Last week’s tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut shook everyone who has a young child or a soul to his or her core. Angel investor Ron Conway was no different. His annual Christmas party, held that night, was a somber affair compared to years past. It was made all the more somber by one of Conway’s close friends who attended, another victim of gun violence, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Conway’s reputation is as a guy who zooms to where his portfolio needs him most. The night before the shooting, I spoke to Conway, and he told me about the various startups he was digging into right now and how he was trying to help them. But talking to Giffords the next day, he decided to stop everything and devote all of his time to this issue — 24/7, he says — until Congress takes action.
In true Conway style, he’s bringing everyone he knows with him into the fight: the loud, the moneyed, and the influential among the tech universe. Last year’s SOPA and JOBS Act fights showed a new catalyzing of the startup ecosystem’s political power. Conway wants this fight — which doesn’t have to do with boosting anyone’s bank account or financial prospects — to be the biggest thing Washington has seen from our community yet.
One of the key people he’s partnered up with is Huffington Post and Lerer Ventures co-founder Ken Lerer–who knows a thing or two about using the press to push a political goal. Lerer was already putting together his own New York media-centric campaign, quietly behind the scenes.
There is plenty of incentive to join, without Conway’s arm twisting. On Friday, my Twitter feed certainly exploded with demands that there be a change in gun laws. Conway is doing his best to make sure that this isn’t a passing Twitter swarm of activism that amounts to nothing.
They launched a campaign this week, working closely with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s team in New York, which has been active on this since last July’s shooting in Aurora Colorado. He has taken out a full page ad that will run in the New York Times this week that he has asked notable founders and CEOs to sign (including me, which I did). And he is asking everyone in his extended network and that network’s network to join in a national moment of silence in honor of the Sandy Hook victims at 9:30am ET this Friday, December 21st. (To spread the word you can Tweet about it using the hashtag #momentforSandyHook or you can add a badge to your blog or site here.)
Much more will be coming soon, and there are plenty of ways for you to get involved whether you have money or just a loud voice. This isn’t one of those turning your Twitter avatar green movements. Conway has vowed that this is going to rumble through the startup community until change happens.
You may wonder what this has to do with startup investing or any of the companies and day jobs that unite everyone pitching in. The answer is, nothing. But this community has long had trouble separating personal from professional. Most friends are also investors, employees, or competitors, and most companies spring from a personal desire to see something exist in the world. It’s no surprise that having been awakened, Silicon Valley political activism is taking a similar path.
[Image Credit: Auraelius on Flickr]