• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

From Tech Founder to Political Leader

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Why a stint as a tech founder is great preparation for changing the world through politics.

By Shaherose Charania (CEO & Co-founder, Women 2.0)

Maybe sometimes late at night you’ve asked yourself, what next?

What if this whole ‘being a tech founder’ thing doesn’t work out quite as I hoped? Or what if it does and I need a new challenge? What will I do then?

It’s a natural thing to brood on what comes next whether you succeed or you don’t (and most of you won’t, but we know that’s a badge of honor). Recently, in a conversation with San Francisco Chronicle writer, I realized that for many tech founders there’s another far less obvious option that starting up with a new company, moving on to a big tech company or becoming an investor. Founders, I realized, would make great political leaders.

While I don’t aim to ever be in a position of political power myself, in the course of the conversation it occurred to me that many of you Women 2.0 readers are well positioned to occupy one. Here are a few thoughts on why:

You Have a Following

As a founder you’ve probably been hustling to make yourself and your company known through any means. You’ve built some sort of social media klout, enough to make you dangerous. For some reason people listen to you. These days you may use that to pitch investors, acquire customers or solicit feedback, but the same skills could be used to advocate for social change, sway public opinion or introduce yourself to voters.

Tech Changes Lives, so Does Politics

You get it – technology can directly impact lives and as a founder you love seeing change in the world. That frame of mind — the big picture thinking — is similar to politics. In both professions, you are designing systems that impact many, and in tech, like in politics, you have to deal with unintended consequences, reduce mind-boggling complexity to simple, actionable plans, and translate diverse feedback into a single solution. If you like changing the world through tech, maybe it would make you happy to change the world through politics too.

You Have (Access to) Moolah!

As a tech founder, you have a good chance to make money because tech is the only industry experiencing over-employment. And the sector is only set to grow (it’s eating the world, in fact).  By 2018, all companies will truly be tech or tech-enabled. Tech is (soon to be) just about everything. These days, you need money to get into and make a difference in politics, and heck if you didn’t make millions, no doubt you have a network of people who did — so in the end, you’ve likely got access to the needed cash.

You Are a Great Orator

How many pitches have you made where you had to exude conviction and belief that what you were building would be an amazing app that everyone would love? Guess what, politics involves a lot of storytelling, so you’ve now got loads of practice!

You’ve Seen the Future

As a technologist, you’re not just reacting to the future, you’re creating it. Are you the kind of person who can predict the next big innovation that will change the way people live their lives? Then congratulations, you have a headstart on most other people who simply read about what the tech industry is cooking up after it happens in the mainstream media. Knowledge is power, and that includes your insider knowledge of the changing tech landscape. Why not put it to use in politics?

With the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes inching towards careers in politics, I’m betting on a future wave of tech founders out to make their mark in public office.

Shaherose is currently the President and CEO of Women 2.0. At heart she is a mobile and telephony junkie. She’s led new consumer products at Ribbit (BT). Previously, she was Director of Product Management at Talenthouse and JAJAH (sold to Telefonica/O2). Follow her on Twitter at @shaherose.