Tomorrow, a consortium of tech-industry and political groups led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economy will launch its March for Innovation, two days of virtual activism intended to help pass comprehensive immigration reform that is favorable to tech industry concerns.
The social media-led push taking place on Wednesday May 22 and Thursday May 23 will feature an array of prominent names from the tech industry and beyond, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, representing a substantial expansion of the initial vision the group outlined in February. Last week, the group also announced that the Democratic-aligned Organizing for America and Republicans for Immigration Reform are also co-sponsoring the “iMarch,” set to be the largest pan-industry digital activism since the effort that squelched the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA). The group will soon announce a host of other high-profile figures from the worlds of business, tech, politics, sports, and entertainment who have pledged their support for the iMarch.
Originally planned for April, the iMarch is instead taking place in what is shaping up to be a busy week for immigration issues in Washington DC, with Republican House representative Darrell Issa expected to introduce an immigration bill to the House on Thursday. A bipartisan group of eight senators led by Republican Marco Rubio has already put forward a Senate bill that contains many proposals approved by the tech industry and startups, including the creation of a “startup visa” for foreign entrepreneurs, and an increase in the number of visas for high-skilled immigrants and specialists in science, technology, engineering, and math. That bill is now going through the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup process.
The iMarch will kick off tomorrow morning at 8.30am EST with Mayor Bloomberg hosting a Twitter town hall, in which other yet-to-be-announced leaders will also take part. Events will then be taking place on the half-hour throughout the day and up until the last event, a Twitter town hall for Latinos in tech, starts at 10pm EST on Thursday. The iMarch activity will lean heavily on Twitter, but it will also include Google Hangouts, Reddit AMAs, Vines, and live events. Both Mayor Booker and Governor Schwarzenegger will also be hosting Twitter town halls.
Included among the events will be a “venture capital hour” on Twitter tomorrow at 2pm EST, with Ron Conway, Brad Feld, and Mike Maples, among others, taking part. At 6.30pm Wednesday in New York City, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures will stage a fireside chat with AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley, to be followed by a conversation between Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and FuturePerfect Partners managing director Jalak Jobanputra. Similar events are taking place in Austin, San Francisco, and San Antonio on the same night. All the events will be live-streamed.
The Partnership for a New American Economy says about 10,000 people have so far signed up to the support the iMarch via its website, and more than 2,000 have lined up Tweets or Facebook messages to be published in one big hit via Thunderclap during the event.
Institutional Venture Partners’ Somesh Dash, one of the iMarch’s organizers and key backers, says the group is using a broad array of platforms and bringing in big names from outside the tech industry because it wants to make sure that its messages reach people outside of the tech bubble, and not just those who live on the coasts. “We really did not want to just be a Silicon Valley tech-focused thing on one or two platforms,” Dash says.
He also hopes that the initiative can serve as a template for future tech-related activism. “For the entrepreneurial community, this could be a great opportunity for people to build tools and platforms that allow people to come together around civic issues.”
As part of the March for Innovation, I will be moderating a Google Hangout featuring Engine Advocacy’s Michael McGeary, Consumer Electronics Association’s Michael Petricone, Partnership for New American Economy’s Jeremy Robbins, finance professional and Stanford alum Min Zhang, immigration lawyer John Manley, and Phone2Action co-founder Jeb Ory. The Hangout takes place on Thursday, May 23, at 4pm EST. More details here.