Open Letter to Denise Brown and the BPPE

In relation to the VentureBeat article that was recently published, I am sharing a letter that I wrote to the BPPE department and the Lieutenant Governor’s office. Please feel free to copy this letter and send it on to the DCA.


To: Mrs. Denise Brown, Director of DCA

c/o: Reichel Everhart, Deputy Director of DCA

From: David Selinger, CEO, RichRelevance

CC: Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom; Hackbright Academy; General Assembly


Mrs. Brown,

I had the great honor of meeting with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom recently on the topics of technology, education and government. He left me optimistic that someone in the wonderful State of California understands the intent of government to support and protect its citizens, and the need to be progressive in a world where technology is wildly outpacing government.

The BPPE has taken aggressive measures today to remind me that the world of a backwards-looking, backwards-thinking California Government is not a thing of the past.

I could not be less pleased with the recent decision of the BPPE to extend its influence and power beyond that granted by it in its charter. This is the core problem of “bad government” – a counterproductive action taken when not required, definitely not valuable and potentially not even legal. General Assembly and Hackbright Academy (among other similar institutions being extorted) do not claim external accreditation. In fact, their very power and essence is the opposite of that which BPPE is designed to oversee and regulate: it is in the creation of value associated not with the outdated labels of accreditation, but with the merit of skills which are freestanding and which can be created, taught, measured and verified on a basis fully independent of the interjection of the state. Additionally, unlike a traditional vocational trade, there is no physical safety issue (beyond perhaps carpal tunnel syndrome) casting a shadow of “workplace safety risk management.”

It is clear that these organizations do not need, nor do the citizens of the State of California in any way benefit from the oversight of the BPPE—this is overhead, wasted tax dollars and regulation simply for the purpose of regulation and adding to the California State deficit. The economy of the future, the one which the State of California is frequently credited with designing and engineering, will be based on the true meritocratic measure of value. Where the value in a trade such as software development cannot be contained in a certification, accreditation or label; but will instead be self-evident in the capability to express creativity, create value, or engineer an experience—and to do so in an interview, on-the-job and in practice. I, like many of my contemporary CEOs and executives, care much more about the capacity of an individual than the capability of their parents to afford “higher education.”

I am honored to be the employer of a proud Hackbright graduate, Lydia. She is proud of her skills and has used her experience at Hackbright to accelerate her learning at RichRelevance, to make RichRelevance a better company and to improve the quality of our services to our customers. I did not hire her because of Hackbright per se. I hired her because upon leaving Hackbright, she could clearly demonstrate to myself and all of her co-workers that she knew her stuff, and her stuff was what we needed. I could personally care less if she had developed these capabilities from a book, an online course, or by dreaming between games of checkers at the park. It happens that Hackbright was the path through which she got here, and God bless them for being just that path.

In the meeting, the topic arose with the Lt. Governor on how we can might change things in the State of California for the better. I am a frustrated, disempowered citizen. The conversation was off-the-record so I won’t quote him, but I left the meeting with a strong sense and motivation to follow my moral compass, to take advantage of my role as a CEO/entrepreneur and to do what is right, because it is right, not because it is convenient. To sometimes choose the path of civil disobedience because it can be the path to truth.

What the BPPE is doing is wrong. It is wrong, distracting, counterproductive and unnecessarily expensive. I, as a taxpayer in the State of California, am making a stand and hereby demanding accountability from my government.

Mrs. Brown, please stop this madness immediately.

Write a formal apology, back down, and move forward successfully. No one will remember this happened in 48 hours thanks to Twitter and Justin Bieber. I promise. Do the right thing here.

We have people searching for work, people who can’t feed themselves or their families and foster children who desperately need our attention and love. The State of California needs leaders who are willing to forego the expansion of the power of their particular kingdom in order to attain the greater good of a powerful, economically viable State of California.

Respectfully submitted,

David Selinger

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This post was written by David Selinger

ABOUT David Selinger
David is CEO and founder of RichRelevance. He first garnered international recognition as an expert in the field of eCommerce data analytics and personalization with his groundbreaking work leading the research and development arm of Amazon’s Data Mining and Personalization team. In that role, David increased Amazon’s annual profit by over $50 million (25% of US profit, 2003) setting the industry standard for recommendation services. To view David's full profile, click here.
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