Why I’m Giving My Company Election Day Off: Hicham Oudghiri for TechCrunch
This piece originally appeared in TechCrunch.
This year’s U.S. presidential election is confusing for everyone. The popularity contest that has become the election is diluting our time, attention and ability to think critically. Which is ironic, given that we are more connected to information than we have ever been before, and the computation necessary to model problems has never been cheaper.
The only certainty in the election is that the results will have a dramatic impact on all citizens, businesses and organizations around the world. With war raging across continents, inaction in the face of climate change and the disparity of wealth threatening the stability of the economy and open flow of invention, an easy solution would be to point fingers and place blame.
What we really need to do is rise to the greater level of civic duty that our culture needs to govern our increasingly complex world. We need to be more involved and have an actual say in how we are governed. For that reason, I am giving my company November 8th off to remove any impediments from their ability to vote.
I grew up in New York, but I was born in Morocco. My grandfather, along with his brother and Allal al-Fassi, started the first political party in Morocco. I grew up admiring him as one of the founding fathers of modern politics in his country. I was raised with a real sense of civics, which I saw in action whenever we would visit Fez.
Interestingly, Morocco was the first country to publicly recognize the United States as an official state with the ratification of the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786. Signed by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, it recognized Moroccan ports as open to U.S. ships and is the longest-standing unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.
I am inspired by this history of diplomacy and always feel it important to be civic-minded. The commitment to make the world we live in one where countries and peoples are bound by productive relationships and trade is one of the driving forces as to why I’m an entrepreneur today. These early experiences also meaningfully impacted the kind of company I founded, the type of work we do and the team we recruit to be a part of, and contribute to, our bigger vision.
Again, I am encouraging these core values at Enigma by declaring November 8th a mandatory holiday. True, some people can’t legally vote and perhaps some will abstain, but one thing is certain — they can’t come in to work.
Why? I am trying to remove any ounce of guilt that could be felt by a single team member for missing a meeting, a client call or any other professional activity because they wanted to vote. Most, I expect, will spend at least part of the day focused on their role in the future of American society and the world — and that’s time well spent.
I feel so much gratitude to have founded a company where not only can we afford to make such decisions, but where we all feel that this is simply the right thing to do. With voter disenfranchisement issues still plaguing the citizenry, and many burdened by plight and diminishing wages, often working multiple jobs to make ends meet, we need to lead everywhere we can. We need to make a point about how important it is to care about everyone’s voice in this process.
My biggest motivation is to respect the importance of being involved in the civic duties that are needed to protect the unique environment of the U.S. for entrepreneurs like myself. As a Muslim naturalized citizen of the U.S., married to a half-French, half-American Jewish woman with a two-year-old who holds three passports, I can assure you I sit at an intersection of culture, identity, race and religion that made the U.S. the only place where I could earn the trust and opportunities that I have. The opportunity to get a great education, the freedom from judgment by others and the support I needed to dream big — these are sanctities that I’ve uniquely felt in the U.S. throughout my life. The U.S. is the only business environment where I would be able to run the company I do, the way I have.
And I’m not the only one; 49 percent of entrepreneurs funded by the venture capital community are first- or second-generation immigrants. Inherently, these people are risk-takers; they don’t only represent the tail end of the American Dream, they’re the beginning of it. They’re uniquely resourceful, they get their bearings and are strong enough to build, rebuild and build again. Finally, they are grateful for the freedom and justice in the United States we have all fought so diligently to preserve and cultivate. Let’s not let this election threaten the openness of our society by remaining complacent in the face of several policies rooted in fear that could threaten our growth.
At Enigma, we focus on solving operational problems with data in the real world. That puts policy and regulation in the forefront of our minds. The very least we can do is rise up to the minimum requirement of voting for our president every four years.
There is power in data, but it only helps us interpret the world when the point is to better it. I encourage you and your teams to join me and ensure that everyone who is entrusted with the right to vote wakes up on November 8th ready to stand up for a society that enables ingenuity and global transformation.