With Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as founders, you’d think FWD.us would focus on building tech tools to push for immigration reform. Yet it’s mostly used money to buy campaign ads for supportive Congress members and run grassroots campaigns. But now it’s hired Darius Contractor as CTO; he’ll be working with volunteer engineers and running hackathons to code the way to policy change.
A Stanford computer science graduate and son of an Indian immigrant, Contractor was the VP of Engineering for Bebo from 2006 to 2009, where he helped grow daily page views from 100 million to 350 million before it sold to AOL for $850 million. Now he’ll be working for FWD.us, a bi-partisan lobbying group funded by Silicon Valley moguls that aims to create a path to citizenship for immigrants and expand the H-1B Visa program.
FWD.us President Joe Green tells me he hired Contractor because he “combines technical background with experience organizing projects, and is someone who is well-connected and thought of in the tech community, and who was passionate about the issues.”
The CTO’s first project was recruiting an army of mentors to help teams of young immigrant “DREAMers” at a FWD.us hackathon this weekend at LinkedIn’s headquarters. These mentors (some who I know personally) include Dropbox head of design Soleio Cuervo, Generator Lab co-founder Jay Zalowitz, open source guru Conrad Irwin, Quora growth product manager Rob Matei, IronPearl founder and current PayPal growth head Stan Chudnovsky, LivingSocial co-founder Aaron Batalion, and a slew of former and current Facebook product people including Arjun Banker, Itamar Rosen, Roddy Lindsay, and Bobby Goodlatte.
The DREAMer hackathon will be hosted by Zuckerberg on November 20 and 21 and see over 20 young immigrants working with the mentors to build tools that teach people about the need for reform, and pressure Congress to make it happen. These could include a way to find friends in states with Congress members who are on the fence about immigration reform, and encourage them to call, write or digitally contact them showing support for the movement. I think a guide to navigating the citizenship process could be a big help for immigrant families.
Contractor tells me he also plans to run “hack days” in the evenings from FWD.us’ San Francisco headquarters, so any talented Silicon Valley engineers, designers, or product people can come lend a hand.
The CTO’s efforts could help repair FWD.us’ battered image if he can produce tools that really help immigrants and make a difference in getting reform passed by the House Of Representatives.