on everything I value in life. I have to take a shower after I meet a politician or a lobbyist these days. I feel dirty

          3. Prokofy

            Dave, if they established a PAC, why, they’d be doing the thing they’re criticizing others as doing.Fred, why is it that nobody would have to take a shower after meeting you, then? What sanitizes *you*? You find lobbying and PACs “dirty”. But…they have to report what they do. They have to report their contacts with congressmen and answer to boards and the IRS. The Sunlight Foundation now even shows these contacts on line (I was just looking them up for some congressmen — of course the Sunlight Foundation itself could use with more sunlight as it’s a Silicon Valley lobbyist).But how will we know who you contact? And if you never meet a politician, let’s say an assemblyman or congressmen, what was your plan for influencing government? See, this is why I accuse you of overthrowing government. Your plan involves undermining government in favour of…what? Google-bombing? Blasting officials in executive branches of authority with messages or “turning” them to become one of your web 2.0/gov 2.0 operatives? How exactly do you envision this!

          4. Dave Pinsen

            “Dave, if they established a PAC, why, they’d be doing the thing they’re criticizing others as doing.”Yes, I was aware of that when I wrote the comment. You may want to check the batteries on your irony detector.

          5. fredwilson

            they may want to do thati’m sure i make some people feel dirty too

          6. Dave Pinsen

            If you want a better class of politician, why don’t you encourage someone you respect to run for office? I’m sure you know plenty of smart, successful entrepreneurs and investors who could contribute as politicians. Or why not run for something yourself?If you have personal reasons for not wanting to run, I think you should be able to give as much money as you want to the candidate of your choice, as long as your donation is fully and immediately disclosed on the Internet (that was the WSJ’s old campaign finance reform idea). They say the most tedious part of politics — and the part that discourages some good people from running — is the money raising in $5k increments.

          7. fredwilson

            that’s where we are headed given the supreme court’s recent rulingi’ve encouraged many people i respect to run for officenot one of them is interested

          8. Dave Pinsen

            If that’s where we are headed, it will be an improvement over the current system.

  3. Aviah Laor

    Maybe its’ worth while to ask for stories of US employees who found jobs in start-ups which were founded by immigrants.If this is the crux of the startup visa argument, these stories should be told as well.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a good idea. i’ll share it with the startup group

  4. Aviah Laor

    Non profits (bad name, to call something by what it’s not) are great when they care for something which is not a natural responsibility of the gov. They should not let gov escape from it’s responsibilities, but rather to add and improve. This is a great example.Pushy advocating usually targets the areas that the gov neglects although it shouldn’t.

  5. kidmercury

    the real way to reform immigration policy is to expose the national security/terrorism hoax, which is going to be used to curb immigration and control the economy. always remember: 9/11 was an inside job, and only the truth can set you free.

  6. Oo Nwoye - @OoTheNigerian

    When does advocacy becomes interference? I believe advocacy is more effective if the advocates are recognized stakeholders in the system that is trying to be changed.Luckily, in this case, American citizens who are stakeholders in the startup ecosystem are the ones who are at the forefront of the startup visa movement. It is why I believe it will succeed. I believe we foreigners should try and play as little a role as possible before it would be seen as interference, which can then be used as an effective distraction by those against the idea. I do not know if I put my point across properly.

  7. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Great initiative.Wish it had been around a few years ago, at the time of my own USA Visa work-permit fun and games!

  8. David Binetti

    I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at how effective lightweight advocacy — or what I have called ‘Lobbying 2.0’ — is going to be.The $5B political market is adjusting to the technological disruption of social media: low-touch, high-volume involvement represents how advocacy will be conducted in the future. Waning are the days of relationship-based lobbying, as increased transparency and displeasure with deal-cutting become the new norm (see the recent case of health care as a particular example.) Social media has produced a discontinuous shift in the marginal effectiveness of each dollar spent, and the money will start to follow.Most in the industry don’t know how to handle this change, and still focus on the old “tried and true”. (Politics tends to be roughly 4-5 years behind the tech curve.) But individualized, issue-based lightweight advocacy based on social media is coming in a big way, and it is going to have a profound impact on politics, similar in scope to the impact of television. Startup Visa is the harbinger of this trend.

    1. fredwilson

      lobbying 2.0, hacking advocacy, or any other name is fine with mewe just have to get more people doing it

      1. David Binetti

        More people are and will continue to get involved as they begin to see a return on their investment. These are ripples preceding the tsunami. It will be interesting to see if this ameliorates or exacerbates the concern of factions as articulated by Madison in Federalist #10, but that is a topic for another blog… :-)And yes, the name is unimportant.

      2. Prokofy

        “Hacking” has a negative connotation for good reason. It’s crime.And you’re continuing to give the term a bad name.

    2. Prokofy

      Why do you imagine that social media creates transparency? It doesn’t. It creates silos, even when it is magical opensource software. It create numerous closed communities of friends, sometimes on literally closed pages, who can block others.The move to try to take away the president’s Blackberry was a good thing!Because there was insufficient law and practice to gain transparency about who was talking to him on it, and about what.I don’t noting that our lovely president’s Blackberry is hooked up to a web 2.0 transparency page where we can see all his incoming and outcoming. In fact, I can’t be sure that even future generations could gain access to this, as we can now with past presidents. The phone in the Oval Office is recorded. Is the Blackberry?

  9. mallagher

    Very relevant post for communities and societies in transition. Your main point, that being an advocate for something is an exception brings out a problem for our idea of community (web and real world). I think we all need to be ready and able to advocate for things that are important. But sadly, you are right on that advocacy is usually seen as a specialized (or heavyweight) occupation in itself rather than a basic set of communication skills that should be shared and expected. From this starting point, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the web hasn’t yet elevated standards for advocacy. Good point — we should start by building a better shared idea of what advocacy is (and should be) all about. And it can’t just be about lobbying.

    1. Prokofy

      Who is this “we”? And why must we have a shared idea?Why is lobbying wrong? And what is it that happened to you all that made you lose faith in institutions? You are cynical about “bought” politicians and yet your Obama was bought by everything from Goldman Sachs to the Trial Lawyers Association of America. What, it’s only ok to buy your own?Your i-phone stopped working with AT&T making you have to wait 16 seconds to pick up messages on the answering machine?Your notion that “the web” is supposed to “elevate” standards for advocacy makes it seem as if the web is some sentient being, some Singularity-type brain that will be a “smart mob” that will help you, like Jesus, who loves you and has a plan for your life.Honestly, this stuff is sheer quackery.

      1. fredwilson

        i am anti-institution because they are corrupted so easily

        1. Prokofy

          Give me an institution that files a 990 and has a board with minutes and an annual report and requirements to report to the public than you and your i-phone any day, Fred.Your notion that institutions are “corrupted so easily” is overblown — you run an investment institution that funds other start-up institutions and you don’t think *they* are corrupt obviously.So instead, you want to use revolutionary propagandizing to get the masses incited to…do something. What will they do, Fred? Do you think you can lead the i-phone masses to glory, and that they will think as you do after you have incited them, and not be more extreme?People working outside of institutions are not magically conferred with holiness. They are conferred with secrecy. They are like the Trotskyists, boring from within.

          1. fredwilson

            the only thing i object to in your name calling is the iPhone biti carry a google phone and explained the political reasons for that intoday’s post

  10. Shurtleff

    Fred,A few thoughts for your NP board work. Advocacy can seem like a distraction for a NP that should be working on the mission, not worrying about the swamp of public policy or lobbying.I have been active on one NP board for the last two years ( This is a small ($1.5M budget) organization. The WTA mission is promoting, educating, maintaining and advocating for hiking and trails in Washington State. The key to their effective advocacy program is COMMUNICATION and FOCUS, communicate with your members constituents tirelessly (including web, FB, twitter), be the enabler so members and constituents become effective advocates. Stay focused on the mission, don’t let advocacy drift and become engaged on adjacent issues, only advocate for the core.

  11. aarondelcohen

    Fred:I agree the social media landscape has made advocacy easier and, as a native Washingtonian, I’m well acquainted with the inside-the-beltway shenanigans that we both find so distatesful. That said, I would be cautious about wholesale dismissal of full-time advocacy professionals in the advocacy community.My father founded and ran the Advocacy Institute after he ran the country’s most famous Political NGO Common Cause. In his capacity their organization contributed to the leadership on anti-tobacco legislation, nuclear non-proliferation, and a variety of their substantive issues.While I share your frustration with the intersection of power and money in politics, I would be concerned if we did not have good organizations such as People for The American Way or Tobacco-Free Kids to help support and take on the highly activist corporate PAC and highly paid lobbyists.Perhaps this has never been so important as it is now given the Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling on donations by corporations to political action committees. I could not be more supportive of your Startup Visa movement. But frankly, given the anti-immigration constituencies that exist in this country it would be naive to think that people with full-time jobs are the only way to fight this issue.I think it would be great if the various working groups that you started helped to establish a small office (even in Washington) to help you leverage your time, energy, and blogposts into real legislation. That advocacy would have a great impact on our country and be an enduring contribution of the startup visa group.The Obama campaign made extraordinary use of the Internet to help our President get elected But let’s remember, thousands and thousands of volunteers including @sacca and @innonate knocked on doors to get out the vote 15 months ago. Washington still requires in-person coordinated and professional efforts to effect real change.I don’t like it, but just wanted to share the perspective of somebody who has grown up in both communties

    1. David Binetti

      Aaron, it does not have to be this way. Lightweight advocacy represents a fundamentally different, disruptive approach. If you simply play the game the same way you will get the same results. Social media can make this a game changer, but not by the old rules.

      1. aarondelcohen

        D:I so want to believe that. It’s a question of how long are we prepared to wait. I think the immigration issue deserves a broad social, lightweight, and professionally run integrated approach. It needs to be a movement. It’s loaded with challenges post 9/11, but if you’ve been to India or China you know that the United States needs to renew its long tradition of welcoming and celebrating immigration.

        1. David Binetti

          The last thing this movement needs is a K-Street Lobbyist. It will kill the authenticity that is driving it. Moreover, that professional will merely articulate how much money is required to get it to pass — which un-coincidentally will be managed and spent by that same person. And once you go down that route then it’s just about keeping score.We can’t beat them at their game. We need to change the rules by which it is played. This is possible. It can be done. And I think this is just the issue to prove it.

        2. Prokofy

          The K Street lobbyist might get the job done in ways that the unelected wired will not.The people who want the visas understand that better than Fred Wilson.

    2. Prokofy

      Maybe you can talk some sense into Fred Wilson here.He has to realize that Common Cause, Center for American Progress, People for the American Way,, and a host of other lefty and “progressive” and liberal cause groups, with NGO or PAC status, are a GOOD thing. They can adapt new media for use in pushing their causes just as much as anyone.Once he grasps that groups that he feels politically comfortable with have this status and use advocacy as a good thing, then perhaps he can stretch out of his Bolshevism and concede that the *system* itself is a good thing becaues it is FREE. It allows people to freely associate with the likeminded, and pool their money for joint work.Condemning this, undermining it, even merely using a hugely trafficked blog to ridicule it or declare it as passe is undermining the constitutional right to freedom of association.and sorry, I’m going to fight that to the death. I have not elected Fred Wilson or the makers of the i-Phone, and it is not they who will get me health care or not.

      1. kidmercury

        damn boss prokofy came out swinging today! no punches pulled!prokofy, i’m going to have to tell you what fred recently told jdawg: you have idea what you’re talking about. the system is completely and utterly broken. that is why gold has been rising for over 10 years and recently reached new highs, it is a political asset whose value rises in times of political stress. our previous conversations illustrate you know nothing about this and your current, pro-system comments further re-inforce that point.i suggest you educate yourself in some 9/11 truth and other conspiracy topics, like election fraud, before commenting on the perceived merits and validity of the current system.time to up your game, prokofy.

        1. Prokofy

…A 2008 study by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule found that theories supported by 9/11 truth movement members “typically spread as a result of identifiable cognitive blunders, operating in conjunction with informational and reputational influences. A distinctive feature of conspiracy theories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy…those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology…”[72]

          1. Aviah Laor

            But no scientist so far succeeded to find where the idea of a totally pure, clean, professional, interest free political system came from. Such beliefs are still a mystery to modern science (although perfectly understood by spin makers and political PR agencies – if you pay them enough to broadcast it, that is)

          2. kidmercury

            lol prokofy you sure do give me the chuckles. thanks is a bubble now? what were these folks saying when gold was at $500? at $700? $900? do bubbles last for ten years? i’m out of my gold now, prokofy, because the speculators are in control, so the game has to be played their way a bit. but i’m eager to buy on dips. and soros is an illluminist, i’m sure that means nothing to a sophisticated and worldly person like yourself, but others may be more willing to hear what sets them for the cass sunstein piece….lol….are you serious prokofy……that is the govt basically advocating thought crime, and here you are endorsing it. the kooks have already time is over prokofy. time to wake up.

          3. fredwilson

            prokofy is not a “bro” either

          4. kidmercury

            oh for real? damn i hate when i make that mistake. sorry prokofy.

          5. fredwilson

            this will be fun to watch

      2. fredwilson

        i think they are a bad thing. i won’t support them with my money, time, orenergy

        1. Prokofy

          But they are accountable, and take part in decision-making processes.What’s your plan? Ecstatic revolutionary zeal? Hopefully, non-violent.

          1. fredwilson


  12. Chris Phenner

    A surprising number of comments are focused on the semantics of this concept, which I am glad to see. I think it’s a great concept and deserves its own word or phrase or (dare I say) meme.Trying to nail a meme’s name may seem like a self-indulgent waste of time, but I think having a word or phrase saves so much time over the longer-term. Consider the benefit of ‘freemium’ and the clarity and attention it’s brought to smarter business models. A meme name greases the skids for idea spread, and with that, inspires more to emulate [lightweight advocacy].I love ‘advocacy’ but cringe at ‘lightweight,’ which to me connotes a less-than-serious effort (ex: ‘What a lightweight!’). ‘Hacking’ and ‘crowd-sourcing’ and ‘2.0’ instantly brand it as being from the internet industry, and I think is played out. The strongest meme words transcend the internet (eg, ‘freemium,’ ‘long tail’ and ‘unconference’), and are more plain-spoken.’Purpose’ is another word of which I am reminded. As well as Fred’s post about Tumblr’s ribbon-based fundraising effort for Haiti. And the Happiness Project, whose author (Gretchen ___?) likely has a good point of view.I raise money and contribute money to a range of causes that lack any kind of over-arching theme (let alone ‘investment thesis,’ to borrow a phrase). I would love to create a ‘Purpose Portfolio’ and share socially what efforts I’m behind, and include any metrics around the results of my involvement. It’s like meets Blippy meets OpenID (or FB Connect). I’d also love an experience like to guide me through the purposes that I should care about — like a decision tree for what matters most.’Purpose Portfolio’ is a lame phrase, but I wish I had one, and I wish I could better share more about what I’ve done in the form of advocacy. I guess I’m a lightweight until I can manage all this better, but I agree it’s important and far more reflective of where advocacy is headed — great topic.

    1. ShanaC

      I would not want Hunch doing that. It’s potentially a big brother situation.

  13. Dave Pinsen

    “And these are people starting new companies here in the US who are hiring people and creating new jobs, and not just any job, but high paying jobs.”Agreed. By all means, the country should welcome with open arms talented and funded entrepreneurs who are going to create high-paying jobs for Americans. I think if you constructed a Venn diagram of the various positions on immigration, you’d find very few Americans who opposed this. It would be a lot easier to establish a political consensus for this, though, if some advocates stopped conflating this sort of immigration — which creates high-paying American jobs, on net — with other forms of immigration, which lower American wages and increase unemployment.If you try to yoke start-up visas to visas for immigrants who do not create high-paying jobs for Americans — at a time when, according to Larry Summers, 20% of American men between ages 25 and 54 are unemployed — you’re going to face a wall of opposition.Recall that we touched on this topic a few months ago.

    1. Mark Essel

      Dave I think the foundation of your point relates to our ability to hack education. We are challenged by trying to create an education system that can help prepare each graduating class to contribute and when necessary outperform a global workforce. The first step is helping both teachers and students realize that intelligence isn’t something that’s dictated at birth, but earned by challenging one’s mind.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        “The first step is helping both teachers and students realize that intelligence isn’t something that’s dictated at birth, but earned by challenging one’s mind.”The mainstream media has been peddling that egalitarian happy talk for decades and where has it gotten us? Go back to what I wrote here three months ago. Not everyone has the chops to be a superstar in the new economy. We need to make it possible for those who don’t to be able to earn decent livelihoods.

        1. Mark Essel

          Crap Dave I have read some more recent and compelling evidence of improved statistical performance based on assumed limitation variation. Yes performance is a combo of nature/nurture but raw intellect can’t compete with average smarts and a relentless will.I’ll look around for a link.Here’s the top level neutral opinion:…another good readhttp://mobile.associatedcon…Here are some numbers (couldn’t the article I read recently):….There will be variations in performance despite identical environment (not that there is such a thing), but the more expectations on the upper bound of learning that are, the better the performance of the student.What should be the lowest standard of living in the US (and the world)? What should be the highest?These are more social-political questions than they are nature/nurture but your answer at least guides you how to vote (more socialist or more towards a meritocracy). I’m not sure where my utopian image sits in this spectrum.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            “Yes performance is a combo of nature/nurture but raw intellect can’t compete with average smarts and a relentless will.”You do realize that, by definition, half of Americans have less than average smarts? And relentless will is a rare attribute.I think we agree that those with average or below average smarts ought to be able to earn a decent livelihood in America. The question is how to do that. I don’t think the answer is to “hack” education so that everyone can be above average. A better approach, from an educational perspective, would be to copy the Europeans and use testing and tracking; to stop trying to steer everyone into a college-prep track. Why not take pride in our vocational education, like the Germans do in theirs?A more rational education policy would only be part of the solution though. It would need to be part of broader industrial policies designed to facilitate the creation of more high-end manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

          2. Mark Essel

            How much of do you think relentless will, drive, or ambition is genetic versus learned behavior? That gets to the heart of the education issue as well. When I think about hacking education, my ideas are focused on methods of igniting young folk’s curiousity and internal drive.One of my complaints about our current education system is that it’s content/architecture geared, and not pushing enough in the psychological directions that lead to greatest learning. Kids have to learn a strict set of material, and it’s this dictated model of education which turns most of their interest off. Learning is all about exploring the unknown for me, how can we get that into our education system? I wish I knew.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            I don’t know how much of it is genetic versus learned, but it’s certainly rare in any case. And I don’t think trying to figure out ways to inculcate it in k-12 is a solution to the 20% of men ages 25-54 who are unemployed today. That calls for a bigger re-think than well-intentioned education hacks. It calls for a new look at our trade policy and our immigration policy, for example.

          4. Mark Essel

            A compassionate meritocracy would provide unlimited potential for the hardest working, as well as sustenance for the folks in the worst positions. We’re going through a rough time as a nation, but I think that’s the spirit of our brand of capitalism.But wealth isn’t a fixed entity. We create wealth with our lives and our efforts. if we close down immigration, it doesn’t pass along more wealth to the current population. It locks out the potential for new wealth creation from people outside of our current society.There are a number of analogies I can use to compare this issue and how it’s been handled through history, but I think we have diverging views on the best way to fix our current social/economic problems.We both agree that there is a systematic disconnect between immigration rules and the average standard of living. The future success or failure our economy is tightly connected to how we value different work, and what global value that work yields.

          5. Tereza

            Here’s another spin.We need people to come and be bright and productive. We also are worried about the drain on our system, such as healthcare. And we are about to get pummeled with Baby Boomers going into retirement and on Medicare.One of the things that’s so different now from during the Cold War is that it used to be that if you left your old country, you couldn’t go back. You were one or the other. Today, borders are fluid and multiple citizenships are commonplace. The problem is more complex than it used to be.I also know, from personal experience, that there is a compulsion among some immigrants to come to the US, work hard, create value and raise their families, but go back to the “old country” to retire. There they are with family, their money goes further, and they consume healthcare locally. I think that many immigrants consider the option.Couldn’t this be a positive dynamic, and encouraged? I’m thinking — if someone want to retire outside of the US, make it worth their while, with some sort of tax/SS refund that’s less than what they got if they stayed?

  14. andyswan

    This is another reason that government should NOT be in the business of redistribution in order to provide for people’s wants and needs.When redistribution from the haves to the have-nots is the norm, it becomes a NECESSITY to reduce the number of have-nots. This is commonly done through the excessive imprisonment of the have-nots, the denial of entry to outsiders (who are typically have-nots at the moment)…..and in extreme cases death-camps for the undesirables.Quite simply, redistribution is an unsustainable policy that necessarily results in the enslavement of the productive and the systematic reduction of the needy. What starts as compassion glides easily into totalitarian barbarism of the worst kind.Liberty, open borders, entrepreneurship and very limited government are allies through and through.

    1. Mark Essel

      Andy Swan for pres ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. andyswan

        There is a reason why immigrants used to be welcomed with open arms and a “come on in—we could use the help BUILDING this place!” attitude…..but now are looked at with a suspicious “you comin in here to get our stuff?” attitude.If we offer only opportunity, we will get those seeking opportunity (as we once did)… bureaucratic hoops necessary.

        1. Abel Undercity

          There is a reason why immigrants used to be welcomed with open arms and a “come on in—we could use the help BUILDING this place!” attitude…My Irish ancestors would like to know when exactly this was.

          1. Dan T

            1958 for my Dad who emmigrated from Galway Ireland to Boston, when he was 16. He earned his HS Degree, got a job in a factory, moved his way up to Plant Manager by relocating his family to lead the startup of a new plant in Louisville, KY and raised three kids that are all very productive tax paying members of society.

        2. Tereza

          Andy, I agree. Indeed, the US used to be so much more proactive about identifying and in fact actively recruiting excellent engineers.In 1960’s my dad was the chief engineer of a pretty major factory in Czechoslovakia and traveled across the Eastern Bloc overseeing or projects throughout that region. One day in 1967 he landed in Athens for a quick trip to oversee a delivery of some precision machinery…and walked straight into a police station, turning himself in as a refugee. All he had was his paperwork (birth cert, diplomas) and <$100 cash, and was seeking political asylum.He didn’t know that the same day he’d been named some sort of an ‘engineer-of-the-year’ distinction for Czechoslovakia. This made him completely radioactive politically in pretty much every country he might try to seek political asylum from.Well, not the US. He was dropped into a refugee camp, and within a day or so, a gentleman from the US embassy showed up, having heard about him, and offered safe passage to the US. There’s a bit more detail but to cut to the chase it also ultimately involved a letter sent by RFK (atty general) to the top of the CS government to get dad’s wife (not my mom) green light to the West as well (she declined…which is how mom entered the picture). I’m sure it involved many days or even months of major intel/security debriefing. But that’s a fair trade.All this is to simply share an example to support Andy’s comment that there have been periods and instances in which the US was highly aggressive about bringing that talent in and not let it go elsewhere. The question is, how do we do it if there is not a driving political motivation (e.g. Cold War), where the talent recruiting is a by-product.Until dad died he (and we) greatly appreciated the US’s outreach to him. Adjusting to corporate America was a bit rough-and-tumble (he sucked at office politics), but he was a proud citizen, worked his *ss off, was a net economic contributor and never ever missed an election.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Reminds me a little of the story of a good friend’s father. I forget all the details, but he defected from Bulgaria during the Cold War. Actually, my friend’s mother did too (separately, I think). If memory serves, they both got into Cooper Union, and after top-notch, tuition-free educations, became successful engineers (she in telecom; he in petroleum/shipping).

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Sounds great, Andy, but I don’t think we’re not going back to the limited government (and pretty much non-existent welfare state) of the early 20th Century. So we need to adjust our other policies accordingly. That doesn’t mean we need to shut off all immigration, but it does mean we need to be more selective about it. We should take a page from Australia and Canada and attempt to let in immigrants who are most likely to become net contributors to our economy and net tax payers.I would argue that, during times of high unemployment, such as today, we should further restrict immigration to those who will create jobs for Americans (e.g., the start-up entrepreneurs Fred blogs about here).

    3. kidmercury

      yes, very true….although our current system is more about re-distribution from the have-nots to the haves….that’s always the way it is with big goverment! lose-lose for everyone! (except government owners, big win for them)

    4. Prokofy

      It all sounds good, but the fact is, start-up visas are merely a form of redistribution at a transnational level to satisfy the Silicon Valley lobby’s need for cheaper programming talent. So it’s still totalitarian, ultimately, with everything sacrificed to Google. Even so, it’s a goo thing to question U.S. policies and attitudes.

  15. ShanaC

    I think that we all forget that any power created here can be used with equal effectiveness by those who oppose.It’s probably why there has been a radicalization of identity politics. Too much Globalization makes others uncomfortable in the locus of a communally, centrally, and locally based identity. And eventually you see a push-back as that identity subsumes the need to globalize- only those similar get in touch.Any change here is going to open up the possibility of how those who disagree (especially those who do not identify with powerful globalization terms) about this topic. Tread carefully.

  16. Prokofy

    I’m sorry, but I think a lot of what you’re saying here, and your colleagues are saying here, is based on ignorance, lack of knowledge of the law, and a curious bias, whereby you think your own virulent form of politics on the left is somehow “apolitical” and sanitized of anything ‘aggressive” but everybody else to the right of you is somehow suspect or commercialized or even evil.Let’s start with the law, 501-c-3, you can read the IRS definition here:…And let’s start by recognizing that advocacy or lobbying or campaigning *are not wrong, and not illegal*. The 501-c-3 status is about what is legal activity *in order to have charitable status, and get tax exemption for yourself and your donors*.Advocacy is not disallowed under this law. Advocacy is a *good* thing. I spend every day *advocating* for victims of human rights violations or *advocating* for compliance with international law and many other things and this is part and parcel of normal legal non-profit 501-c-3 work.501-c-3 operations must not engage in political campaigns, i.e. use their organization to run for office, and must not try to influence legislation. But educational work — advocacy! — is indeed allowed. Read the law:”For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity”.And look at the case law. Court cases are rare. The right and the left occasionally play the game of trying to get each other up on charges under this law, because it’s soft money. And I have to say that we’re in a climate where public schools hang campaign posters for Obama, which they shouldn’t have been doing, and nonprofits turn over their membership lists to campaigners, which they shouldn’t, and constant infringement for the Obama side, which doesn’t have you as exercised no doubt.And again, if you are found in violation of this law, it’s not as if you have done something unconstitutional. You will merely be required to register as a 501-c-4 then, which is a political lobbying organization without the same kind of tax write-off.This famously happened to and that’s a good thing, as they hid behind the non-profit status and educational work mantra but were very partisan. Now they have a 501-c-4 arm for their PAC work.PACS are a good thing, Fred. This is how you organize interest politics. It’s what must be allowed in a free society. Setting up a bully pulpit blog condemnation of them undermines their legality. *They are legal*.Your notion of everybody in your social set tweeting and shaping policy with social media by trying to discredit anyone who advocates or God forbid, funds and operations a political PAC, is entirely suspect. Your relationships with elected officials don’t become sanitized becaues you reach them on a blog or a Tweet or your i-Phone. In fact, frankly, they become unaccountable, even as they dine out on being “transparent”. If you were in an organization with a legal status, you’d be required to record your lunches and register as a lobbyist if X percentage of contacts with Congress went over the line.But by invoking this unelected wired stuff that you’re invoking, you are not accountable to any constituency but your “friends’ list,” and not even them.PR firms must seem reprehensible to you, but they are also the way politics work *in a free society*. Ditto campaign contributions, which have all kinds of regulations on them. And BTW, the recent Supreme Court decision is also *a good thing*.When I say you’re a technocommunist and even a Bolshevik, Fred, I’m not kidding and I’m dead serious.You want to use your power, money, and influence, and your various investments to overturn democratic and free institutions in the United States. That’s morally wrong. It’s just as wrong as if you were a Black Panther.The Internet might seem “free” but each and every blog service and social media has “any reason or no reason” clauses (unconscionable) that provide for expelling people you don’t like. The terms of service of most blogs and even Twitter allow for ejecting people on the strength of spurious abuse reports with no due process. The First Amendment, so vital to democracy, does not apply in your lovely lightweight wired virtual metaverse.You will not win with this, either, as much power and connectivity as you can muster in this unaccountable and glib and arrogant way. Look at Massachusetts. Politics of the old sort with face-to-face meetings matter, and you can’t convince people because you tweeted political correctness at them. The anger of the town-hall meetings isn’t because they are whipped up rent-a-crowds or loons. It’s becaues the Community-Organizer-in-Chief thinks you can roll over people with ideological memes and organize politics off his Blackberry. We see how well that is working.As for the start-up visa issue, it’s self-interested for Silicon Valley and its outposts, it’s self-serving to get cheaper labour, and it’s trying to cloak itself in piousness and plant trip-wires all over the blogosphere trying to make out anyone who questions it as “racist” (see the posts on TechCrunch). As in everything, politics is a balance of interests. There are lots of other groups I’d like to see emigrate to the US as well — wounded Haitians, translators persecuted in Iraq whom we promised refuge, Afghans fleeing the Taliban, etc. etc. Start-up visas sound like a good thing, but I’m happy to have the elected representatives in the Congress, informed and lobbied by registered lobbyists and legal NGOs fight this battle, and expose your i-phone tweeters and bloggers as just what it is: an unregistered an unaccountable lobby.

    1. Guest

      ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Prokofy, as a connoisseur of the fine art of ranting, I salute you: this is indeed exquisite, however, you are wrong. What Fred describes as “light advocacy” is nothing more than exercising the First Amendment, so all these other rules are irrelevant. There is not, and never has been any dispute in that regard, with respect to physical persons like Fred. (the recent SCOTUS controversy is on how far the First Amendment rights apply to corporations).I see your point: if there are limits on financial contributions to “level the playing field”, how is it then fair that an influential blogger like Fred can campaign and advocate without any constraint? What about teh people who don’t have an influential blog? Provocative as a philosophical point, but of no practical consequence. Some people’s words have been more influential than others, and this has nothing to do with the distribution medium: Internet, print, TV etc.. You can’t legislate that everyone’s words are equally influential.Fred’s blog is not a bully pulpit, by no means, however, a Board seat is. Fred, I hope you are not “advocating” within your portfolio companies? As a Board member, you have a lot of power, and if you are the type of VC that goes to management and says “sign this petition” or “come to this fundraiser” or “give money to this candidate”, that would be really disgusting. I know a VC like that, and there was discussion on The Funded about it. VCs get Board seats because of the money the fund puts in; their LPs may not share their political views, and it is unfair to use the leverage of money to pressure, what are in effect subordinates, into political action. Let your voice do the persuasion, not your position of power in a given corporation.

      1. Prokofy

        Look, Fred can exercise the First Amendment, and so can I. But what Fred is doing is not just doing his thing on his i-phone and calling his favourite congressmen that might already bought by Silicon Valley bundlers, or calling media, or massing mobs of crowds on Twitter. What he’s doing is actively trying to destroy those institutions that in face are organized, accountable, and legal. He’s trying to undermine the idea of advocacy — the First Amendment’s fulfilment — by trying to discredit it and even imply it is criminal.Fred has an influential blog not just because he’s interesting, but because he is a venture capitalist. So he’s bought his way into visibility as sure as any Kentucky fried souther born-again pol he may love to hate as doing the same thing through a corporation, religious group, PAC, whatever. In fact, it’s worse, because he doesn’t have to report it by pretending it’s merely just a big electronic wave on the Internet.I’m not suggesting one can legislate Fred’s bold Bolshevik takeover. BTW, that’s why Bolsheviks often win, because they override law, but those who believe in the rule of law don’t wish to pervert it just to war on Bolsheviks. But what one *can* do is mount a moral objective. And so I do.This is about morality, not about distribution. The unelected wired that took over Twitter in the summer before the election of Obama were among the first signs of that “taking over the telegraph” like Lenin.Of course Fred’s blog is a bully pulpit. As reasonable and as reasoned as he might sound at times, on this, he’s a wild-eyed anarchical revolutionary. The reality is, if he were to try to found a non-profit or a PAC or a party, he wouldn’t get many people who actually showed up. This way, he can go on pretending that everyone who clicks on his blog is in his massive revolution. It’s very duplicitious.Fred would likely not have to go to board members or start-ups he funds or anything he’s related to and twist their arm. Because they’re “all on the same page” and “in the IRC channel” so to speak. They have a cultural collectivism that enables them to move the mob comfortably — but it’s only a few people doing the thinking.Type the name @avc into Twitter some day. See how many people actually talk to Fred, let alone talk back to Fred, and see the mobs — the sheep — who merely RT, RT, RT, all day long, mindlessly. Type in @ajkeen or any of these other thought leaders and see the zillions of RTs. Not an original thought in the bunch.I think before too long, there will be public demand, if not government requirement, that this unelected wired e-mobbing everything will have to regulate an regularize more. In the mean time, they will whiplash and destroy many things that they cannot replace, and I will object on moral grounds.

        1. fredwilson

          you overestimate me prokofy. i’m flattered but you are wrong about mymotives and ambitions.

          1. Prokofy

            Your motives and ambitions aren’t transparent because you aren’t in an organization with a mission, mandate, board, and charter. I can’t read your manifesto or your last board minutes or your annual report for doing your lobbying. I can only sort of vaguely tell what you mean from your blog, where occasionally you write that you’ve had a meeting on, oh, education or something.Basically, what you’re saying is this: “I think cheaper and leaner Indian programming labour is something the companies I invest in need to compete in a very competitive market, and I want to lobby for start-up visas by going around the existing relatively transparent lobbying system and having some ‘direct action’ somewhere to get what I want”. Well, yeah, I understand that, but the reason there are things like systems and processes and organizations and, um, Congress and the law-making process is so that powerful, wealthy and influential individuals don’t get to roll over everybody *undemocratically*.You no longer believe in democracy, Fred, and you are not democratic, and hiding behind the fake democracy of masses on social media is not democracy, it’s “People’s Democracy” like the Soviet era.This stealth lobbying is the method that, for example, Beth Noveck in the White House Office of Science & Technology uses, networking, then all of a sudden scrubbing networks of people she doesn’t like, then trying to get “her person” into the FCC position so that he will pass on her peer/patents project. The patents office itself, with people appointed by those elected, didn’t pass on it fast enough. No other powers-that-be were willing to roll over and listen to the non-peer-reviewed lauding of this project by the very university that funded her (conflict of interest). So she will try to ram it through by force and fiat, getting a change in the executive.It’s lobbying, but lobbying of an invisible and unaccountable sort — the sort that you believe is done by these dirty PACs.When you use force, stealth, and unaccountability to achieve a goal — when you say “the end justifies the means,” *that* is Bolshevism.You’re saying you don’t want to have this desire of yours debated by the American people and their lawful representatives, so that those who stand to lose on this (American engineers, etc.) have a voice in this decision fairly.You’re saying “I just want to force it through as an elite, wired (wireless) social movement” — and that’s unaccountable.

          2. fredwilson

            my mission and mandate are displayed on this blog every day

      2. fredwilson

        i would never do that

    2. Aviah Laor

      “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation” (Mark Twain)

      1. Prokofy

        “Although reason is common to all men, most men behave as if they have their own understanding”.(Heroclitus)

        1. Aviah Laor

          This is the classic brain wash tactic: “Give up your own reasoning”. Off course I have my own reasoning. Considering the compelling alternative you present here I don’t think I’m going to give it up any time soon.This is a debate: I speak for my side, you speak for yours (speak is a big word for your attacks, but you get the idea).

    3. fredwilson

      you do it your way, i’ll do it minethat’s fine with menot sure if its fine with you

      1. kidmercury

        lol no contest today boss prokofy is getting defeated handily here

        1. fredwilson

          I hope the saints do as well against peyton later today

          1. kidmercury

            we should’ve had a super bowl pool here at fredland…..speculate with our fredbucks…..have a hashtag on twitter for real time updates, trash talk…..find fellow fredlanders nearby to watch the game with using geofred (mobile app for fredlanders)… worries, all in due time

      2. Prokofy

        You’re using this same forums gambit that the kids are using, Fred, which I often see among the tech set, which works like this:”If you fail to succumb to our collectivist will (usually dominated by one collectivizer) we will declare you as intolerant, and refusing to admit that we are entitled to our point of view”.The problem isn’t that I refuse to concede that you have a point of view, or that you are entitled to it, or that I can’t understand it.The issue is that I don’t agree with you, and I resist you because I think you’re wrong.Difference.I won’t be “rounded up” on this one.

  17. Dave Pinsen

    Interesting discussion.

    1. fredwilson

      i could care less what the “left” thinks. while i may be liberal on someissues, i not a “lefty”i’ll take a truly representative form of government over what we currentlyhaveit’s totally and completely corrupt

      1. David Binetti

        Democracy’s ills are cured only through more democracy.

        1. fredwilson

          I’m with you on that. Just not neccesarily our existing democratic institutions

          1. Prokofy

            I’m sorry, but I have to keep challenging you on this.What are the features of these new non-institutional still-institutions that you are proposing, Fred? Speed-dialing features?I’ve monitored trials in the Soviet Union and Russia where somebody calls the judge during the trial and tells them what to decide — it’s called “telephone justice”.Would you like to have i-phone justice, Fred?

          2. fredwilson

            no, android justice please

      2. Prokofy

        You’re exaggerating.Democracy is the worst system — except for all the othersHonestly, I can only say: try living in Russia if you think “telephone justice” is a system you’d like to live under.When we have corruption, we have remedies to address it. The reason you know about corruption is because it is publicized and prosecuted.Often in American when people talk about corruption, they mean sexual infidelity that they usually have to stretch very hard to show actually also involved wasting public monies. The money that Edwards sent to hush his mistress with his love child is chump change compared to the zillions of stimulus grants that Obama has sent out to his friends in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

      3. Dave Pinsen

        I think our current form of government may be more representative than you give it credit for being. And being truly representative presents its own challenges. That doesn’t mean it isn’t corrupt though. Two separate issues you bring up here.Two examples of how truly representative our government is are our highly progressive income tax system, and our expensive middle class entitlements. The people want more Social Security and Medicare than they are willing to pay for via taxes, and their representatives give them this, borrowing the difference in cost. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Chile’s reform of its social security system occurred when that country was under an autocratic government.Regarding corruption, a cause of this is that our politicians are underpaid, and are not given any incentive pay for performance. In an ideal world, money wouldn’t be an issue, because there would be a surfeit of talented and affluent individuals willing to enter politics. We do have some of these today, but they remain a minority. I think politicians ought to have the opportunity to earn sizeable deferred incentive bonuses based on certain objective metrics tied to how well the country (for national politicians) is doing a few years after their policies have taken effect.

  18. Prokofy

    How does your fabulous i-phone lobbying differ from any common pork barrel roller?Wikipedia cites the signs of pork legislation:Citizens Against Government Waste[6] outlines seven criteria by which spending can be classified as “pork”: 1. Requested by only one chamber of Congress; 2. Not specifically authorized; 3. Not competitively awarded; 4. Not requested by the President; 5. Greatly exceeds the Presidentโ€™s budget request or the previous yearโ€™s funding; 6. Not the subject of congressional hearings; or 7. Serves only a local or special interest.However fabulous, and I certainly grant that they may be a fine tradition of America’s tolerance for immigrants, greater than any other country in the world, surely you can concede that start-up visas are a *special interest*. They benefit companies you fund; they benefit Silicon Valley; they benefit a class mainly of Indian engineers (perhaps some Chinese, Russians or Kyrgyz might benefit, too).So what’s your plan for lobbying your special interest, big guy?You’re not going to work through NGOs or PACs which are “dirty”.You’re not going to work through Congress — it’s “corrupt”. No hearings, no research.No legislative matter to come to a vote.Um, so you plan to get the President’s direct Blackberry line and jam it? Obamaberry politics?Or how?Even Scoble understood that first he had to go to Washington and get his congressional buds on Twitter so he could tweet them.

  19. Kurt Daradics

    Fred- Hello! This is Kurt Daradics, co-founder of CitySourced and FreedomSpeaks.We have a platform that can help you influence legislation with the Founders Visa.We’ll be happy to donate our services free of charge, as a favor to you, and all we need from you is a sample letter. We have a widget you can drop on your blog and some other cool features, including delivering the letters to a targeted sub committee.To find out more check out…You can find me on twitter @kurtyD or email me kurt /at/ citysourced /dot/ comMany Thanks!Kurt

  20. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Well said. My Visa was L1. Quite a saga.

  21. Nat

    I came to work in the US around February, 1998. So it has been around 11+ years and as yet I am not sure if I can continue to live in this country, which I very much desire to. Presently I am on a temporary work visa, (un)popularly called as H1-B. During the past 11-odd years I have worked in California, graduated with a Master’s degree, interned at a thought-provoking think-tank (The Cato Institute), worked as a consultant for a federal organization, and worked at two financial firms–first in the beautiful city of Minneapolis and currently in Wilmington, Delaware.So what have I contributed to the US? In all I have paid about $30,000 in Social security taxes; $7,000 in Medicare taxes; approximately $60,000 in Federal taxes and at least around $20,000 in state and local taxes. In other words I am not and would not like to be dependent on welfare or the generosity of the good-hearted American public.Recently I have conceptualized an online venture and I am in the process of executing it. I am confident it has potential in the specific marketplace I am competing. If it grows–and I am reasonably certain it would–then it will generate taxes for the federal, local and state governments and also provide employment to one or two people as it grows. That would mean additional payroll taxes and a tint of reducing the unemployment burden on the society. As it stands I can’t do it: H1-B immigrants are prohibited from working on their own and the law is quite convoluted about how one could go about doing it. The expressed fear is that immigrants might take away jobs from citizens and other natives. But what if an entrepreneurial immigrant wants to generate jobs instead of taking away one; how can the law help attract (and create) jobs in the US? That’s an un-answered question.I see myself as a start-up guy who has to deal with the following challenges: (1) competition; (2) catering to end user needs; (3) raising money; (4) keeping my day job; (5) my wife who is living away in India (because she has a job there as she can’t work with her Ph.D. here). But the biggest lump of all: I can’t start a company with my work visa.So what different courses are possible for me? These are my forecasts: In a worst case I might be able to convince a few investors and have relocate and to do the work from India–a prospect that I am not fully comfortable with. I have been in the US continuously for the past 12 years and would like to contribute by (1) generating revenue and (2) generating employment through my venture. In a convoluted scenario, I volunteer my efforts for my own company–letting a native to head the company–and eventually figure a way out. If you are an investor in my company you would be uncomfortable investing in a fellow whose stay in the US is uncertain.I truly hope that the president’s recent push for generating jobs by opening up the barriers to small businesses will be expanded to entrepreneurs like me and ameliorate my visa situation. I hope I get to stay in the US and generate jobs and revenue for the federal and Delaware state.Ideas may succeed or fail in the competitive market place. But if they never start they will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. A disappointing scenario would be that someone couldn’t start a business and employ people because their immigration status is uncertain. That would be a loss to the entrepreneur (in this case me) as well as to the United States of America.

  22. fredwilson

    I want to train kids who would have gone into factory work in the past to write and maintain code. Do it as a vocational high school. And then use this lower cost workforce to compete with indian outsource firms

  23. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Long story, Charlie – I have discussed it in past topic/threads here. In brief, I got my L1 after many months, all OK, but my partner (now my wife) was refused a 6 month visitor’s extended-stay visa by the USA Embassy in London, to come and stay with me for an extended period whist I sorted out the business start-up and established if we could make a go of it together in the USA.We had done things ‘by the book’ and it came back and bit us on the bum – would have been easier for her to just come over for a few weeks, go home to the UK for a while and then come back again for a few weeks, but we wanted to do it legitimately. That was a big mistake as it transpired. Suffice to say I ended up coming back to the UK a lot earlier than planned – our relationship being more important than me trying to build something in the USA (I was based in NYC).Ah well, life’s trials and tribulations and all that!

  24. Mark Essel

    So had our rules not sucked, you’d be right here in NYC and we could have met up for tea?This is something that’s in dire need of fixing.

  25. Mark Essel

    We got a problem Houston. If there’s one thing that has made America great, it’s our acceptance of immigrants who are looking for opportunity. If we close the door to opportunities in America, we’re putting ourselves in a bad position globally.I’m confident there’s a change that can be made to support entrepreneur’s and to help Charlie’s tech community grow while hindering those who abuse the spirit of the law (the tech sweat shops).

  26. kidmercury

    well look at the bright side, nat. if you’re not able to stay, you won’t pay US taxes, and so you won’t have to deal with the shame of knowing your labor finances imperialism and the enslavement of the world. some might say you’re richer this way!

  27. Prokofy

    Did you pay for your tuition?

  28. Mark Essel

    An entire generation chock full of engineers and hackers. That’d be something beautiful.

  29. kidmercury

    why we always gotta be competing with indian people….i mean do you think indian people roll up everyday and are like damn how can we compete with teenage white kidslol j/k boss

  30. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Indeed, Mark!

  31. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Absolutely, Charlie. It took me several attempts to find the true love of my life so – and as much as I wanted to stay in NYC – I wasn’t going to let anything screw that up.

  32. fredwilson

    the indian people have proven to be great competitors to the US. it’s timeto recognize them as such and compete back. it’s not a diss at all. it’sdeep respect.