Hey Bernie, Come Join My Startup

I've started collecting a list of Bernie Sanders quotes that I find really interesting. Mostly, because of their potential application towards startups given my background as a software developer and working with/at startups. Bernie doesn't strike me as the average politician. He doesn't live up to the stereotypes (at least mine anyway) of narcissistic, Machiavellian, or authoritarian that I seem to associate with politicians. And sure, this might cause you to question his ability to play the political game and be an effective POTUS. Valid concerns.

Anyway, luckily that's not what this post is about. Rather, I submit that Bernie Sanders would be the ideal co-founder or startup CEO. He's the type of team player that I'd want in my corner. Take a look at some recent quotes.

Bernie Quotes

Change almost never happens from the top down, it almost always occurs from the bottom up.
— Bernie Sanders via Campaign Email, 4/13/2016

That's cool, and not something that I've heard from many people near the top of the food chain in their respective industries. Most of the time when we get placed in or near-to a position of power we fight to protect it. We put up hurdles to ensure others can't come in and claim it, and we relish the opportunity to call the shots. I would argue that this is not the best approach to building a business. No matter how talented the shot caller is, decisions should never been made in a vacuum, which is all too common in this scenario. Further, there's SO much value to be gained when opening up to more than a single viewpoint when making critical business decisions. TL;DR: diversify your founding/management team and don't run a strictly top-down culture! Welcome differing opinions from every level of the company.

I’m not big into being a leader. I much prefer to see a lot of leaders and grass roots activism.
— Bernie Sanders via Young Turks Interview, 3/23/2016

This is the type of guy that even if he were the manager of your team, he wouldn't act like it. He would work hard, get the job done, and then share the credit between the whole team.

The #NotMeUs hashtag further builds on the previous point. Have you ever noticed the co-worker or boss that consistently uses "me" and "I" when you know full well that it was a concerted team effort? Some people call it semantics, and maybe I read into things too much as a typical over-analyzer, but I really appreciate the use of inclusive language in the workplace. I think it communicates a level of humility and openness that makes work more enjoyable.

Irritated by the fact that business execs get multi-million dollar bonuses for laying off thousands and thereby cutting burn rate? I don't see this happening under Bernie. Sure, some layoffs are inevitable, but Bernie wouldn't give his executive team special breaks and ridiculous bonuses while the people at the bottom suffer.

Finally, let understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win. When straight and gay people stand together for justice, we win. When young and old stand together for justice, we win. When working families stand together, we win.
— Bernie Sanders via Huffington Post, 4/30/2012

This belief in the value of unity isn't something just Bernie and supporters can get behind, but one that's at the core of equality, collaboration, and the principle of ownership. It's something I think we can all get behind no matter what our cultural and political leanings. Having this level of unification behind a cause — while still maintaining an appreciation for differing backgrounds and perspectives — is powerful. 

Startup Culture

If anything, these quotes communicate an awareness and understanding of the difference between a manager and a leader. Based on his language, I think I know which one Bernie is, and it's the type of co-worker I'd be glad to tackle the startup grind with day-to-day.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the parallels between Bernie's values and healthy, effective startup culture (IMHO) are too real. The man is a team player with a long history of challenging authority and tackling social issues in grassroots movements. Place that in the startup world and I believe you have a recipe for challenging the status quo, team collaboration, and innovation. Unless you're afraid to rock the boat... then don't hire Bernie.