TheBridge profile: Seamus Kraft
Past Job: Staffer for US Representative Darrel Issa (CA)
Current City: Washington, DC
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? The Wydown on 14th Street. Tremendous coffee, good vibes and great staff.
Q. How is Article One currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? Article One is bringing cutting-edge cloud communications into government, starting with Congress. We're helping Members and staff catch up with the digital communications revolution, enabling them to handle the astronomical volume of incoming messages, hear what their constituents are saying and be more responsive. That's the reason Congress exists, but as we all know, it's failing miserably at the job. What most people, especially in the tech industry, don't know is the root cause.
We broke it down in "From Voicemails to Votes," and it has nothing to do with a particular party or political leadership--Congress won't work, it can't work, like it should until it has the capacity and infrastructure to handle the scale and speed of how people communicate today. It's a 19th Century institution trying to solve 21st Century problems using 20th Century tools. No wonder it isn't efficient, effective or responsive! Paper-based systems and workflows? Full voicemail boxes? Busy signals? C'mon. We can do better. That's what Article One is all about.
Q. What can Silicon Valley (innovators) teach DC (regulators)? What the transformative power of innovation can do to meaningfully improve people's lives, families and businesses. There's a yawning gap of vision and understanding of what's possible. I watch Congressional staffers forced to do their jobs with paper and pencils, agencies running on PDFs and post-it notes, with so few stopping to ask: isn't there a better way to do this? These are unsexy problems with enormous negative consequences for our country. When it comes to DC, Silicon Valley could make a huge difference by focusing less on slick and shiny futurism like driverless cars and AI and blockchain, and more on improving government systems, workflows and DC's ability to innovate.
Q. What can DC (regulators) teach Silicon Valley (innovators)? Moving fast and breaking things is often the the worst way to operate when it comes to solving the big, society-wide problems we're facing. There are reasons for process and bureaucracy, and for deliberation and debate. You can build an app overnight, but you can't build a functioning system of government charged with serving the wildly different needs of 350,000,000+ people and 25,000,000+ businesses.
Q. Job advice in three words? Just. Be. Yourself.
Q. Which Member of Congress is most tech savvy? I'm biased here since he's my co-founder, but Darrell Issa is hands-down the most tech-savvy Member of Congress. He is not only a personal technolophile and gadget-lover extraordinaire, he knows tech policy, open government, open source software, procurement, data and tech hardware better than any elected official I've met--and brings it all together fluently, pointedly and with a serious sense of humor. You'll be hard pressed to find a better friend of the open Internet, innovation and smart tech policy the House or Senate.
One of the joys of my time on the Hill and with The OpenGov Foundation is watching Issa question witnesses on tech issues. 99% of Members read whatever surface-level talking points are in front of them. Issa skips the b.s., goes into full engineer mode and blows your mind. Witnesses go all deer-in-the-headlights. Hilarity ensues. For tech and tech policy geeks, you could sell tickets to see that.
Q. Favorite under the radar company? The Internet Archive. They do such cool, important work and are so unique. Who thinks of capturing everything on the Internet every day for posterity? Who actually creates a kick-ass company full of genius technologists and digital archivists that actually pulls it off? Who keeps a company like that evolving and expanding for 20 years? Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive do. Plus, they deliver online pretty much all of the Grateful Dead's music (and so much more) to the world for free. So like Bill Graham said of the Grateful Dead, "They're not just the best at what they do, They're the only ones that do what they do." Something to which every company should aspire.
Q. Startup to watch? Take it with a shaker of salt, but keep your eye on Article One!
Q. Best advice you’ve received? "Remember that everyone coming up in the world had a lot of help from people older, wiser and more experienced. When you're in a position to help a young person, remember this and pay it forward." - President George W Bush's Undersecretary of State for Democracy Paula Dobrianski. Paula gave me that advice in early 2008. I've done my best to live it since. Ask for help and advice. Establish good mentor relationships, and maintain them. Pay it forward when you're in a position to help young people just getting into the game, because karma is real and everyone has a karma bank account.
Fixing How Congress Communicates: Twilio recently celebrated exemplary builders who have made an impact through technical triumphs at Signal Conf, including Article One, addressing the civic communications crisis we are all facing. Watch Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson interview Seamus during the Signal keynote.