How I Got Here: Vrge cofounder Scott Gerber on his tech-adjacent journey - Technical.ly

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How I Got Here: Vrge cofounder Scott Gerber on his tech-adjacent journey

Gerber's public affairs career took him from politics to tech. He sat down with us to talk about his work telling the stories of tech companies — and why they should care about policy.

Vrge cofounder Scott Gerber.

(Courtesy photo)

Many technologists start off their careers with aspirations of working in Silicon Valley, but few can say they've helped physically build the community.
Scott Gerber, cofounder at DC tech public relations firm Vrge, on the other hand, actually can. After graduating from Stanford University, Gerber started out his career in the late 90s working in the government and community relations department at the college. At the time, he said, the team was working on a campaign to widen and lengthen Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, which is the home of many of the top venture capital firms investing in tech. "In a very real sense, I got my start in trying to expand Silicon Valley," Gerber told Technical.ly. His own road after that took him to a position in a public affairs office, also in California, before landing a role in the communications office of US Senator Dianne Feinstein — the role that would take him to DC. There, Gerber said he was able to work his way up to communications director of the senator's office. "I put all of my stuff in my car, I rented a place in Dupont Circle without even looking at it and I moved cross country," Gerber said. "I didn't really know anyone out here [at the time] and I would become deputy press secretary for Senator Feinstein, and I spent nine great years there." After his stint on Capitol Hill, Gerber went back to California for a position at the state's Department of Justice, which at the time was overseeing issues like the Proposition 8 ballot proposal that would have banned same-sex marriage. Following that, he accepted a role at computer networking firm Cisco, first as the senior manager of government affairs and then as the director of government and community relations. Coming from politics, Gerber said, Cisco introduced him to and gave him a crash course in the tech sector — which he'd continue working with for the rest of his career. "In some ways doing that was a little bit like rebooting," Gerber said. "I came from the world of politics and policy and that was my education in the technology industry." [pullquote text="It is absolutely a mistake for tech companies to ignore the policy world." cite='Scott Gerber, Vrge' align='right'] In 2015, Gerber headed back to DC to a public relations firm called 463 Communications, focused on the role tech companies play in politics. "It was one of the first public affairs-public relations organizations that really tried to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington," Gerber said. "Really at the time it was the big technology companies, the billion-dollar companies, and how do they communicate their story to the audiences?" A few years later, Gerber helped relaunch the firm as Vrge following a shift its leaders saw in the tech marketplace: business and tech companies suddenly wanting to engage with policy and their impact on society, and wondering just how to do it. In his early start in Silicon Valley, Gerber said, the mindset used to be completely different, with tech companies pushing away politics and, instead, wanting to "move quickly and break things." The relaunch, Gerber said, came from the idea that there was a need to help these disruptive tech companies tell their stories both in the policy world and in the world of shareholders and commercial spaces. Storytelling for tech companies, Gerber said, is a huge part of what he does on the day-to-day, and he thinks it's crucial for helping tech companies share their impact on society, especially when it comes to policy. Be it working in lobbying, sharing data or even just perspectives, Gerber noted how crucial it is for even small companies to share what's important to them because of the profound impact it could have on the regulations and laws made around the industry. "It is absolutely a mistake for tech companies to ignore the policy world and I think that's been a lesson that's been well-learned by some, but needs to be continually refreshed to others," Gerber said. "The reality is that policymakers have the power to stop, limit or change a company's business model to the detriment of its bottom line and its shareholders." For now, Gerber said he's pretty content to stay on at Vrge, and he's excited to continue sharing the stories of tech companies, especially as the sector continues to grow and change. "I see a bright future for the technology industry," Gerber said. "There are substantial challenges right now that I think we all understand, but it's really important for our industry to be in a position to identify its value. To really think about how it impacts society and, be in a position to help create jobs, create economic opportunity and foster innovation." Check the Technical.ly Jobs Board for new opportunities -30-
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