Cory Booker isn't the first person political forecasters have presented as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and former First Lady. But he might well be the favorite--at least as far as Silicon Valley is concerned.
With less than a month until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, political pundits and party leaders are all aflutter over whom Clinton will select as her vice president. Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and current secretary of housing in the Obama administration, has long been considered a favorite for his appeal to Hispanic voters. Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Tim Ryan, both from the politically key state of Ohio, are in consideration too. Then there's Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is another favorite--particularly among the left-leaning liberal wing of the party, which largely backs Bernie Sanders' nomination. (He hasn't officially left the race yet.)
But if you ask Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, it's Booker who has their vote. Not only did he collect hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from technology workers in his 2013/2014 Senate bids, both Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' widow, and Marc Andreessen have held fundraisers for him. In 2010, when Booker was serving as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg pledged a massive, $100 million donation to the city's struggling school system. The move was seen as a nod to Booker's influence in the tech community.
So what is it about Booker? Here are five reasons why entrepreneurs love the New Jersey senator:
1. He's a social butterfly.
With 1.65 million Twitter followers and more than 450,000 Facebook likes, Booker is certainly a social media darling. He nearly has as many Twitter followers as Bernie Sanders, who clocks in with 2.1 million Twitter followers. The presidential hopeful has famously inspired legions of young Americans to his campaign, despite the commonly held belief that young people aren't political. (With nearly 4.4 million Facebook likes Sanders dwarfs Booker's Facebook presence, however.) Booker has managed to attract so many fans, in part, because he is so active. On Twitter, for instance, he follows more than 89,000 people and has tweeted more than 55,000 times.
2. He loves technology.
Besides his social footprint, Booker, a Stanford University alum, is a known technophile. For the son of two of the first black executives hired at IBM, that exposure started early. In a 2013 New York Times article, Booker notes his belief that technology can be used as a democratizing force, among other things. "What was exciting to me was that it was expanding entrepreneurial, economic, and educational opportunities for so many," he told the Times.
3. He's one of them.
In 2012, Booker co-founded a video curation platform called Waywire, for which he attracted influential investors like Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet. Before the company officially launched to the public, Booker, who was in the throes of running for U.S. Senate, stepped down. He donated his portion of the company to charity, according to reports. (It violates Senate and House rules to participate in business activities like this.) Waywire eventually sold to a New York-based video startup called Magnify.
4. He's pro immigration reform.
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have long complained about a lack of technology talent in the U.S. One idea founders including Mark Zuckerberg have espoused is reforming the nation's H-1B Visa system. The federal program that provides work visas to immigrants employed in specialty occupations is capped at 65,000 annually. Booker favors raising the cap. In 2013, he tweeted that the cap is too low, noting that for the 2014 season, the visa cap was reached in just five days.
Existing H-1B Visa cap IS TOO LOW, the 2014 cap was reached in 5days. These are workers who help drive r economy & create other jobs iNewark-- Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 22, 2013
5. He dislikes certain regulations.
While Booker favors some governmental interventions like the kind that helped his parents win a legal battle over the right to purchase his childhood home in Harrington Park, New Jersey. He is, however, a critic of the Federal Aviation Administration, among other federal agencies. "Our regulatory framework right now isn't allowing for innovation to thrive in this country," said Booker in a 2015 Techonomy panel discussion, which also featured Napster co-creator Sean Parker.
In particular, Booker supports the commercial use of drone technology. In 2015, he introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, which would amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to permit a person to operate a small commercial unmanned aircraft. "If the FAA was as they are now around the time that we innovated with air travel, they would've probably not allowed planes to get off the ground because they would've slapped them full of so many regulations." He added: "We in this country are seriously in danger of going from the global dominant exporter of innovation and technology to losing that."