Monday, July 05, 2010

To: Brad Feld, Subject: Iran And Me (Digital Ninja/Commando)

Happy July 4 Fred Wilson, Brad Feld
The Germans Called Me Robin Hood
An Immigrant Story For Brad Feld
Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Me, BBC
Me @ BBC
Iran: The World Has Wasted A Year
The First Major Revolution Of The 21st Century Happened In Nepal
The French Revolution And DFNYC

Hello Brad.

What you do, what I do is ultimately about people. I read a quote from you a few weeks back where you are saying show me a web service that has major user engagement and I will show you a way to monetize it. If enough people show up, it will work.

Thank you for the rapid response to my blog post email yesterday. Here are some more details.

There is a concrete mathematical theory called the butterfly effect. A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon forest could be the reason a cyclone hit Bangladesh. What happened in Nepal in April 2006 was a political cyclone. I was the butterfly flapping my wings in New York City. In April 2006, over a period of 19 days, about eight million people out of the country's 27 million came out into the streets to shut the country down completely to force a dictator out.

Nepal: Background

Nepal is the poorest country outside of Africa. More than 75% of the countries on the planet are smaller populations than Nepal. So it is not that small a country. There are as many people in Nepal as there are in Iraq. You could have introduced democracy into Iraq the Nepal way and saved a trillion dollars in direct costs and more in indirect costs.

Nepal has been the most popular destination among Peace Corps volunteers for some reason during the half century of that program's existence. I don't really know why because I have not traveled the world.

Nepal is situated between India and China. Those two economies are growing at double digit rates. There are forecasts that show the Chinese economy will be bigger than the American economy by 2020. The democracy work in Nepal has implications for China and hence has larger geopolitical implications disproportionate to Nepal's size, especially when you take into account the Maoists of Nepal, the deadliest ultra left group on the planet since the end of the Cold War, and the Maoists of India, the number one security threat to India, as stated by the Indian government, affecting one third of that country's districts.

9/11 was a flashpoint, just like Pearl Harbor was a flashpoint. You don't want a third flashpoint in Taiwan. The Arab world and Africa and China are the three large chunks where democracy still is not in full play, but China stands out in that I don't think the American political system is what the Chinese need to convert to. The truth lies somewhere in between. America needs total campaign finance reform so it can truly become a one person one vote democracy. And China needs multi-party democracy and federalism and Tibet and Taiwan as states in that federal China. And the fermentations inside of Nepal going on right now in terms of mainstreaming the Maoists have implications for China and India. If Nepal can be turned into a multi-party democracy of state funded parties in the constitution that country is scheduled to write for itself within a year, then we will be on our way.


Just like Nepal has implications for China, Iran has implications for the entire Arab world. That country for Africa could be Zimbabwe. What is exciting about Iran is what success there could mean for Saudi Arabia and Egypt. When I see people out in the streets in Tehran I get visions of people out in the streets in Cairo.

After success in Nepal, I have witnessed wastes in Bhutan, Tibet, Burma and Iran. I have watched helplessly. The people on the ground have been doing the hard part - coming out into the streets in the face of immense brutality - and the world has been failing them in each case. A democracy movement is science, it can be made to work every single time. But you do have to mutate faster than the virus does. And you do have to take a holistic, global approach. There are basic principles that worked in Nepal that could work anywhere.

There are a few steps that the democracy movement in Iran needs to take, the most important is to shift the goal post. The goal can not be to get the existing regime to hold the presidential election all over again. The goal has to be regime change. The goal can not be to take the brutality lying down. The goal has to be to document every act of brutality to bring the perpetrators to justice once a new, interim government takes over power. The goal can not be to keep coming out into the streets. A democracy movement is supposed to last a few weeks at most, not months and years. You shut the country down completely until the regime gives way to an interim government with the mandate to hold elections to a constituent assembly within a year of taking over power. That assembly would have two years to write a constitution. The democracy movement in Iran needs a leadership change. The current leader has not been able to think outside the box. He is boxed in. He is committed to functioning within the current mullahcracy in place.

My Work

It will be transparent, it will be digital, it will be political. My blog Barackface will be the hub of much of what I do. We are counting on the fact that the world is connected enough by now that everyone and every organization I need to reach out to and communicate with I can do digitally and in a massive way because a blog scales on its own. Social media is magic. And we are counting on the fact that I did this for Nepal, I can do this for Iran all over again.

After there is regime change and an interim government takes over, I will be done, my project complete. I will no longer need to give full time involvement, although I can't imagine not maintaining part time involvement all the way to the country getting itself a new constitution. After so much and such intense emotional involvement you don't just walk away.

Democracy For Nepal: April 2006

Your Role

You put in 5K of your personal money into this now, like today, like yesterday. Fred Wilson puts in his 5K once he is back from his Italy vacation in less than a week. And you two find me 18 other VCs who will put in 5K each by the end of July. Marc Andreessen 5K, Ben Horowitz 5K, Albert Wenger 5K, Brad Burnham 5K, Vinod Khosla 5K.

I start with 100K. It comes to me at the beginning - not in monthly installments - like you would do with a startup. If I can show success by September 2011 - in 15 months - each of you put in another 2.5K each for a total of 50K as a bonus payment to me. If I can do the whole thing in less than 15 months, the 150K deal still stands.


You are a VC. I am a tech entrepreneur. Why would we do this? Because ultimately it is all about people. It is about impacting lives. When the Iranians first took to the streets it warmed our hearts as to their use of Twitter as a tool. It is all related.

I am about 15 months away from my green card, and I am about 15 months away from launching my tech startup. My tech startup will be to do with the last mile of the ISP business. And from working on democracy in Iran to working on the startup is not going to feel like a career change to me. I think of democracy as the Big Bang in a country's life. It is a starting point of sorts. Once a country gets its democracy, it is on its way. But democracy alone does not put food on the table. And universal broadband is that magic wand that will help bridge the huge gulf between the West and the Global South. I had to come to America. Others like me don't have to if they can have broadband.

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