Is Silicon Valley the ‘Epicenter of Social Change?’

Last week, as CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff sparked a headline-grabbing debate over “religious freedom” laws in Indiana and Arkansas, our CEO Matt Mahan was asked by a reporter whether Silicon Valley, with all its wealth, prosperity and economic power, had become “the new Hollywood” for organizers of social causes.

He based his answer (that the balance of power is shifting and tech leaders are increasingly playing a bigger role in the political system) on the fact that Silicon Valley and the technology industry as a whole has captured the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. This digital revolution has been a long time coming and is starting to reshape people’s everyday lives, largely for the better.

Read Matt’s subsequent column in The Huffington Post here.

Staff Spotlight: Hao Su

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Hao Su:

Hao Su     Hao Su

Q: What excites you about working at Brigade?

A: I’m excited to empower people who want to make change in addition to showing people that there is change to be made. I would love to start a real life debate with a friend over an opinion or belief of theirs that I learned about through Brigade.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?

A: As an engineer, I collaborate with our product managers to help shape how we execute the company’s mission and vision. It’s empowering that our team feels real ownership of the product we’re building (and the code we’re writing) and it’s pushed me to produce better work.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I think either a firefighter or a garbage collector. Apparently I really liked the trucks.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?

A: Probably how to establish and then slowly push my limits: Knowing exactly how much work I can take on and complete it well versus taking on too much and finishing none. But it’s always fun to take on a little more than expected.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?

A: Back in college we had a student run, student designed, and student modeled fashion show called Lunar Gala. I actually designed and fabricated 20 pieces for this. I wouldn’t consider any of my “talents” as hidden.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I’ve played competitive ultimate frisbee for the past 10 years. I boulder, powerlift, and just started cycling. I’ve started learning to play the piano again. I see a lot live music, currently mostly techno and house shows with the occasional popular music festival.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

A: My backpack. It basically carries my life. That and new music. I’m always searching for new stuff to listen to.

Want to work with Hao and help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!

Video: Brigade at State of the Valley 2015

Last week, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan facilitated a conversation among startup executives at the annual State of the Valley conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The session, titled “New Realities Facing Silicon Valley Startups,” focused on some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for new entrants to old markets. Featured speakers included Scanadu Co-Founder Sam De Brouwer (health); Veronica Juarez, Director of Government Relations at Lyft (transportation); Loyal 3 Chief Legal Officer Jeff Modisett (finance); Minerva Project CEO Ben Nelson (education); and Jitendra Kavathekar, Managing Director, Accenture Open Innovation.
You can watch the video above.

Welcome Jenn, Chris & Jan Paul

Our Brigade family keeps growing and we’re excited to welcome three new people to the team! Say hello to Jenn, Chris and Jan Paul!

Jenn Julian: Creative Director

JennJulianJenn is excited to join Brigade’s design team. With a background in branding and print design, she is well-versed in crafting each phase of a product’s journey. Most recently, she worked as the lead designer at Matter, an app designed to anonymously promote empathy within communities. Previously, she worked with major companies in the Bay Area and in Europe to help tell their stories and articulate their vision from initial branding to nuanced product interaction and design. Jenn holds a BFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art and her work has been featured in several publications. She enjoys riding her bicycle, brewing tea and taking photographs.

Chris Bisignani: Software Engineer

ChrisBChris joins Brigade’s engineering team after working for several Bay Area startups in the finance, e-commerce and business intelligence sectors where he used Rails, Java and various Javascript frameworks (Backbone, Ember and now React!). Chris graduated from MIT in 2007 with a B.A. in math and computer science and has always been interested in the mathematical properties of programs as well as the practical aspects of programming and coding. He spent the year after college working in the research lab of a large security company in Japan where he created building information management (BIM) plugins and tools. In his spare time, Chris plays chess (speed and slow), reads non-fiction and fiction/graphic novels and does aerial acrobatics. He also writes non-fiction and loves live music. By his own admission, Chris has “way too many interests and never enough time.” On Twitter: @chris_bisignani

Jan Paul Posma: Software Engineer

21JP hails from The Netherlands and comes to Brigade from Versal where he helped build an education publishing platform. Before that, he worked at Factlink and the Wikimedia Foundation. JP studied computer science at the University of Groningen (his home city) and has an M.A. from Oxford, St. Hugh’s College. He participated in “Apps Voor Democratie,” the first national contest aimed at creating new applications with open data from the Dutch government and volunteered for several years at a youth center teaching children how to program their own electronics. In his spare time, JP is working to make coding easier by visualizing program execution — a project he started for his master’s thesis in conjunction with a coding course for children. He also plays the piano, solves Rubik’s cubes (official record: 57.20 seconds) and founded an open-source laser tag system. On Twitter: @JanPaul123

Want to work with Jenn, Chris, Jan Paul and the rest of the Brigade team to help put people back at the center of our democracy? We’re hiring!

 

Engineering Spotlight: The Great Migration

Servers

Last fall, a few members of our operations team made a routine visit to the data center in South San Francisco where servers powering Causes.com were housed. In the hallway, they ran into a network engineer who informed them that the facility was unable to renew its lease so all the tenants would have to vacate by the end of 2014.

This meant we had a very limited amount of time to move a site with more than 180 million registered accounts (and all the data that comes with it) to a new location at the same time we were building out the infrastructure for Brigade, which acquired Causes earlier that year. Panic was not a practical option, so our team came up with a plan and executed it flawlessly.

Within about three weeks, Causes was running entirely within Rackspace’s cloud-based platform, requiring less than two hours of accumulated downtime visible to users over the transition period. As an added bonus, the reduced machine footprint meant we could achieve substantial savings (on the order of 40 percent).

Want to know how we did it? Read the full Brigade Engineering Blog post by Shane da Silva here.

UC Davis Unveils Youth Vote Report at Brigade

In October, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan wrote in the Huffington Post about the problem with young Californians deciding not to vote, and the negative impact that could have on the future of the state. In his column, he highlighted the important work of the nonpartisan California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis. Yesterday, we welcomed CCEP at Brigade headquarters for the public release of a new report: “California’s New Political Realities: The Impact of the Youth Vote on Our Electoral Landscape.”

DSC_7136 IMG_0090

Some highlights of CCEP Director Mindy Romero’s research included:

  • Only 8.2% of eligible California youth turned out to vote in the November 2014 general election.
  • Youth were only 3.9% of all voters in this election.
  • A total of 36% of California youth registered No Party Preference (NPP) – nearly the same percentage as those who registered Democratic.
  • For the first time in a statewide election, the percentage of California youth who registered Republican fell below 20%.
  • Over the next 20 years, the youth share of the California vote is projected to steadily decrease.
  • Increasing low youth voter turnout is a key step to increasing future turnout for California, as a whole.

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As part of the event, Matt led a discussion among a panel of young people who discussed opportunities and barriers to civic engagement they’ve experienced in their own lives. Irvis Orozco, a recent UC Davis graduate, shared his stories working on immigration reform efforts at the state and national level; UC Davis student Jessica Jones talked about how she got involved in environmental and conservation efforts in Sonoma County; and Julian Andreotti, a senior at San Francisco’s John O’Connell High School, discussed what motivated him to volunteer for a recent state political campaign and how participating in his class’s Generation Citizen “action civics” project resulted in the creation of O’Connell’s first-ever Honor Roll program.

Read the full CCEP policy brief here
Learn more about CCEP here
Learn more about Generation Citizen here

Staff Spotlight: Henric Trotzig

We’re a team with a diverse set of skills, beliefs and passions, united in our mission to reenergize public participation in democracy. This post is part of a staff spotlight series where you’ll get to know more about our interests inside and outside of the office.

Meet Henric Trotzig:

Henric     Henric

Q: What excites you about working with Brigade?
A: I enjoy building tools, and I love it when people find those tools useful. As a contractor at Brigade, I’m helping to build impactful tools that can turn any person with access to the Internet into a powerful voice in society. These people can make real change happen.

Q: What’s your role at the company? What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I’m a contractor working with Brigade’s Web team. That team focuses on the user interface and making our website look and behave the best possible way. I’ve always liked the web, and I’ve been doing web programming since 1995. My favorite part of the job is building something for the long term. I’m happy when we start something new, but I take pride in constructing and maintaining a solid, sustainable foundation.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a professional soccer player. My dad was a soccer coach and I had a talent for sports. I never liked the bro mentality that comes with some sports, so after giving it all I had until I was about 20, I quit.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?
A: Moving to San Francisco from Sweden two years ago was not only a boost for my own professional development, it introduced me to all the kind, smart and helpful people that I now call colleagues and friends.

Q: Have any “hidden talents”?
A: I know a lot of songs by Will Smith and I’ve never lost a game of ping-pong in the office (I actually have, but I’m hoping my coworkers forget those few occasions).

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like cooking. Nothing fancy, I like to keep things simple. I’m still looking to create the perfect pizza. I’m close, but not quite there yet.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A: Apart from the obvious (family, oxygen, Coca Cola Zero), I would have to say tacos.

Want to help put people back at the center of our democracy?
We’re hiring!