Sean Parker is getting into politics. Parker, who co-founded file-sharing service Napster and has worked at Facebook and Spotify — and was immortalized by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network — plans to create and fund a civic start-up called Brigade. The billionaire announced his move to politics after news outlets reported that he had raised $9.3 million for Brigade, which has not yet been launched. Parker will also be the CEO and Chairman of Brigade.
While the start-up's exact mission statement and methods are unclear, Politico reports that it aims to tackle the problem of American citizens' disappointing rates of political engagement.
Parker's shift from Silicon Valley to politics isn't too surprising, given that Google has recently spent $61 million lobbying in D.C. Parker had also previously invested in the start-up Votizen, which was a social political app with the purpose of garnering support for political candidates.
Other well-known Silicon Valley names, such as Ron Conway of Foursquare and PayPal, and Marc Benioff of SalesForce.com, contributed undisclosed amounts of money to Brigade as well. And Adam Conner, who was Facebook's first lobbyist in D.C., will be Brigade's VP of Politics, while LinkedIn's former SVP David Henke will also be on the board (incidentally, Henke's LinkedIn profile title currently reads as "retired"). Technology is likely intersecting with politics in a whole new way... though we still haven't seen how.
Politico did manage to find an anonymous source that provided a clearer idea of what Brigade would be doing: The start-up would target voter apathy and and other "underlying societal problems" that affected citizens' ability or just motivation to participate in government and voting.
"When you get beyond the federal level and certain statewide offices, most voters don’t know who’s making decisions on their behalf,” the source told Politico, adding that the start-up also won't be a matter of Democrats vs. Republicans, but simply just improved voter engagement.
However it decides to tackle the voter apathy problem, Brigade will certainly have a difficult job ahead, especially if its deadline is the November midterm elections. A 2012 Gallup poll shows that voter engagement in presidential elections has dropped over the past eight years, while voter participation in midterm elections are even more dismal — particularly among youth, who of which only nine percent participated in 2010's midterm elections.