The Silicon Valley Organization has suffered another blow.
After the ousting of former CEO Matt Mahood due to a racist ad in October, the beleaguered chamber of commerce is losing Director of Government and Community Relations Eddie Truong.
Truong, known for his public policy and business advocacy, is leaving to start his own lobbying firm after working with the SVO for five and a half years.
“At some point, I have to figure out what’s next in my career,” he said. “Other people in my position, like Victor Gomez, did exactly the same thing. Others try to become CEOs of other chambers.”
Truong, a well-known figure in the business community, hoped to continue as a part-time employee at the SVO. But he said he’s looking forward to being his own boss.
“We couldn’t come to an agreement on the exact terms, so I figured it was just easier for us to have a clean separation,” Truong said. “I’m going to strike out on my own and be a full-time lobbyist and business owner.”
Truong said his new venture, DT Strategies, has “nothing to do with the scandal.”
“It just feels weird to exit completely and not contribute to building back the organization,” Truong said, noting that he considered his next steps before the racist ad scandal but delayed his plans because he “couldn’t bear to just leave” when things were volatile.
At SVO, Truong said he is proudest of helping to facilitate a paid summer internship program for more than 250 students. He played a key role coordinating a partnership between the SVO and the city and East Side Union High School District, as well as recruiting private sector employers for the program.
“Helping our local underserved youth has profound impacts,” he said. “It helps youth connect the dots between internships and careers.”
Truong said he’s wanted to start a small business for a long time as it runs in his family. He’s inspired by his mother, who sustained their family for years with her San Jose business Eddie’s Crafts — named after him.
He said he’s excited about the vision of SVO’s new CEO, Derrick Seaver, around equity and economic inclusion for minority business owners and hopes to be part of it.
“My parents, who were Vietnamese refugees… instilled in me the value of hard work and entrepreneurship,” he said.
Instead of being an in-house lobbyist working for someone else, Truong said he will work as a contract lobbyist. He’ll work with his first client, Westgate Church, on land use and advocacy. He first worked with the church through SVO in September, when he helped a faith-based coalition organize a news conference focused on rising poverty and a safe reopening of the economy.
“It was sheer dumb luck I engaged them in the coalition,” Truong said, “and it turned out to be really great for me.”
Finny Abraham, local compassion pastor of Westgate Church, said he appreciated Truong helping faith-based communities find directives on safely reopening during the shelter in place order. He said Truong was willing to communicate with local government on their behalf.
“He was able to be that bridge, listening to our concerns,” Abraham said.
Truong said his new venture is not in competition with the SVO, but complementary.
“The SVO as a large chamber of commerce is often forced to prioritize public policies that benefit as many businesses as possible,” he said. “Whereas individual lobbyists will often contract with a sole business on a project-by-project basis.”
In the future, Truong said he would like to create a regional lobbying firm.
“Most major cities have some kind of a local, regional lobbying firm… but in San Jose, we don’t really have a homegrown professional advocacy group doing work here locally,” he said. “My dream would be to build out what a regional lobbying firm could possibly look like.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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