I’ve received a few questions from members and the community about our decision to welcome Rand Paul’s technology team to Capital Factory. It first showed up in the news on Friday and Senator Paul will be visiting Capital Factory on Monday to make the announcement in person. I hope this will help clear up any confusion.
I would first caveat that Capital Factory is still growing and evolving and we will try things and learn from them and not be afraid to change our minds. I will share with you how we think about it right now but I’m sure we will learn from this experiment and may change our policy in the future.
I’ve learned over the past year or two that the specific words you use matter a lot. I haven’t been that active politically in the past and so I may have used some of those words loosely.
I don’t think I’ve ever said we were “non-political,” but I have said that we are “non-partisan.” Recently I’ve learned that non-partisan doesn’t quite capture it correctly either.
As you know, we’ve had President Obama and also Senator Cruz visit Capital Factory, along with many other elected officials. During SXSW we had Secretary of Commerce Pritzker on our Demo Day Panel and had roundtables or tours at Capital Factory with Senator Jason Chaffetz, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Pirales, Representative Joe Kennedy III, Representative McMorris Rodgers, plus a dozen other Senators and Representatives.
Capital Factory doesn’t endorse any candidates. Capital Factory has only spoken up around Immigration Reform and Patent Reform because there seems to be consensus and urgency around those issues in our community. We generally try to stay out of it.
We also don’t want people who work at Capital Factory to feel like they are being “pitched” or “sold” or “campaigned to” and that’s one reason we’ve been very selective about who we let work here. We don’t want to alienate our members or make anyone feel uncomfortable.
We do want to encourage diversity of all kinds. We want people who think differently and come from different backgrounds to find some common ground at Capital Factory through technology and entrepreneurship. We want our startups to benefit from diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, expertise and most other things I can imagine.
In deciding to move forward with this, we discussed the issue internally and with Senator Paul’s staff. Internally we had a spirited debate but reached a consensus that this was the right thing to do. We are excited about civic innovation as well as technology innovation and already work with some political technology startups such as VoterTrove and ThinkVoting.
Senator Paul’s seemed to sincerely understand our position and are willing to to be respectful of that. They will not be campaigning from our office – they will be working on a technology project for the campaign – a subtle but important difference. There won’t be Rand Paul signs around Capital Factory or anything. If in practice it doesn’t work the way we’re hoping, then we will make a change.
Here’s what it comes down to – if an elected official wants to connect with the Austin startup community in a sincere way, we want to help facilitate that. I would be very happy if all of the potential presidential candidates had some of their tech teams at Capital Factory (I won’t hold my breath).
Why does Senator Paul want to have his tech team at Capital Factory in Austin? Senator Paul will be building tech teams in Austin and San Francisco, two of the top tech hubs in the country. When the Austin HQ opens in a few months, they will probably move to that office – but until then, what better place for the tech team to be than Austin’s center of gravity for entrepreneurs?
Is this the Rand Paul Austin HQ? No, this is just members of his tech team working at CF as coworkers. Rand Paul will be opening up a separate HQ soon.
Is this an endorsement of Rand Paul? No, CF does not endorse any candidates.
Can any political campaign work at CF? All presidential candidates are welcome to have some of their tech teams cowork at CF. Only the technical teams are eligible. This is not a place to campaign, it’s a place to work.
Do you expect lots of political campaigns to follow suit? No, I think this will remain an exception. Our focus is on tech startups.
Can I come visit Rand Paul at Capital Factory? No.