Tuesdays with T4A

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When we were thinking about what our new organization would look like, back in January, Rick was one of the first people we sat down with, and we couldn’t be more grateful for his guidance back then as well as his continued engagement. In his interview, he shared his thoughts on the top five traits that make a successful entrepreneur: intelligence, integrity, resilience, entrepreneurism, and risk-taking. He brings all of those to the Table.

Rick Marini
Founder & CEO | BranchOut
Rick is the Founder and CEO of BranchOut, the largest professional network leveraging the Facebook social graph. BranchOut has over 800 million searchable professional profiles for job seekers, recruiters and sales professionals. Prior to founding BranchOut, Rick was the Founder & CEO of SuperFan, a profitable social entertainment site. Before that, he was the co-founder, CFO & Chief Strategist for Tickle.com, which was one of the largest social media sites with 200 million registered users. Rick is an active angel investor & advisor to 25 start-ups. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Where did you grow up?
Merrimack, NH.
What was your first job?
At age 14, I was a bagging groceries at the local supermarket.  I’m a bit OCD, so bagging became a game for me… like playing Tetris w/ different shaped groceries.
What is your first political memory?
The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. I remember coming home from school to watch cartoons and every station was covering the shooting. Even at 8 years old, I understood this event would have a major effect on the entire country..
What is your favorite book?
I love Star Wars so I’ll go with The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
You grew up on the East Coast (your team is in the Series this year!), but made the move out west. Is there something special about Silicon Valley that can't be replicated elsewhere? If yes, what is it? If no, what needs to be done to recreate the magic in, say, Boston?

I grew up an hour north of Boston and those are my roots. My dog is even named Fenway… but I have proudly called San Francisco my home since 2000. There is no place like Silicon Valley – the energy, the intelligence, the idea sharing, the risk taking, the access to capital and vision to change the world. It’s the place for me.

You've been a successful entrepreneur for many years. What are the top five most important traits a person needs to have to thrive here?
Intelligence, integrity, resilience, entrepreneurism, risk-taking.
Who is your role model and why?
Leonardo da Vinci was incredible. The dude was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. And good at ALL of them.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
Every citizen of the United States should have a voice… but some voices are louder than others. When you have the ability to shout louder (via status, power, wealth), you also have a higher level of responsibility to use that platform for good – for today and for the future. It’s also our right, privilege and responsibility as citizens to make informed decisions about who we send… and keep in elected roles.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?

My politics average out near the center (fiscally conservative and socially liberal). I’m a big believer in individual responsibility (NH’s motto is “Live free or die”) but we also need strong leaders representing the collective needs of the community and country. I think government can effectively operate in the middle – provide ample freedoms (economic and social) while having a strong infrastructure. The extreme political positions are where I feel we become unproductive as a country. After all, we are all in this together.

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Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I feel that the extreme fringes are hurting both parties but probably more so on the Republican side right now. A lot of people I talk to are closer to the middle. They don’t see everything as left vs right. The United States was formed based on the rights of freedom and individuality. Given that, we should be able to identify with ideas on both the Democrat side and Republican sides. There are smart, passionate and thoughtful people on both sides. There are good ideas on both sides. I don’t expect that a newly minted 3rd party will emerge but I do expect that the next generation will appreciate candidates that don’t have to identify with the full agenda of either side. I don’t vote based on political party – I vote for the candidate that best represents my way of thinking. I expect the younger generation will do the same. At least, I hope so.
What is your favorite journey?
In 2007, I took the entire year off and traveled the world. I visited 6 of 7 continents and had a blast. Some of my favorite destinations included Rio, Sydney, Cape Town, Munich, Paris, London, Bali, Koh Samui and the Amalfi Coast.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
A day in the life of President Obama would be amazing on several levels.
What is your proudest moment?
The day that we sold my first company, Tickle.com, to Monster, I called my Dad and told him that I’d like to buy him a new house. The next day, he walked into his job of 20+ years, gave notice and started packing. He picked out his dream house in Florida and retired early. After everything he did for me, he deserved it!
Meet me here: 
Allyson Willoughby
General Counsel and SVP of People | Glassdoor
Allyson serves as General Counsel and SVP of People at Glassdoor, an online jobs and career community. Previously, Allyson started at RockYou in 2010 as the company’s first General Counsel. Prior to joining RockYou, Allyson was the “Chief Justice” (aka General Counsel) of Method Products, a multi-national company that is a leading manufacturer of environmentally friendly, design-oriented household products. Before that, Allyson was an early member of eBay’s Legal Team. In her eight years at eBay, the company grew from $400 million revenue and 500 employees to $8 billion revenue and 16,000 employees. In her last year with the company, Allyson was the Director of Legal Affairs for eBay subsidiary StubHub, the leading online ticket marketplace. Prior to going in-house, Allyson was a litigator specializing in securities and commercial litigation.

Where did you grow up?
I am a Tahoe native – born and raised in Incline Village, Nevada.
What was your first job?
My first job was working as a busgirl at the local café when I was 13 (at a whopping $2.90/hour min wage!)
What is your first political memory?
Voting in my first presidential election for Ronald Reagan (believe it or not).
What is your favorite book?
I don’t really have a favorite – I enjoy lots of different types of books. Recent reads:  And the Mountains EchoedQuietWatership DownUnbrokenLean InThe Great Gastby.
You have an interesting title at Glassdoor, 'SVP of People.' It sounds like something I would like! What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’m really passionate about culture and how you build a great one.  My background is in legal (I’m the GC here too) but I was lucky to experience a really amazing culture at a prior company and to have the opportunity at Glassdoor to try my hand at building something great.

You worked at eBay from 2000 to 2008, during which time it grew from $400 million in revenue and 500 employees to $8 billion in revenue and 16,000 employees. What was it like to work at a company during such rapid growth?
It was an amazing rocket ship ride! The company was moving fast and disrupting a lot of traditional businesses and the legal issues were extremely cutting edge – the Internet fast outpaced the brick and mortar law and we faced many legal issues that could have broken the company’s business model if they had gone the wrong way. We had many crazy experiences – an anthrax scare after 9/11, suicidal users on the campus (really), an exec being arrested in India for something listed on the site, a bombing on campus – definitely not your typical workplace! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Who are your role models and why?
My father. He was born at home in a small North Carolina tobacco town and grew up in the Great Depression, leaving 11th grade to join the Navy in WWII. He was a pilot during the war, then a commercial airline pilot and then (after mandatory FAA retirement) a successful real estate broker. He was smart, charming, ethical and courageous – a true example of The Greatest Generation.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
Increasingly I view my responsibility as a citizen as one of participation – whether it is voting, volunteering, being an activist or running for office. As time goes by I see myself moving up that spectrum and increasing my political activity to try to make a difference for the things I believe in.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?

The debt ceiling issue is a prime example of this – a huge disconnect between the politics in Washington and the every day person. I wish I had an answer to how you fix that disconnect – voting in and of itself doesn’t seem effective. I’d like to think that the conversations we have at T4A.org are steps in the right direction.

Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I hope so, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. Most people seem very entrenched in their parties, to an extreme point – on both the right and the left.
Do you think the shutdown and impending default of the United States Federal Government will serve as a wakeup call to Congress that they need to figure out a way to work together?
Again, I wish – but I doubt it.  
What is your favorite journey?
Going home to Tahoe in the summer.
Sam ('10) is so glad we are finally interviewing a fellow Stanford alum. What do you miss most about life on the Farm?
Everything?!  In all seriousness, I miss the intellectual curiosity that permeates everything at Stanford. Plus fro yo & the old coffee house (sorry Sam – before your time!) 
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
Bill Clinton – I’d like to know what it is like to be in his brain for a day.
What is your proudest moment?
Graduating from college – the first person on either side of my family.
Meet me here: 
Ali Partovi
Angel investor, Advisor | Dropbox, & Co-Founder | Code.org
Ali is an angel investor, entrepreneur and co-founder of Code.org, a non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education. Ali founded code.org with his brother, Hadi, who lives in Seattle. Ali has been an advisor and angel investor to a number of companies including Zappos, Facebook, Dropbox and MySpace. Previously, Ali co-founded and served as CEO of iLike, Inc and served as a CEO of GarageBand.com. Ali lives in Oakland, California.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up in Iran until moving to the US in 1984 to avoid the draft (this was during the Iran-Iraq war). I arrived in Tarrytown, NY in 7th grade and that’s where I stayed through high school.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a computer programmer in the M.I.T. Spectroscopy Lab (ie Laser Lab), where my dad worked at the time. Together with Hadi, I spent a summer building a database and report-generating system to help the lab manage their grant applications.
What is your first political memory?
My first political memories stem from Iran: I was seven years old when the Shah was deposed by Ayotollah Khomeini in 1979.  I remember once my parents took me to see the actual demonstrations: we joined an enormous crowd on a rooftop, chanting rebellious chants like “God is great” and “There is no God but Allah” along with hundreds of thousands of other Iranians who were chanting on rooftops or marching in the streets.
What is your favorite book?

The best book I’ve read in the past ten years is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It motivated me to commit investing significant time and money towards the goal of a more sustainable food & agriculture system in the US.

Your organization, Code.org, is working to make sure that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Seems like a no-brainer—why isn't it already the case?

The US education system has not kept pace with the emergence and rapid ascendance of computer science. The vast majority of states don’t recognize computer science as a science. In some cases, this is due to conservative and/or misinformed bureaucrats who mistakenly confuse computer science for “vocational training” and therefore relegate it to the same status as “wood-working” or other such classes.

When it doesn’t count towards graduation credit as a math or science, Computer Science is treated as an elective, which dissuades students from studying it, and makes it the victim of budget cuts along with other electives like art and music. Low-income and minority schools are the ones with the tightest budgets, and therefore the least likely to invest in offering Computer Science.

You work with your twin brother Hadi on a lot of projects. What are the biggest benefits (and challenges) of working with your brother?
The biggest benefit is that Hadi is a lot smarter and harder-working than myself, which lets me get credit for a lot more than anything I could do myself.  Also, being identical twins makes it easier to get PR and attention for just about anything we do together.  We do have brotherly fights, often over the least important things, so we try to avoid working too closely on the same thing at any given time.
Who are your role models and why?
Bono, the lead singer of U2, because he has the courage to blend his causes with his livelihood.  Most people have to divide their attention between making money, their charitable causes, and their political causes.  For Bono, they reinforce each other: he uses his music and concerts to promote his causes; and his passion for his causes is a big part of what draws fans to U2.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
I think voting is the minimum responsibility of a citizen, and that one’s responsibility grows along with one’s means.  As I’ve earned money, learned skills, and developed a personal network, I feel that much more responsible to use all my resources to improve our government
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?

I think our elected officials are too paralyzed by fear. It’s rare for any of them to step forward and be “real.” Instead of real leadership, which would entail addressing challenging issues and espousing difficult decisions (and facing threats from well-funded lobbies), too many politicians take the “safe” way out: they join the soap opera and dissolve into the pack of the party.

In reality, any politician who shows courage, takes risks, and does the right thing is usually rewarded by voters. One ray of hope is that internet-based tools, from petitions to twitter, can start giving politicians data to back this up, and hopefully as these tools improve our elected officials will gain more courage.

Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
In my opinion, the two-party system is becoming less relevant, even as young adults are becoming more engaged. I see three reasons: 1) People are passionate about issues, not parties. For most of us, neither party is a perfect match to their views. It feels like a “lesser of evils” choice. 2) The two parties aren’t different enough. Neither party is willing to touch the military-industrial complex, or to take on powerful interests like the banking or food industries, and so on.  3) Party politics feels increasingly “old” and tethered down to geographic identity and old money. Party affiliation was once a source of identity; yet thanks to the internet, we can establish much richer connections and identify with more meaningful communities. I feel less common interests with the average Democrat or Republican in California, than, say, a fellow tech entrepreneur in New York or Austin.
Do you think the shutdown and impending default of the United States Federal Government will serve as a wakeup call to Congress that they need to figure out a way to work together?
Unfortunately, no.  I think action by the voters is what would do that; and it needs to start with a new batch of primary challengers (on both sides of the aisle).
What is your favorite journey?
One of my most memorable trips was a visit to India with a handful of friends just after college. Living on just a few dollars per day, we stayed in abysmal quarters and travelled the country by bus. It was an amazing experience.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
Myself.
What is your proudest moment?
When my first company was acquired, I remember just after the deal closed, walking into the office and looking around, realizing that dozens of my close friends and employees had just become millionaires, thanks to our efforts and thanks to how generously we had given stock options.
Meet me here: 
David Beitel
CTO | Zillow
David is the Chief Technology Officer at Zillow. In this role, he manages the Technical Engineering team and is responsible for all website, mobile and internal product development, corporate IT, and datacenter operations. Previously, David was one of the initial members of the Expedia team, and held many leadership roles in product development during his 10-year tenure there. David began his career as a software design engineer in 1992, and before his Expedia years, David worked at Microsoft in the handheld computing group. David is a recognized leader in the tech industry and was named as Puget Sound Business Journal’s Most Innovative CTO in 2012. David lives in Seattle with his wife and kids.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Conroe, TX, a small town north of Houston.
What was your first job?
When I was 13, I started working on a neighbor’s ranch in west Texas for $25 a day, room and board. I would have done it for free. I learned how to work cattle, ride a horse, repair fences, drive a truck, and that it was a good idea to go to college.
What is your first political memory?
I was a member of the Young Republicans in my high school. While my views on politics have changed, I am glad to have been shown that early involvement in politics is valuable and empowering.
What is your favorite book?
I’m a big John Irving fan. One summer I read eight of his books, and I have enjoyed the characters he has introduced over the years.
You studied computer science for both your undergraduate degree and master's. What drew you in?
My high school was one of the few at the time that had computer classes, and I was fascinated by how I could build something useful in minutes. I entered Cornell in the Electrical Engineering program, but switched to Computer Science after becoming enamored with the power of software development and a few episodes in the EE lab where I was shocked (literally! –Sam) and blew the circuit breaker. Software seemed safer! Pursuing a Masters allowed me to take more upper level classes in AI, Graphics, OS and other areas of research.
What was it like working at a company as large as Expedia from the very beginning, when it was a small part of Microsoft?
When I joined Microsoft in the early 90’s, the environment was an easy extension of college and was a fun and engaging place to work with really smart and motivated people. I was the second developer on a team working on a Travel CD-ROM product that eventually became Expedia.com. Working on this initial team was incredibly satisfying as we transformed an industry and built a service so many would use. We could have never imagined the future growth and success.
Who are your role models and why?
There are several, but one I would like to mention is my grandfather, Jack Eisenberg. Growing up, he showed me how to treat others with respect and the importance of relationships and friendships. He knew I was interested in technology and pursuing a career at Microsoft, but he always encouraged me to focus on the power of working with people.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
As a citizen, it is my responsibility to become educated on the issues, elect representatives whom I believe will move the local, state or federal government forward to address these issues and opportunities, and to engage myself. It is too easy to sit back and complain about how partisan politics is crippling our governments, but I am motivated to get involved, learn, educate and support those that are working to do the same.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
The simple answer is that we should hold our elected officials accountable and elect those that are willing to stand up for what they believe, but can work to find compromises that help move our country forward.
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I don’t think political parties are becoming less relevant. Young adults are more interested than ever to get involved and challenge our leaders to address the issues facing our country and local communities. A few minutes on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook will show how much young people care about the issues.
What is your favorite journey?
Our family took a trip to the Galapagos Islands last spring.  It’s an incredible place with unforgettable scenery and unique wildlife.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
I’m fascinated by space and space travel. I’d love to be a member of the international space station for a day. Maybe this will be possible some day given the private enterprises that are exploring travel to the sub-orbital space and maybe one day beyond.
What is your proudest moment?
There are many product and business successes I am proud of from my years at Microsoft, Expedia and Zillow, but those pale in comparison to the ones related to my family.
We both went to universities with a color as its mascot. What's that about?
Not sure really. Luckily, Cornell decided a ferocious animal like the bear would be a worthy symbol, based on a bear named Touchdown, who appeared at a Cornell Football game in 1915.
Meet me here: 
Charley Moore
Founder and Chairman | Rocket Lawyer
Charley  is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Rocket Lawyer, a long-time entrepreneur, and a legal commentator. Charley has been at the forefront of Internet corporate development since beginning his career as an attorney at Venture Law Group in Menlo Park, California in 1996. While practicing at Venture Law Group, he participated in the early-stage representation of Yahoo! (IPO), WebTV Networks (acquired by Microsoft) and Cerent Corporation (acquired by Cisco Systems) and was the founder of Onstation Corporation (acquired by The Cobalt Group). He served as a U.S. Naval officer and is a Gulf War veteran. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Northern California Public Broadcasting Corporation (KQED) and the UC Berkeley School of Law, among other organizations. Charley resides in San Francisco with his wife Monique and their three children.

Where did you grow up?
St. Louis
What was your first job?
My dad owned gas stations and I started working at one of them as a young kid.
What is your first political memory?
Nixon vs McGovern. I was a little boy way back then. But, Tom Eagleton was our Senator and McGovern’s first VP choice, before being dropped from the ticket when it was learned that he had undergone psychiatric treatment. What an election that was in 1972 and even a 6 year old little boy couldn’t miss hearing about it. Rick Perlstein’s book “Nixonland” really captures the time. As a postscript, Senator Eagleton was a partner in a law firm where I interned one summer in the mid 1990s. He took all of the law students out to lunch and gave us a grand tour of St. Louis as only a politician for 40+ years could do. He was in fine spirits that day in August, many years after the 1972 election and its aftermath. If he could stay positive and keep moving forward, we all can and should.
What is your favorite book?
A Farewell to Arms.
What led you to join the Navy, and what was the most important thing you learned while serving as an officer in the Armed Forces?
My father served in the Air Force as a young man. There is a picture of him then that we always loved and military service seemed like a normal and good thing to do. I was also inspired by Jimmy Carter, an Annapolis graduate, who was President at the time that I became really interested in becoming a Navy officer some day. I learned about true friendship at Annapolis and serving overseas. I am eternally thankful for the buddies that served in those places with me.
Who are your role models and why?
I have been blessed with some great mentors. My high school trigonometry teacher was incredibly selfless and dedicated. Without her extra tutoring, my academic life might have turned out differently. Teachers like her are amazing role models. My mom was a teacher, too. Craig Johnson, the founder of Venture Law Group, where I started working in Silicon Valley, had a huge impact on my thinking about what is possible in this magical place.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
I’m reading The Passage of Power, about Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro, right now. When you understand what it took for voting rights to become truly universal in the United States, it’s impossible not to feel some responsibility to participate in our democracy. Johnson said, “…we can’t legislate human dignity—we can legislate to give a [person] a vote and a voice in his own government. Then with his vote and his voice, he is equipped with a very potent weapon to guarantee his own dignity.” We owe it to those who guaranteed our rights with so much sacrifice, and to our children, to exercise them and participate.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
Honestly, I don’t know. It is a tough question. We all have to work together to figure it out, though, or else…
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
That’s a great question. Yes, we live in a much more transitory world now. People, including, of course, politicians, build their personal brands and carry those brands with them from place to place. Much has been written already about our increasingly freelance and entrepreneurial economy. The same is true in politics and I do see a diminishing role for parties, especially at the national level, where brand seems to trump party affiliation.
What is your favorite journey?
Summer vacations with my family.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
Henry Aaron.
What is your proudest moment?
I hope it hasn’t happened yet!
Meet me here
Ashley Gould
SVP, Governmental Affairs and CLO | Hyperion Therapeutics
Ashley is Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Hyperion Therapeutics, a biotech company developing therapies to address “orphan or underserved patient populations.” Before assuming her role at Hyperion, she served as the Vice President of Corporate Development and the Chief Legal Officer at 23andMe. Prior to joining 23andMe in April 2007, Ashley was Vice President of Legal Affairs at CoTherix, Inc. Previously, she was an associate with the law firms of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and O’Melveny & Myers LLP. Ashley attended UC Berkeley (boo! –Sam) and the University of San Francisco School of Law. She is a native of San Francisco!

Where did you grow up?
I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin and San Francisco (grade school in Marin, high school in SF). Very proud to be a third generation San Franciscan!
What was your first job?
Working in retail at the Village in Corte Madera at Laura Ashley (you’ll probably have to Google that to know what it was – think Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, or do you have to Google that too??)
What is your first political memory?
Discussing that my Mother was a Democrat and my Stepfather was a Republican (still the case) and understanding that individuals can respectfully share divergent views, educate each other and share a roof.
What is your favorite book?
The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky.
What drew you to biopharma and genetics?
My father, Harvey Gould, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called myelofibrosis in 2000 and was given 3-5 years to live. His diagnosis, how little was (is) known about his disease state and how to treat it led me from big law firm life to biopharma where I had a desire to help be part of healthcare and looking for better solutions for patients. I never thought I would be able to initiate research in the area of my father’s disease, but was able to do that at 23andMe. You can read my blog from 2011 announcing the initiation of that research (it still continues and I am amazed and thrilled that my Father is still with us and doing moderately well).

http://blog.23andme.com/23andme-research/my-father-myelofibrosis-and-me/

As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
First and foremost, I view my responsibility as being a productive person and adding to the common good (and tax base). After that baseline, I have a responsibility to support change I believe is important, through voting, and, increasingly, through other means, like T4A.org. I’d love (and hope) to have more time to try to make a difference on important topics like education in this country.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
I believe the primary culprit is the money in politics, which skews incentives and encourages short term decision making to mollify voters as they enter the next election cycle. 
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I think it is too early to say if political parties are less relevant for young adults. The power of what you grow up around should not be discounted and while I believe the younger generation is now and will in the future continue to drive major social issues like gay marriage I think unless a new paradigm emerges for political voice the major parties will continue to play a primary role in politics for the foreseeable future. I’d love to be wrong.
Meet me here: 
Rusty Rueff
Co-Founder
Rusty and Jim also founded Tech4Obama, which was a huge fundraising and organizing success for the President’s reelection campaign. Rusty is a prolific startup advisor and investor, and serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards (including ours!). He was CEO of SNOCAP through the sale of the company to imeem, Inc. in 2008. He also served as EVP, HR at Electronic Arts (EA); during his tenure, EA was named one of the “100 Top Places to Work For” by Fortune magazine. Rusty and his wife Patti are dedicated patrons of the arts; Rusty is President of the GRAMMY Foundation, and the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue University is named for them.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in eastern Kentucky (think the TV show Justified) and grew up in Southern Indiana, in Jeffersonville (think John Cougar Mellencamp country or Kentucky Derby territory).
What was your first job?
Bussing tables at an all you could eat buffet place called King’s Table. No plate to be cleaned and bussed was ever empty at that place. That was hard work.
What is your first political memory?
The assassination of Robert Kennedy.
What is your favorite book?
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling.
Who are your role models, and why?
I have always tried and merge together the best of people and then see if I can stand up to that test and there have been different people at different times in my life who I have tried to model their best characteristics. That list spans from Jesus Christ to John Adams to Mark Kelly (the astronaut and devoted husband of Gabby Giffords).
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
I love my country and I believe that effective government plays an important role in our ability to keep this experiment of democracy alive. I believe that we each have the responsibility to bring our talents to bear to make our communities better. We each should be giving of our time, talents and treasures to help those who are working to improve our society.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
Way back when I wrote a blog, “Can democracy survive Facebook?” I still wonder about the answer. Total transparency is a great thing, but it has sucked the courage out of our politicians. Today they won’t socialize, build relationships or work on projects with someone across the aisle for fear that the picture and the soundbite will be taken out of context and they won’t get reelected. Couple this with out of control campaign financing needs and abilities, SuperPACs and constant campaigning expectations, and we get elected representatives who care more about keeping their seats than doing the right thing and knowing and working together with their colleagues. When self-survival becomes the priority, how do we ever expect someone to be in touch with the issues that matter to others?
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
The party structures are the problem today and I believe that youth understand that more than ever. We are in an age that an individual can make a big difference, without the support or having to be affirmed by a “party” or structured body. Social media has allowed for influential voices to have emerge without constraint. Political parties create constraints on who can do what and get support, or not. This is antithetical to the way the world is moving and this is making the political parties less relevant. I would also add that never more in history than now have we been able to suss out the “party line” in communication. This canned rhetoric turns younger people off and feels like “establishment” trying to manage them. 
You’re a Purdue Grad. What exactly is a Boilermaker?!
Lore has it that the “Boilermaker” comes from the time when Purdue played Wabash College in football and the team came in on train (it’s about 35 miles away) and many of the players shoveled coal into the steam engine while en route. Off of the train came a group of guys, covered in soot and sweat, only to be greeted by Wabash fans who said, “They aren’t a football team, they are just a bunch of boilermakers.”

It’s a proud mascot though as Purdue has built and international reputation for turning out graduates and research that lives at the intersection of STEM, creativity, innovation and the humanities.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?!
For one day, knowing that I didn’t have to be that person the next day? President of the United States.

  • But if I could break it down for the day:
  • Meb Keflezighi for my morning run
  • Billy Graham for my quiet and devotional time
  • Michael Chabon for my daily writing time
  • John Doerr for my investing and Board work
  • Ryan Seacrest to choose what entertainment event I wanted to attend that night
Meet me here: