YC for Politics

An accelerator for rising stars in politics

Idea: The best network in politics. Open to all.

  • Create a new front door for politics and government.
    • YC did this for VC.
      • This has massively increased the pool of potential startup founders.
    • We can create a YC-like path for less privileged people to become politicians.

Problem: There are only two current paths into US politics:

  1. Network and fundraise from the Democratic or Republican establishment.
    • This system tends to promote privileged, ambitious, well-spoken insiders.
  2. Make millions of dollars in another career, then self-finance your own races.
    • These politicians are usually more independent, but this path can take decades.

Solution: Create an accelerated path into politics for effective altruists.

  • Recruit elite EAs to quit their jobs and start careers in politics.
    • Convince them that politics is the most effective way to create long-term global change.
  • Prove that politics is a worthy career for ambitious optimists who want to change the world.
    • Create a new career path for elite effective altruists:
      • Example: Startup Founder
        • Old: Create another startup, become a VC.
        • New: Join YC for Politics, run for office, lead a political movement.
      • Example: Elite College Grad
        • Old: Get a job in finance, consulting, or big tech.
        • New: Join YC for Politics, become an organizer, run for office.

Solving The Politics Problem

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We’d all love to change the world”

— John Lennon, Revolution

It’s a running joke that every Silicon Valley startup says they’re going to revolutionize industries and make the world a better place.

  • But ask 100 startup founders if they’re interested in politics, and you’ll get 90+ negative responses.
    • The last founder I tried to recruit into politics responded with just one word — ”gross.”

Entrepreneurs see themselves as David to the government’s Goliath.

  • The truth is that many startup founders are like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
    • Example: Who is doing more to “disrupt healthcare”, a startup founder creating a new telemedicine company, or a politician rallying national support for universal healthcare?
  • We’re on the same team!
    • We all want abundance.
      • More products and services, better, faster, cheaper, for all.
    • We need more entrepreneurs willing to work with governments to get big things done.

You can’t fix systemic issues from the sidelines.

  • The startups that succeed do so through the existing system.
    • This is especially true in industries like defense, healthcare, education, and finance where governments are likely to be both the payor and provider of these services.
    • Even Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc. work within the system.
      • Governments are some of their largest customers.
      • They all rely on government-built infrastructure.
  • The most effective path to American Dynamism is our best people working together in both business and politics to enact universal solutions to our biggest problems.

Most of The World’s Biggest Problems can only be solved through politics.

  • We need collective solutions to universal problems.
    • Governance is universal across cultures. Every community in history has had leaders who organize citizens to pool resources and solve communal problems.
      • The question isn’t whether we need governments.
        • The key is choosing the right people to lead us.

If you’re going to spend 10+ years on a problem, why not do it through politics?

  • The median startup now takes 10+ years from founding to go public.
    • In both startups and politics, “most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”
      • Silicon Valley is built around Gates’ Law, with accelerators, angel investors, and venture capitalists supporting startups for 10+ years.
      • We need more political organizations focused on long-term systemic change.
    • Anyone can pass a bill, win a race, and support other politicians within a decade.
  • Example: Voters Not Politicians (VNP)
    • In November 2016, then 27-year-old Katie Fahey, an independent voter who had never before participated in politics, posted a message on Facebook ​​stating “I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan. If you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.”
      • The response to this post led to her creating VNP, which wrote a proposal for a ballot initiative in Michigan to create an independent redistricting committee.
        • On November 6, 2018, Proposal 2 passed with 61% of the vote.

Building The Best Accelerator for Politics

Focus: Be the first believer and backer for the next generation of political leaders.

  • There are billions of dollars spent every cycle on incumbents and established politicians.
    • Everyone wants to “invest” in politicians who are expected to win.
  • We will help people who don’t even know they want to be politicians yet.
    • YC for Politics will prove that great politicians can come from anywhere.

Key: Convince altruists and entrepreneurs that politics is the most effective path to global impact.

  • Whether you like it or not, politics is the biggest game in the world.
    • You can fight for billions for yourself or decide how we spend trillions for all.
  • You don’t have to be a politician for your whole life!
    • Example: The full life of a polymath like Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t have been complete without his contributions to politics.
      • Make politics one of the key pillars in your life to maximize your impact!

Key: Identify the best lane for each person. 

Example: Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit)

  • Shri (my dad) sold his lab in 2016 after 25+ years as a scientist and small business owner.
    • Instead of retiring, he decided to run for Governor in 2018.
    • After winning the City of Detroit but losing statewide in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he won a Detroit State House seat in 2020 (MI-HD-03).
  • He is now the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
    • This district was D+46 in 2020, so it’s a safe Democratic seat, but it’s competitive because the demographics of this district are very different from the average Democratic politician.
      • Most Democratic politicians are Type A (progressive elite) or Type B (moderate elite).
      • Michigan’s new 13th District is mostly Type C (Downriver) and Type D (Detroit).
    • Shri Thanedar won Downriver (C) and most of Detroit (D), while losing Downtown + Hamtramck (A) and Grosse Pointes + Highland Park (B).
      • This is a winning coalition in the 13th District (see map below):
A map of the 2022 Democratic Primary for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District (via @im_sorry_wtf).
Shri Thanedar is in gold, Adam Hollier is in green, and Portia Roberson is in pink.

Mission: Recruit 1,000+ new altruists into politics.

  • I want to help more people like my dad start a new career in politics.
    • We need more altruistic entrepreneurs and scientists in all levels of government.
    • My skills in political strategy, communications, marketing, finance, hiring, and candidate prep can help accelerate many more political careers.
  • This accelerator will create an intensive program structured to rapidly educate fellows on all aspects of politics and get ready for their first races.
    • We need to prove that altruists can win big races and pass effective laws!

Vision: Prove that politics can be a force for good.

  • Voting isn’t enough.
    • We have to start at the beginning:
      1. Recruit hundreds of altruists into politics.
      2. Train them to win elections and pass bills.
      3. Solve The World’s Biggest Problems through politics.
    • If you’re mad about candidate quality, focus on candidate recruitment.
      • We don’t get the candidates we deserve. We get the candidates we support.

Summary

YC for Politics will create a new path for elite individuals to start a career in politics.

  • YC proved that “young hackers can start viable companies.”
    • YC for Politics will prove that effective altruists can win elections.
  • We need to recruit more local leaders into politics.
    • Not everyone can be a great politician. But a great politician can come from anywhere.
  • “The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
    • We aim to be the first supporter for thousands of rising political stars.
      • Success will mean hundreds of new altruistic politicians, government officials, activists, organizers, intellectuals, influencers, and more, at all levels of politics.
        • It takes less than a thousand good politicians to change global politics for good.

Ready to get started?

  • I’m actively recruiting new politicians for ‘23 and ’24 elections now!
    • If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in politics, please DM or email me!
  • You don’t have to be a politician to be politically active!
    • I can help you find roles at any level of politics, government, or activism.

Notes

Objection: “I hate politics.”

  • If you don’t run for office, someone worse will.
    • “The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” ― Plato, The Republic
  • You don’t have to be a politician to make an impact in politics!
    • Help other candidates win, get ballot initiatives passed, start a local activism nonprofit.

Objection: “Governments waste so much money.”

  • We underestimate the value we get from our governments.
    • We get mad at the government when we hit a pothole but don’t thank them for building the highway in the first place.
    • We take so many government benefits for granted, from universal K-12 education to near-universal healthcare coverage to the security and freedom of living in America.
  • Governing is hard!
    • It’s easy to criticize. It’s hard to get in the arena and actually do something about it.
    • Don’t boo, Vote! And don’t just vote. Run!
      • Voting is the least you can do.

Objection: “Aren’t all politicians corrupt?

  • There is a money problem for politics, but it’s not too much, it’s too little.
    • We need to increase pay for politicians so we can recruit top talent into office.
  • We have a massive self-selection problem in politics.
    • Most of our elite talent is in the private sector chasing wealth or impact.
      • YC for Politics needs to recruit elite altruists into politics, government, and activism.

Objection: “I could never be a politician.”

  • I frequently tell my friends they should run for office. Their responses are telling:
    • “I’m not political.”
      • Everyone has specific issues they’d love to see changed in politics.
        • You don’t have to be a politician to solve these problems!
        • Activists can work through the political process to make changes too.
    • “I don’t have any money or connections.”
      • That’s our job!
      • We want elite individuals to come to us before they have any cash or network.
  • Politics has such a bad reputation that people are embarrassed to admit they like it.
    • YC for Politics needs to make it aspirational to be a politician again.
      • The key is spotlighting the great altruistic work being done in politics every day.

Objection: “I hate both parties. Can I run as an independent?”


YC for Politics is on my list of The World’s Biggest Problems.

  • This idea is a work in progress. DM me @neilthanedar if you’d like to riff on these ideas!

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is an entrepreneur, investor, scientist, altruist, and author. He is the founder & CEO of Utopic, his startup studio. He is also the founder & chairman of Air to All, a 501(c)3 nonprofit medical device startup, and Labdoor, a consumer watchdog with $7M+ in funding and 20M+ users. He previously co-founded Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has worked with community organizations since 2007 and political campaigns since 2016 to fight for better education and economic opportunities in Michigan.