TheBridge profile: Jesse Blumenthal
Name: Jesse Blumenthal
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: Vice President, Technology & Innovation at Stand Together
Past job: Director of Client Strategy at Engage, Public Affairs Manager at the American Enterprise Institute
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting: Ebenezers Coffeehouse by Union Station
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. When I worked at AEI on the public affairs team, I would receive hundreds of emails per day. We had a very small team (2-3 people) to support dozens of scholars across the organization. I learned the importance of timely responses and a well-managed inbox.
Q. Job advice in three words? Connect good people
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? At Stand Together and the Charles Koch Institute, our philanthropic community supports academics, think tanks, civil society groups, and social entrepreneurs who break barriers that prevent individuals from improving their own lives and the lives of others. We believe that innovation has the potential to dramatically benefit all of us but requires a culture that is welcoming and a public policy environment that allows for experimentation. We do this work through grant making, partnerships, education, and engaging in the public policy process.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? Policymakers generally have a bias towards companies, business models, and technologies that they already understand. As a result, game changing innovation often is threatened by well-connected interests who capture the regulators. Innovators should learn the importance of continuing to experiment and push forward, while helping policymakers to catch up in their understanding of these technologies.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? Dynamism, experimentation, and failure—lots of failure—is how new innovations are discovered. Policymakers are ill-equipped to predict the future, and risk doing long-term damage by locking in their preferred technology or business model. Technology-neutral rules for an ever-changing world is the best approach.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? Pessimists Archive is a podcast and Twitter account that tells the history of why we resist new things (everything from the car, to the bicycle, to the Waltz, to the Walkman)
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself in the beginning of your career? Don't try to plan too much. Every major job change I've made would have been hard to imagine just a few years before. Just focus on doing good work and meeting interesting, smart people.
Q. Do you have a favorite app? Nuzzle—it's the best way to surface links being shared on Twitter while minimizing noise
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? On safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa over New Years’. The elephants are pretty awesome in person. Highly recommend.
Q. Startup to watch? Icon is able to 3-D print a home in a day out of concrete. They're working on tackling the affordability, sustainability, and availability of housing.
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