Doug Burgum, former Microsoft exec and tech entrepreneur, announced this morning that he is officially running for Governor of North Dakota this year.
Surrounded by hundreds of people at the Stage at Island Park, Burgum shared the his life story before officially announcing his bid for candidacy. Burgum, a native of Arthur, ND who famously built and sold Great Plains Software to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001, was not heavily active in public politics prior to now.
But last summer, something grabbed his attention.
“I saw a position that caught my eye,” he said, of the announcement that Governor Jack Dalrymple would not be running for re-election. “I thought – well, that’s interesting.”
In the following months, Burgum said, many questioned why he would leave the comfort of the private sector for politics. He said he sees his experience as a business leader in the technology industry as the experience North Dakota needs in a state leader.
“Because of the technology changes that are coming and because of my life in building cities in North Dakota, I have a set of skills that is uniquely relevant to this moment in time,” he said.
An emphasis on tech
Burgum spoke about the need for statewide gigabit Internet, the potential to improve automatic data gathering (particularly to improve healthcare), and the fact that nearly everyone carries a supercomputer in their pocket. He highlighted the rise of the sharing economy, pointing out recent tech leaders like Uber and Airbnb which have revolutionized their industries.
All of this can be used to build smarter cities, he said, something he advocates for through Kilbourne Group, a firm he founded to revitalize historic downtown buildings in Fargo.
“There isn’t a bill in front of the state legislature today that says let’s become the first gigabit state. There isn’t a bill in front of legislature that says how can we build healthier cities. We have 17,000 jobs open in the state, what do we have to do to get those people here? We have to build better, smarter cities,” he said.
Burgum recognizes that the emphasis on technology may not resonate in a state that has been driven by agriculture and oil. But he would argue that it should.
“It’s a tough message, and I’m sure if somebody did a bunch of testing they’d say – this doesn’t resonate with voters at all,” he said. “But I have a great belief in the people of North Dakota, and I know the guy that’s sitting in that tractor, that’s got more technology in that tractor than he knows what to do with. All of us interact with technology in our everyday lives and have frustrations. I think I can connect with people on that level.”
Burgum is currently Chairman of Atlassian, an Australian software company that had one of the biggest initial public offerings of 2015 at a $4.4 billion valuation, as well as Fargo-based Intelligent InSites, and previously SuccessFactors which was acquired for $3.4 billion. He is also the co-founder of Arthur Ventures, a Fargo-based venture capital firm.
Burgum announced he will run as a Republican, rivaling Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, the two other candidates who previously announced their campaigns.
He will run at the Convention in Fargo in April. If he does not get the nomination at the Convention, he will continue to run in the Primary. He gave no indication that he would run as an Independent.
The gubernatorial election will take place on Nov. 8, 2016 to elect both Governor and Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota.
Bugum announced that his first campaign promise is to ski in all four North Dakota ski resorts, something he has always wanted to do.
More information at dougburgum.com
Photography by Dan Francis Photography.