Jack Hidary is a wealthy tech entrepreneur who wants to be mayor of New York City and is running as an independent. At first blush, he seems to have much in common with New York’s billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent.
But Bloomberg spent $73 million of his own money to get himself elected the first time around. Hidary has so far raised $450,000. Bloomberg began campaigning early. Hidary, 45, announcing he was running just two months ago. Bloomberg courted nearly everyone; Hidary has been doing more “targeted” campaigning. As told me in a phone call last week, “I have increased name recognition in the core communities that we need.”
In Hidary’s view, there’s an opportunity to hack the election by leveraging both his tech base and his background. Born in Brooklyn to a Spanish-speaking Columbian mother, Hidary went on to cofound two companies. The first, EarthWeb, an IT information and jobs site, went public in 1998, four years after opening for business. (It was taken private in 2000 and sold again in 2005 as Dice.com to private equity investors.) Hidary also cofounded the financial information company Vista Research, which sold to Standard & Poor in 2005.
Since entering the race in mid-July, Hidary has attracted support from many who like his biggest promise: to champion entrepreneurship and create jobs across all five of New York’s boroughs. Among those who’ve lent their support, says Hidary, are Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures; investors Joanne and Fred Wilson (also of USV); Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures; and Charlie Kim, the founder and CEO Next Jump, a New York-based tech company that powers reward programs.
Still, it’s far from clear that Hidary’s concentrated tactics are working. His team is using CampaignGrid, a venture-backed, data-driven ad platform to deliver pre-roll online video to “specific target markets.” Hidary has also begun running Spanish-language TV ads on various cable channels, including Telemundo. Says Hidary, “We’re using a combination of channels in a more efficient way” than Republican nominee Joseph Lhota and Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio.
But being efficient has its costs. Hidary is still being called “the New York mayoral candidate you probably haven’t heard of.” Even sources in New York’s tech community tell me they’re waiting for him to gather more traction outside of his insular tech circle before more publicly getting behind him.
Long shot as Hidary may seem, stranger things have happened, particularly in a race where the current leading candidate, de Blasio, is widely seen as part-time populist — and not a terribly tech friendly one at that.
As Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures puts it: “How friendly will Bill de Blasio be to companies like Uber and Halio when he’s taking money from the taxi lobby? Will he support consumers who rent their rooms on Airbnb or side with the hotels?”