Fwd.us, the advocacy group initially backed by tech luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, is adding a new paid membership model. The move is a bid to attract broader support from regular tech industry workers and people living in cities like New York and San Francisco who care about immigration reform and political issues affecting knowledge workers.
At $35 a year, members will get invited to speaker events with Silicon Valley business leaders and other policy experts. The first set of talks includes one on “The Future of the Middle class and the American Dream in the 21st Century,” with venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and MIT academic Andrew McAfee. McAfee recently published “The Second Machine Age,” on how emergent technologies like self-driving cars could change the U.S. economy.
Fwd.us president Joe Green said the new program wasn’t about raising money.
“In my last company, we sold SAAS software. It’s valuable to have the customer to pay you directly. Then in the Obama campaign, while they had extremely wealthy donors, they also used the phrase — owning a piece of the campaign. Lots of people donated $25 or $50,” Green said. “I think there’s real value in having folks who have a real stake and buy-in behind the organization.”
Last year, Fwd.us made some stumbles when it bankrolled conservative TV ads supporting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. That prompted certain high-profile members like Elon Musk to withdraw their support.
Green said that organization has been running hackathons and has kept its entire legislative focus on immigration reform.
“We started this organization to be one that is very pragmatic politically. You need to work on both lines of the aisle. We knew that when you try and get something done in politics, not everyone agrees. Not everyone agrees with the tactics we pursued,” Green said. “But we launched quickly and had ads up by April. Since then, we’ve focused on communication and listening. Now we’re building a network out in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Chicago, Austin and in tech hubs around the country.”