The Left-Wing Tech Investor Running For Governor

Ben Jealous was a NAACP’s youngest boss and one of Bernie Sanders’s beginning supporters. Jealous afterwards spin a try entrepreneur investing in startups. Now he’s seeking bureau in Maryland.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ben Jealous was a NAACP’s youngest boss and one of Bernie Sanders’s beginning supporters. Jealous afterwards spin a try entrepreneur investing in startups. Now he’s seeking bureau in Maryland.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ben Jealous slips into a driver’s seat. It’s a parsimonious fit (he’s a soaring 6-foot-4-inches with extended shoulders) and he takes off his blazer in a many rare of ways: by grabbing a collar and pulling it over his head, as yet it were a sweater.

“I gotta pierce quickly,” he says.

That could be a tagline for his life. Just 44 years old, Jealous has already racked adult utterly a few distinctions.

He was: a tyro romantic kicked out of Columbia University for protest, and afterwards awarded a prestigious Rhodes grant to investigate during Oxford; a village organizer in Mississippi who afterwards became a publisher in that state; a youngest ever boss of a NAACP, a ancestral African-American polite rights classification (a life idea he achieved distant progressing than he’d expected); and then, in another astonishing spin of events, a try entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

Now, Jealous is perplexing to make a singular biggest focus of his heterogeneous career — from alien to insider — as he runs for administrator of Maryland. The debate will exam a Democratic Party’s ability to reinvent itself — and a record sector’s purpose in populist politics.

NPR spent dual days on a debate route with Jealous.

Day One started, though didn’t end, in a predicted place. Jealous, who is best famous in this really blue state as an African-American polite rights leader, stood during a dais of a black church in West Baltimore.

It was Sunday morning, a tiny after 10 a.m. Kids in a projects opposite a travel — a same projects his mom grew adult in — recently told him they wish they didn’t have to travel by passed bodies on a approach to school.

“We are not here for a crucifixion,” Jealous preached. “We are here for a resurrection.”

By 8 p.m. that night, he was operative to partisan a really opposite partial of a base: Trump voters. Specifically, Trump voter Billy Andrews. Weeks earlier, a dual met during a debate eventuality for single-payer health care.

While a emanate might be passed in a nation’s capital, Jealous is pulling for it during a state level. Andrews wants that. He owns a automobile dealership and says skyrocketing premiums will kill his business.

Jealous asks Andrews to assistance partisan others, to that a Trump voter responds: “Around here on a Eastern Shore, a boss of a NAACP comes adult and that does kind of shock people. I’m being real.”

The perplexity doesn’t spin Jealous off. It draws him in. His hazel eyes light up. “Get some folks who are only kind of curious,” he prods. “What, Billy Andrews has been unresolved out with a boss of NAACP? That sounds different!”

Jealous’ father is white. His mom is black. And this weird impulse is function — notwithstanding a competition wars ripping America detached — given a gubernatorial claimant believes a choice between white operative category and minority voter is a fake choice. If we chateau rising inequality, Jealous says, we can win both; and Bernie Sanders — whose recognition has increasing given a 2016 choosing — is explanation of that.

Jealous was one of Sanders’s beginning supporters. Both group are left wing. But to call Jealous a Berniecrat would be to disremember a pivotal fact: While Sanders trashes capitalism, a gubernatorial carefree believes a marketplace can solve many problems distant some-more effectively than criticism can. That’s why, in 2013, he went from polite rights to Silicon Valley.

It’s not a informed story line, nonetheless it did start with a travel on a beach. Jealous was during Martha’s Vineyard — a tiny island where a abounding shelter — visiting tech guru Mitch Kapor, a owner of Lotus (the 1980s spreadsheet maker).

Jealous was prepared to leave a NAACP which, many say, he managed to stabilize. It was in financial disorder when he arrived. Like past chiefs, he lifted millions from large banks on seductiveness of a nonprofit (including during a financial crisis). Unlike others, he used a Internet to grow online rendezvous from 200,000 to some-more than 2 million; and boost a donor bottom scarcely tenfold.

“Ben did a outrageous spin around job,” Kapor says. “Seeing opportunities where others don’t — that’s an investment skill.”

Kapor introduced Jealous to a dark universe of tech investment with a elementary example: LendUp, a startup that’s an choice to payday lending. Poor people can steal and, as they repay, their seductiveness rates go down. A light tuber went off for Jealous, as Kapor recalls it: “He told me, ‘You guys have done some-more swell in a year or dual than we’ve done in a decade.’ ”

Jealous shortly assimilated Kapor Capital and became a partner. The boutique Silicon Valley organisation does “impact investing” — putting income into tech startups that effect a amicable mission, not only a distinction motive.

Kapor is one of a absolute magnanimous investors who is frequently courted by Democrats to write large checks. He says Jealous’s tie to Silicon Valley “puts him on a heading corner of progressives. Progressives need a certain picture for how to grow a economy. It can’t only be about distribution.”

It’s misleading how many Silicon Valley’s summary (not only money) will hold Maryland voters.

On Day Two with NPR, Jealous goes from a tyro criticism opposite a Trump administration straight into meetings during a tech incubator run by Johns Hopkins University. As a “mentor in residence,” he’s acid for startups he can behind in fields like education, biotech and cybersecurity.

One by one, millennials come to find advice: Will a teachers kinship open doors for a startup that wants to sell online accounting program to open schools? Will duck plant workers use a new app that provides carpel hovel therapy by tracking palm movements? Would a mayor of Los Angeles (a crony of Jealous) be meddlesome in small, unstable atmosphere peculiarity monitors that demeanour like rodent traps?

Jealous straightforwardly opens adult his large rolodex. He’s during home blending business and on-going causes. “It’s only a new trail adult a same mountain,” he says.

At this theatre in a campaign, record is some-more a side dispatch for Jealous than a branch speech.

Political scientist and pollster Mileah Kromer says that could change.

While tech jobs might not ring equally among all communities, she says, “Maryland is one of a many college-educated states in a nation. A tech height could be quite renouned with top category college-educated voters.”

Jealous says if he wins, he’ll move Silicon Valley to Maryland. It’s a large if. He faces a swarming Democratic primary, and a really renouned Republican incumbent.

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