TheBridge profile: Ron Klain
Name: Ron Klain
Current city: Washington DC
Current job: General Counsel & EVP, Revolution
Past job: CoS, VPs Joe Biden & Al Gore; WH Ebola Response Coordinator; veteran of 7 Presidential campaigns
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? I don't drink coffee (I'm still a TAB drinker); if I'm having a coffee meeting, I host it at our offices
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. I was a law clerk to Justice Byron White from 1987-89. Even though White had been on the Supreme Court for 25 years when I started working for him, he still personally read every paper filed in every case, and wrote a detailed summary of every filing and brief in preparation for each oral argument. From that I learned the importance of preparation, study, preparation...and then more preparation. Preparing rigorously for every important meeting or presentation has been the lesson that I have carried with me ever since.
Q. Job advice in three words? Be nice (to) everyone. The junior staffer working for you today could wind up being your boss 10 years later. I've been around Washington long enough to have already been on both sides of that equation in my career.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? In my "day job" at Revolution, we are invested in over 100 tech-enabled companies that are on the cutting edge of policy issues -- from the future of work, to sports gaming, to fin tech, to health care. Our "Rise of the Rest" Fund has backed over 70 companies outside of Silicon Valley and New York, working to address one of the biggest public policy problems we face: how can we bring the jobs of tomorrow to cities and towns around the country outside of tech's biggest hot spots.
As an "extracurricular activity," I chair the Advisory Board of Higher Ground Labs, an accelerator program that invests in and supports start-ups that are developing technology products for progressive campaigns and causes. We've backed 23 promising tech solutions in the past year, and many have already been used in off-year and special elections. We're expecting a big impact in 2018.
Q: How much sleep do you get? I'm not much of a sleeper. Friends and co-workers know that if you email me at 2am, you are likely to get a response before 4am.
Q. What can innovators teach regulators? I think Silicon Valley (and tech companies in all parts of the country) can (and do) teach Washington that merely because something has always been the way that it is doesn't mean it will always be that way. I love working with our start-ups because they are constantly questioning how things are done, and that's a mentality I try to bring to my work on policy or campaigns.
Q. What can regulators teach innovators? I think Washington can insist (and should do so, more often) that merely because something is technologically possible doesn't mean that it is right, socially-useful, or fair. Innovation and disruption should be promoted by public policy, but those policies should also demand that changes bring better lives to the many, and not just the few, and create broad-based opportunity.
Q. Living person you admire? I don't want to single out one specific person, but when I was coordinating the Ebola response, I was humbled every day in meeting and working with men and women on the front lines of the response, treating patients -- under difficult conditions -- with a deadly, infectious disease. They saved lives and were critical in stopping the spread of that epidemic. I keep a collection of challenge coins and other items they gave me in my office as a source of inspiration, and a reminder that however hard my job seems, it is nothing compared to what others have done and are doing.
Q. Favorite App? My favorite app is still Facebook. For all of its problems, it still provides an unmatched means to stay in touch with friends I grew up with in Indiana, former colleagues from decades of campaigns and public service scattered about the country, and contacts all over the world. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a power user of Facebook -- much to my childrens' chagrin.
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