Government Techonomy Events

Sean Parker on Platforms for Individual Empowerment

In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., Sean Parker, Managing Partner of Founders Fund, discusses Votizen and Causes on Facebook, two companies helping to empower the individuals in the political sphere. Also appearing in this video: Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick and Jim Breyer of Accel Partners.

Kirkpatrick: But let’s start with just getting your thoughts on what Jared was just talking about, this idea that we are likely to see two kind of parallel systems, the citizen world, the world of citizen empowerment, and the world of conventional states.  So Sean, does that sound right to you?

Parker: Yes, I mean—and this is obviously a lot of what we discussed last year, and what I’ve been exploring with two different portfolio companies of mine.  One is called Votizen and the other is called Causes on Facebook.  And in fact, our very tagline at Causes was “individual empowerment.”  I mean that was the—we were betting on the idea—and at Votizen, the exact same—

Kirkpatrick: How do you spell the new one?

Parker: Votizen is V-O-T-I-Z-E-N, founded by a political guy named David Binetti, and a really super talented young designer from Mint named Jason Putorti.  And this is a company, as with Causes, that is all about trying to leverage social capital, which has finally been exposed and made available via social networks to effect some kind of social change, whether it’s in electoral politics or activism or advocacy or raising money or whatever.  I think Causes, due in part to a difficulty operating on the Facebook platform, combined with bad execution, never got to the full realization of that vision, but fundraising is I think in some ways the least interesting aspect of it.  What’s really interesting is aggregating power, and ultimately that’s what—the purpose of funds in politics, the purpose of money is just as a proxy for votes, so if you can provide a more efficient way to aggregate power in the form of voting, then you basically can remove money from the system, and that’s a much more likely outcome than trying to convince lawmakers themselves to remove money from the system.

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