Attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week is Perse Faily, the CEO of start-up EMN8, who will deliver a message on the tech industry's contribution to job growth. When the convention is over, she will head over to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., with the same message.
Faily is on a bipartisan mission and she won't be alone. The tech industry sees the conventions as an opportunity to raise its profile and lobby on critical issues.
Faily will be citing her company as an example of tech's contribution to job growth at a forum at the Republican convention. EMN8 is a venture-capital backed start-up that makes cloud-based software for restaurants. The company is winning some big clients in the restaurant industry, including Burger King, Domino's Pizza and California Pizza Kitchen. The company has 92 employees, 21 of whom were hired over the last year. It has 13 open technical positions.
Both political parties are "talking about jobs as being the single number one element" of importance to the economy, said Faily, "and we're willing to bend anyone's ear who can help drive that."
"We are an engine that is creating and helping that to happen," said Faily, citing her own company's job creation accomplishments.
Tech industry groups, as well as some tech companies, will be at both political conventions, sponsoring receptions and meeting with lawmakers, their staff members and anyone else who is in a position of influencing policy.
The threatened hurricane didn't deter Faily or her CMO, Hope Neiman, from heading to Tampa, nor is it holding back CompTIA's Liz Hyman, vice president of public advocacy at the industry group.
Hyman will also be at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., to try to connect with lawmakers there.
CompTIA, an industry group, is a sponsor of an invitation-only reception dubbed Innovation Nation set for Tuesday. Other sponsors include Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, as well industry trade groups such as the Consumer Electronics Association.
Hyman said one issue of particular importance to her group are proposed data breach and notification laws. A majority of states have enacted legislation that requires some type of notification in the event of a breach. But adhering to a patchwork of state laws puts "a great deal of burden on small and medium-sized" companies, she said.
Hyman wants to convince lawmakers of a need for a national law on breach and notification. She said most of the issues affecting technology are bipartisan. The problem is ensuring that lawmakers are aware of them.
An independent poll of IT executives, commissioned recently by CompTIA, seemed to give a slight edge to President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, on issues that are important to tech. However the winning or near winning percentage was "not sure."
For instance, when asked which candidate had tax policies that promote innovation and jobs in the U.S. IT sector, Obama got 38%, Romney 25%, and "neither/not sure," received 37%.
When asked about promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, Obama got 37%, and Romney 25%, but "neither/not sure," came in at 38%.
Education is an important issue for Faily. Her company needs people who can build systems that a restaurant's customers can use online, on mobile devices and at kiosks to place orders. This system will remember a customer's food preferences (no onions, for instance), as well as give restaurants the ability to directly market. It's working on a technology that will bring this capability to repeat walk-in customers.
Faily, who is participating in an Entrepreneurship Expo at both conventions that is being hosted by the Huffington Post, NBC, The Ford Foundation and Startup Hire, plans to talk about such issues as the need for access to capital and education support.
Faily said she is "very passionate about making the case for investment in education" for high-tech and high-skilled employees, "to make sure that we continue to invest in the next generation of technical talent in the U.S."
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is [email protected].
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