Some of Silicon Valley’s most influential investors have teamed up to tackle gun control through a new project that invests in startups that reduce or eliminate firearm violence. Noted Facebook investor and SV Angel Partner, Ron Conway, is heading the group, which will promote novel ideas on issues, such as mental health, and fast-track investments in technology-oriented solutions. The first-of-its-kind civil innovation campaign paves the way for startup industry to tackle timely political issues.
Specifically, the Sandy Hook Promise campaign aims to reduce gun violence in two ways. First, an advisory technical and investor advisory subcommittee is soliciting a call for innovative solutions, will pair participants with development teams, and award a prize to the best ideas. Second, a group of investors will fast-track ventral capital to startups. “If the idea is innovative with a great founder it will get funded just like” any other profitable enterprise, writes conway.
The investment portion serves as a kind of private sector expansion of Obama’s executive order to fund innovations in smart gun technology.
“There is money to be made,” writes investor and Sandy Hook Promise advisor, Ian Sobieski, “Anti-gun violence companies are for sure a double bottom line investment, but looking just at the financial bottom line is justification enough for investment. Gun violence is expensive to society and there is a big potential market for solutions.”
For example, he writes, Shotspotter, an automatic gun-fire alert system for law enforcement is already in employed in cities around the country. Sobieski is also eyeing crime prediction startup, Predpol that overlays probably danger zones on Google Maps.
Conway launched the initiative at a press conference today with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, following up on a well-received gun violence reform campaign began immediately following the Sandy Hook school massacre last December.
It’s not uncommon for industry elites to take up a common cause, but support wanes as public attention moves on to other problems. Conway’s Sandy Hook Promise is notable for leveraging the resources of his industry to find for-profit solutions to a hot-button political issue.
The strategy has the potential to accelerate an entire cottage industry of gun violence-reducing firms, which will persist far longer than the public’s attention. Perhaps more importantly, it could become a model for how the technology industry engages with political issues. Natural disaster preparedness, water pollution, and drunk driving are all short-lived priority issues that lend themselves to technological solutions.
Here’s the full list of partnering investors: