Renowned Internet investor Ron Conway sparked a frenzy online last October with a music video, set to the tune of MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit,” endorsing the election of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. It’s been viewed more than 500,000 times. The city of San Francisco has just over 800,000 people.
For his next political initiative, a plan to revise tax rules for local businesses, Conway commissioned the same video production team that made Marissa Mayer’s nerdy dance moves go viral. Portal A Interactive, a 10-person shop based in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district, unveiled the result today.
In the video, tech big shots, including Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone of Twitter fame, Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky and Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman, provide ideas for addressing public-transportation issues, inefficient parking infrastructure and vandalism. Word is likely to spread quickly as they, along with Conway, plan to tweet the link out to their combined 4.2 million followers.
“That’s the best sort of engagement you’ll ever get,” said Conway, whose hundreds of investments include Facebook, Google and Twitter. “An ad agency would charge a brand a couple hundred grand, and we’ll get it for just a fraction, because it’s grassroots social media.”
The type of “Like” and “Retweet” bait that Portal A specializes in typically costs less than a television commercial and can reach large audiences of Web surfers. Portal A’s video released in 2010 rallying support for the San Francisco Giants, which were then in pursuit of the World Series, has been viewed 2.8 million times.
The bill for Conway’s video was less than $50,000, said Zach Blume, the 28-year-old managing director of Portal A, a four-year-old digital-marketing company. But having one of the most prominent investors in social media as a client is priceless.
“Building this business has been all about opening as many doors as possible and saying yes to as many opportunities as possible,” said Blume. “You just never know how it’s going to work out.”
The new video promotes the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, a nonprofit also known as Sf.citi that is supported by 330 companies. Conway, who started the nonprofit in May and contributed $100,000 of his own money, is the chairman.
The group backs Proposition E, a bill that if passed in November would phase out the payroll tax paid by companies and replace it with a tax on sales. That would benefit tech companies, which often invest in research and development before bringing in revenue, Conway said. “It more evenly divides the tax burden, which will produce the same amount of dollars across all industries,” he said.
What’s good for local tech companies is good for Conway. He’s an investor in 120 San Francisco startups.