In 2016 I fulfilled my dream of starting and selling a successful high tech firm. We built a great team where we treated customers and employees with respect and a high performance culture. Siege Technologies built awesome technologies and made a difference in the world which was very rewarding.
I left the company in 2019 to focus on investing, advising startups, and philanthropy work full time. By 2020 I was the managing partner at 10X Venture Partners, GP of a small fund (both at 10X and the fund I'm investing for charitable benefit), advising a number of tech firms and serving on numerous charitable boards doing inspiring things like fighting sexual exploitation, poverty, and addiction (and volunteering/advising a few others.) It was/is rewarding work and seemed like a great place to be for a while going forward.
But in the summer of 2020, I read a paper arguing that government policies were far more impactful to help the poor than individual philanthropic programs. Minutes after finishing it, two random strangers suggested running for state Senate, coincidentally within 5-10 minutes of each other! Like most people, I didn't have a positive view of politics or politicians and wasn't enthusiastic about the idea at first. Or after a second glance. But after further reflection and numerous discussions, I realized that:
- The state Senate is a place that you can make a difference. Numerous important bills came down to a single Senate vote in the last session, and each senator plays a critical role in the direction of the state. NH has over 1.36M people and a budget of over $13B so the impact you can have is much larger than regional charities serving dozens or even hundreds of people.
- If all the good/moral people avoid politics, what can we say if we don't like the people who are in office? Despite the negative views of politicians, there are some good people who serve for the right reasons and not more base drivers like money, career advancement, or pride. And while some may be motivated by greed/anger/extreme ideological reasons or even boredom, there are some who run because they genuinely care and want to give back.
- While I've never considered myself a political type, many of the skills I've developed and my strengths and weaknesses will transfer well to a campaign. The campaign trail is much like running a startup and days are consumed with raising funds from "investors", meeting with various stakeholders, learning the regulatory framework, managing operations, building a team, planning and executing a budget, marketing, and trying to attract a large group of people who believe in what you're offering. While serving as a senator will be very different, things like people skills, textual/policy/logical/budget analysis, public speaking, integrity, work ethic, ability to focus on creating "win-win" scenarios, love of others, and conflict resolution will be valuable.
- I discovered that the senator currently representing the district (who by all accounts is a very nice guy) is receiving almost $140k a year from a special interest group, lists government "lobbying" and "representation" among his official duties, doesn't recuse himself from matters related to the special interest and in fact puts out press releases bragging about the millions of dollars in benefits that flow back to the special interest. Not coincidentally, the special interest also contributed over $75k to his campaign. 😒 And it's all legal in NH, since senators only make $100/year and we have very lax laws around how elected officials are compensated. When I worked at DARPA, I wasn't usually allowed to accept a free lunch (there were limited exceptions) because of the concern that that free $10 ham sandwich might unduly influence your next contract award... but in NH it's OK to accept 6 digits in personal compensation from groups that lobby for government money while serving as a senator. That's wrong and needs to be fixed.
|Filing to run at the state house|
As a result of these considerations I decided to run for Senate. I've really enjoyed getting to meet people from around the state and learn more about the challenges and issues facing the state (like COVID-19 and the opioid crisis) and some the unique aspects of our state/government that make New Hampshire unique and such a great place to live.
I don't plan to put the campaign stuff on this blog, will keep it to tech/entrepreneur content. But as a result of the campaign (and hopefully winning/serving!) I suspect that means I won't be posting as much here for a while as I'll be posted on the campaign site at syversen4senate.com, and on socials on FB and Twitter.