The Epic Plan to Transform Government Into a Startup
Guest blog by Richie Hecker

startup transformationstartup transformation
We have the opportunity to transform politics, making it clean and crony-free. As a citizen, this is your chance, your opportunity to participate in the process and create your government. We can create a new generation of leadership, replacing the crony capitalism of Tammany Hall with the ethos of the millennial economy, making politics accessible, easy and on-demand.

The key is taking lessons from world-leading tech companies like Tesla and Uber and adapting them to government service: #StartupsChangeTheWorld; now it is time to transform politics.

Ask not what the government can do for you, but what Elon Musk would do if he was in government. If you were a world-leading entrepreneur, how would you design a new system for civil service? Every leader can use these steps to listen to their constituents and make great things happen.  startup transformation

Step 1: Bootcamp for civil servants

Bootcamps have popped up all over to train coders. Let’s create bootcamps to train civil servants. The startup community flourished with the rise of bootcamps. Coding bootcamps help budding techies spend 10 weeks learning new skills they can then use to get new jobs. We can offer budding politicians open training sessions on the technicalities of running for office and what to do when they win. It is currently a closed process. They can be open workshops on what it takes to form a committee, build and run a campaign, etc. startup transformation

For example, for four months, Run for America, a new political organization dedicated to training next-generation leaders, ran co-author Josh Thompson’s team and taught training sessions on how to run for public office. This removed the intimidation and mitigated the daunting bureaucracy that often gets in the way of setting up a campaign. Organizations like these have set the precedent for recruiting a new generation to run for office.   startup transformation

Step 2:  Community > consultants

Listen to your community for answers and avoid consultants! We need true community-driven solutions. Politicians should learn from venture capitalists and have open office hours. Startups solve problems by listening to prospective customers and performing customer development. Venture capitalists source deals by being accessible to startups. Politicians should make themselves, their commissioners and their staff available in person and online. They should host sessions on Reddit and respond to tweets and Facebook posts to engage with their community.

The best solutions come from listening to the people your decisions impact.  startup transformation

For example, in Bridgeport, CT, the former Mayor Bill Finch held once-a-week brown-bag lunches and invited the public to discuss what they saw was working and what was not. This helped them guide policy effectively. The best solutions come from listening to the people your decisions impact. Then, staff your team with people from your local community who care.

When Thompson launched his campaign, many consulting firms came with their canned messaging and canned “solutions.” Thompson spent the summer holding community events and town halls in all five boroughs, and found that the people of New York brought better solutions to critical issues and, ultimately, became the campaign’s authentic voice.  startup transformation

Step 3: Declare your squad

When you are launching a startup and pitching investors, the most important part is your team. “The importance of the initial team in early-stage startups can’t be understated. Venture capitalists and experienced angel investors alike want founders to prove their credibility in part by the initial team they assemble — we think it’s critical in assessing a founder’s judgment and relationship-building skills,” says David Segura, angel investor and entrepreneur.  startup transformation

Currently, when people run for office, they make promises and do not announce their team until after they are elected. Often they do not even choose their team until they are elected. Let’s switch it up — announce your team before running for office so people know who is with you.

Incumbents typically adopt a concept of pointing to their team and what they’ve accomplished. New candidates should adopt this tactic and announce their team prior to the election. Campaign with your team; bring them in front of your community and be proud of them.

Step 4: Manage transparently .startup transformation

In startup parlance, this is being transparent with your board about what you are going to do with your investors’ capital and then being honest about the results. In politics, this is servant leadership. The best startup CEOs make promises loud and clear to the world.

For example, Elon Musk famously said, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” Being transparent with yourself and your intentions is an important asset in a startup. When you raise money, you typically prepare a financial projection and a PowerPoint deck. These are your plans, your promises. Then, your board holds you accountable. The best founders openly work through issues and address them head-on, leading to success.startup transformation

Our country deserves hard-working leaders committed to the success of the country.  startup transformation

If you make promises to your board and you miss them, you can evolve and go for something different or you can step down and find a better leader (or your board will do it for you).

Politicians often will run on an array of promises and never deliver. To have a successful feedback loop, you need transparency in your process. Be committed to the goal, not lifetime politicking. Stand behind your promises and show your constituents you can achieve what you promise and they will reward you with votes. Mayor Bloomberg had a campaign promise index and tracked results against every promise, and he was successful with many of them.

Arick Wierson, a former senior communications and media advisor to Mayor Bloomberg, remarked, “The Bloomberg Administration was built on bringing private sector concepts like accountability and measurement to all things big and small in the business of government.” The former mayoral spokesman went on to say, “Everyone remembers Bloomberg’s biggest political battles, such as the fight for control of the schools, reconstruction at Ground Zero, and his ban on smoking; however, his biggest long-term impact on the city may very well be on the culture of the City of New York’s 250,000 municipal employees who learned to adapt to the modern management techniques that we brought from Bloomberg, LP.”

Elon Musk pledged every last cent he had to Tesla when the going got tough. Ask your politicians to do the same. This kind of transparency and ethos of governing should determine whether or not individuals should have the right to run for re-election. Just like in startup parlance, if you fail to meet multiple goals, your board can decide that you’re not going to be running the company anymore. That should translate into government.

Step 5: Reach across the aisle

In the startup world, it is very important to reach out to various types of people and organizations in order to create the best product for your customers. Often you will see partnerships between companies that at first glance appear to be competitors. In the world of APIs and platforms, almost everyone interacts with each other. This diversity of systems and ways of accomplishing goals is key. This is equally as important in the world of politics.

To serve your constituents and find real solutions to the issues most important to your local communities, you must be able to reach across the aisle. Work together with politicians and organizations of various political affiliations to create the best possible solutions and get more people involved in local politics. The people want to move toward a political climate that is more concerned with the issues and policy than it is with “party politics.” Politicians must reflect this post-party mentality in their campaigns for office.

No matter your loyalties in our country’s most recent election, the fact is that nearly 50 percent of eligible registered voters did not vote. Now more than ever, we need a new form of leadership, a leadership that shatters party lines and puts the needs of citizens first and engages the other half of the populace. There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash, build schools and fix our roads.

We live in an amazing country. Our country deserves hard-working leaders committed to the success of the country. These techniques work to create billions of dollars in value, provide equal opportunity for all through entrepreneurship and set the stage for the innovation that fuels our daily lives. Let’s bring the best of these techniques to government and see our country soar.

This blog originally appeared in TechCrunch, Jan 25, 2017