Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

The political odyssey of the technology industry’s best and brightest began quietly back in 1992, when a group of high-profile computer executives publicly backed Bill Clinton for president. Four years later, many of these same folks supported Clinton again. Their endorsements proved crucial in both elections.

In the process of trucking with Democrats, the normally libertarian cyber set discovered the nation’s capital-and old-fashioned politics. These days, Washington, D.C., is practically a second home to Bill Gates. Gates isn’t alone in making the pilgrimage East. With less fanfare, Doerr and his pals are climbing all over the city too. And part of their agenda is to rail against Microsoft and the huge power Gates wields over the new economic sector that has developed as a result of the connections among four big industries: computers, software, television and publishing.

Doerr likes to think he has Gates on the run. And now that Vice President Al Gore is diligently wooing the digital rat pack, this may be true. Gore, inheritor of Clinton’s high-tech connections, is creating a kitchen cabinet of advisers from computer and software industries. This year, Doerr emerged as the group’s leader.
Re-engineering the nation’s schools might seem a doable task if you think you can tame America’s richest man. Yet while Doerr is sincere in wanting to make the classroom a breeding ground for high-output knowledge, he’s a rookie when it comes to politics. And his inexperience shows. This spring Doerr took on a seemingly light political chore: He ran a vigorous drive to raise school taxes in the wealthy northern California hamlet where he lives. Despite putting his personal prestige on the line, his neighbors voted down the measure.

It was a stinging defeat and carried a lesson for any high-tech titan considering a role in politics. Doerr’s own neighbors were unwilling, it seems, to put his ideas about education into practice, even in a wealthy district where Doerr’s enthusiasm for self-reliance, limited government and the power of innovation is the common creed.

No doubt Colin Powell would have pushed through a ballot measure in his home town, even if it called for something far more controversial than improving public education. It just goes to show that the public is giving high-tech innovators more respect-but there’s still nothing like winning one war to prove you deserve the power to start another one.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing, Business

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me