How iLobby Started - Origin Story


You know, one of the questions I get asked a lot, and this came up last year when I was doing a bunch of podcasts and radio interviews is where did this idea come from? And I guess it goes back to actually the mid 90s. So I was working at MCA, which was the parent to Universal Studios and I was working in government affairs and in the course of doing that we were working with lobbyists, the Motion Picture Association, Senators, congressmen, heads of state, the executives at the company and really all of the entertainment companies. And what's interesting is during that period of time we were able to get legislation moving forward or at least has significant input as a studio, to make that happen. And certainly that was championed by the chairman at the time, Lew Wasserman, who had ties going back to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and then stayed pretty close to every administration since then, including, Ford and Reagan and Clinton, etc.

And so we were involved in the first, fundraising efforts in Hollywood for President Clinton at the time back in 92, 93, that timeframe. And I guess what I found was corporations like that were really working closely with Washington. So you've heard these stories before where it's like Hollywood and Washington working closely together. But that came about because there were so many years where that occurred. And I think it happens in a lot of other industries as well. So fast forward a few years and I ended up being early on as vp of business development and marketing at Ebay when there were just seven of us in a room. And as we started that company and obviously that grew and really took off and it was fantastic. And then I was at another company, Financial Engines. And then after that, I started looking at other companies and people I knew and what I found was there was a movement toward folks being more involved in politics.

And while they had strength on the tech side or the financial side or the entertainment side. And I had that mix really of all three of entertainment, politics and tech, which was an interesting combination, but what I found was that folks started trying to influence policy by contributing to politicians or running for office. And in the course of doing that, they realized that they couldn't make a huge difference. I mean, it takes time. Dealing with the government is a very slow process. Anyway, what I realized was it didn't matter how advanced they were, how wealthy they were, how connected they were. They were not able to get stuff done. And what I found was that was not the case when I was working in the entertainment industry at MCA. We actually got stuff done and we got stuff done because it was very clear about how we were proceeding and we were proceeding along the lines of knowing that you had to build coalitions of people who agreed on specific issues.

You had to be very clear about what it is you wanted to get done. And you had to maintain relationships with the administration and with Congress or the even the state lawmakers. So during that time we met with everybody, we met with the senators from many different states, Senator Feinstein from California, Orrin Hatch from Utah, and the list goes on and on and we would have meetings with them and make sure that their staff understood what was important to the entertainment industry in terms of trade or whatever we wanted to get done. And again, the contrast was on the tech side in silicon valley we were still moving toward the stage where you thought, hey, we can just tell the government what to do and they'll do it. And that's really not the case. And so it struck me and I asked the question and the question really was, "Can average people change policy?"

In other words, the top one percent were doing it all the time. That was my thesis and it really is fairly true and they didn't win all the time, but at least they were working with the law makers in a way that they understood. The question was, can average people do it or can small business do it? And I wanted to believe that yes they could, but they would need to have the tools, training, the network, the relationships, and the funding to make it work. Basically, you have to have the resources and the will and the knowledge of what you want to get done. And so when I see folks not doing that, I realize that they're just wasting their time. And so the key I think is to build those coalitions and pull those folks together regardless of what industry they're in and give them the opportunity to work with trained government affairs professionals and or with lobbyists to be able to make the change that they want to make.

I mean, that's the way the system currently works. This doesn't break anything in the system and it works within the current structure and it's how the politicians understand that things get done. So that's kind of a long winded way of saying that the iLobby platform is dedicated toward empowering voters to be able to make change on a significant level and to build ad hoc coalitions and to actually move forward and get something done. And I'm, I'm telling this in a longer way, but when I did it in the radio interviews, it was much shorter. You would have a minute and a half to explain the whole thing and I would just kind of breezed through it, but I wanted to share that with you because I think it's important to understand that's kind of the origin of iLobby and why I think that people have the ability to be able to move forward, to get things done.

So this is John Thibault with iLobby. Hope you join us. Sign up for free training. Love to hear any comments you have. Feel free to write below, that'd be great. Thanks.

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