The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) is advertised as "the largest and most powerful technology association in the region" with a mission to "accelerate growth and innovation in the Massachusetts technology industry". When a member of the product management community urged us to join, we signed up for their entry-level membership ($275 per year). That was two years ago.

Recently, the FCC scrapped net neutrality, a set of rules which protected free speech on the internet. Without them, small businesses may end up behind a paywall, where potential customers might never learn of their existence. CenturyLink, Comcast, Verizon, and other telecoms stand to make billions. Strangely, MassTLC stayed silent on an issue which directly impacts their small business members.

"If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."

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Nefarious Labs COO Steven DeFrias and I attended MassTLC's CXO Holiday party, held on December 13, the night before the FCC's vote to scrap net neutrality. Around the room, the reaction was the same: "What vote?" "Hang on, what's net neutrality again?" I was surrounded by fellow tech CEOs, and on this particular topic, I was the smartest person in the room. Not a good sign.

I was introduced to the President & CEO of MassTLC, Tom Hopcroft - to pointedly ask his perspective on the upcoming vote. I had hoped for some kind of affirmation that those of us in the small business community were heard and supported. Tom deflected question after question, preferring to discuss MassTLC's support for progressive immigration policy. He mentioned Comcast and Verizon. "Aren't they members?" I asked.

It turns out that Amazon, Autodesk, CenturyLink, Chubb, Comcast, Deloitte, Google, Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft, Oracle, Raytheon, TiVo, and Verizon are all members of MassTLC. Most of these conglomerates aren't even located in Massachusetts. Chubb is an insurance company headquartered in Switzerland. Raytheon is a major U.S. defense contractor. Kaspersky Lab is currently under investigation by the FBI for illegal activity linked to the KGB. They are rumored to have paid $10,000 to join MassTLC in October 2017, months after the investigation was announced.

Wait a minute, why are we doing business with these people? Are we paying an organization which represents corporate interests for political reasons, for reasons which have nothing to do with innovation? How much do CenturyLink, Comcast, and Verizon pay to be members? Verizon has over 100,000 employees, and according to MassTLC's pricing page, companies with over 1,000 employees pay $16,500 annually. That's a lot of money. Does that buy them a seat at the table to which smaller members aren't invited? If MassTLC doesn't vocally and vehemently support net neutrality and the small businesses which depend on it, isn't this just bribery with extra steps? Money for a voice. Or for silence.

I don't have all the answers, but as the CEO of Nefarious Laboratories, it is my responsibility to act according to our moral principles. I cannot justify contributing to an organization which benefits corporate interests while harming our small business and endangering our prospects for success. And I cannot in good conscience remain a member of MassTLC when their President & CEO dodges the important questions surrounding net neutrality, members under federal investigation, and pay to play politics.

Published January 01, 2018

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