Our Colorado governor, Jared Polis, displayed an amazing act of leadership in his response to what I consider a question posed in an extreme and divisive way yesterday.
The question asked was:
We are hearing a lot of reports around here … about neighbors reporting on other neighbors for not following the orders … rebellion out here against your orders which have been called tyrannical, against local health department orders being equated to Naziism. How do you react to that? What do you say to those people who are clearly getting frustrated with this stay at home order?
I thought Jared’s response was incredible. It included:
As a Jewish American who lost family in the holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Naziism. We act to save lives. The exact opposite of the slaughter of six million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.
Ok. Pause and consider that for a moment. When you watch the video (which I hope you do), pay attention to Jared’s behavior as he starts to lose his composure, but then regains it.
He follows with:
It’s not a contest to see what you can get away with. It’s a contest to see how well you can stay at home. By not staying at home, by having parties, by congregating, you are not sticking it to the government. You are not sticking it to Jared Polis. You are sticking it to yourself because you are putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy and you are prolonging the economic pain and difficulties your fellow Coloradans face.
He finishes with:
Now is the time for us to act with unity, to act together, to do the best that we can …
This is leadership in the time of crisis. This is how I want my leaders to lead and to react to challenging questions, divisive and ad-hominem attacks, and analogies to things that are personally offensive.
Notice that in the midst of a question that clearly provoked an emotional reaction, Jared answered the question incredibly clearly with a positive, thoughtful, and unifying, rather than divisive and hostile, response.
Jared – thank you for your amazing leadership in this crisis. Fellow Coloradans, let’s all pull together in this crisis, no matter what.
Governor Jared Polis had an excellent and extremely data-driven press conference yesterday to provide quantitive support for his stay at home order (among other things.) The presentation is embedded and worth paging through.
The basic message is that unless it is absolutely necessary for you, please stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. While it is frustrating and constraining in the short term, if you stay at home, your actions will contribute to saving many lives. If not, your actions will contribute to killing people. I know that’s a harsh statement, but the data shows that we are clearly in the middle of a relatively short period where our collective action of staying at home can have a huge positive impact.
There is a new, private-sector volunteer organization (and a non-profit) called Citizen Software Engineers (CSE) run by Tim Miller (you may know Tim as the Rally Software CEO from near inception through their acquisition by CA) that is part of my Innovation Response Team. CSE has a data team that is generating significant data around Covid-19 and wiring up publicly available data in a system for rapid feedback, analysis and response.
The actual data is extremely fast-moving and anyone familiar with complex systems or system dynamics knows that today’s inputs generate tomorrow’s outputs which are the new inputs. So, the action we take immediately can have profound positive or negative effects on what happens next.
Jared completely understands this and is using all the data he has to make decisions that have both short-term and medium-term impact. Right now we are in the middle of what I am calling “the surge” to help people I’m working with understand that the next 30 days (through the end of April) is a critical/urgent time to act since we didn’t act as a country 60 days ago.
While many things are setting the groundwork for dealing with Covid19 over a longer period of time, I’m not counting us a magical solution to this. Consequently, our actions every minute, every hour, and every day will make an impact on the magnitude of the surge, and whether we can flatten the curve enough so that we can handle it in Colorado.
Please do your part and stay at home. I know it’s tempting to go outside today, especially given the beautiful weather. I know it’s natural to say “fuck it” after a cooped up week and go for a hike. Understand the constraints of the stay at home order and follow them. Please. You will be saving lives.
One of the many great things about the Governor of Colorado is that he’s an entrepreneur, having started multiple successful technology companies, including BlueMountainArts.com (acquired by Excite for $800m) and Provide Commerce (IPO, then acquired by Liberty Media for $500m). He’s also a co-founder of Techstars with me, David Cohen, and David Brown.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of Jared Polis’ relatively early new initiatives as Governor is the Colorado Digitial Service.
The founding team includes several entrepreneurial friends along with extremely capable technologists around Colorado. The idea is to do “civic service tours of duty” to rapidly improve a number of citizen-facing applications that millions of Coloradian’s use on a regular basis.
I much prefer this approach, with a highly functional agile team of experts, rather than yet another $100 million contract with a large consulting firm, government contractor, or legacy technology company that will result in a three-year build and deployment of a system that never actually sees the light of day.
If you have deep technical, designer, or application development skills and are interested in a civic tour of duty helping improve the software that Coloradian’s use to interact with our state government, go apply to help out.
I got asked today for a picture of the four founders of Techstars together (me, David Cohen, David Brown, and Jared Polis.) I did a search and came up with a few, but also stumbled upon this beauty. This is the original promotion video for the first Techstars program, filmed at the end of 2006 and apparently uploaded to Youtube on January 14, 2007.
Following are my comments on the video.
It used to be hard to find historical artifacts like this. They lived in an attic or a basement and were covered by dust. The web is just amazing.
I’m extremely excited that Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), the senior senator for Colorado, has signed on as a co-sponsor of The Startup Visa Act of 2010 that was originally proposed by Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lugar (R-IN). Senator Udall joins his Colorado colleague in the House, Jared Polis (D-CO), who has proposed Startup Visa legislation as part of his EB-5 reform bill.
In addition, our friends at SVB Financial (the parent of Silicon Valley Bank) have also formally endorsed the Startup Visa. My partner Jason Mendelson wrote a post about a roundtable that Silicon Valley Bank hosted for members of “the new Democrat Coalition” which included Jared Polis. Shortly after this meeting, SVB formally endorsed the Startup Visa.
I’m really proud that two of Colorado’s members of Congress are leading the charge on the Startup Visa. I have deep respect for both Mark and Jared, their understanding of the importance of entrepreneurship, and their vision for innovation in our country. I’m also grateful that SVB – which has been an integral part of the entrepreneurial activity throughout the US – for their support as well.
We are working on a few additional major announcements and endorsements in the next sixty days. I’ve received a number of requests for ways to help. At this point, if you are part of an organization that you think would be supportive of the Startup Visa, please drop me an email and let’s talk about ways to get a formal endorsement.
I’m really proud of my Congressman Jared Polis. Jared was one of the first people I met when I moved to Colorado in 1995 (we met in early 1996) and have been good friends ever since. Jared has a great article about his first few weeks in Congress up on the CNN website titled Commentary: Congress is like going back to college. There’s also a fun video.
Jared – you look very serious in that suit and tie.