Growing up in Silicon Valley, Martin Avila taught himself how to be a computer programmer and started a website development company when he was in high school. Even then, his politics didn’t mesh with the dominant far-left ideas of California’s tech hub.
Today, he’s offering customers an an alternative in the marketplace of internet services—from application development to web hosting. His company is called RightForge, and it’s a much-needed alternative at a time when Americans increasingly find themselves deplatformed and censored by Big Tech.
“I’ve got friends who are like, ‘We need to rebuild Salesforce. We need to rebuild MailChimp.’ And I said, ‘That’s exactly right. We do.’ But in order to stand up those things, we needed the hard infrastructure,” Avila says. “And that’s what RightForge is. It’s the ability for those companies to be created on the hard assets distributed across the globe.”
Avila spoke to The Daily Signal about his plans for RightForge and why he’s optimistic about marketplace solutions to Big Tech behemoths. Listen to the full podcast below or read a lightly edited transcript.
Rob Bluey: We are joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” today by Martin Avila, the CEO of RightForge. Martin, thanks so much for joining us. It’s great to have you on the show.
Martin Avila: Thanks for having me, Rob.
Bluey: Let’s begin by talking about your mission, to make the internet a place that values free expression and diversity of thought. It seems like a big challenge in this day and age of cancel culture and woke mobs. Tell us about RightForge and what you’re offering.
Avila: Sure. Yeah. Well, we looked at this whole situation. I mean, last year, what you saw with the Hunter Biden laptop story and just the culture.
Actually, I live just outside of Silicon Valley. I grew up here in Santa Cruz, California. And we just have been seeing the culture shift and these companies really pulling away from American values and saw a need to develop an internet—and what I mean by that is the hard assets, even an [internet service provider] that connects various data centers and the hardware, and getting basically down to the power.
And we said, “Well, let’s get started on this. We’ll start small.” And then what happened with Parler really took this to the next level, and we got a lot more interest in our mission. And that is how RightForge came to be.
We actually brought companies together that were already doing pieces of what you need to stand up an internet, and now we’re live in 30-plus data centers around the world, mostly here in the United States. And we can do enterprise infrastructure services for large companies.
And what you’re going to see here in the next few weeks is us launching a registrar, where you can register your domains, where you can host your WordPress sites. And there’s other services that go along with the level of capacity that we have, but that’s what RightForge is, is the building blocks of the internet, the hard assets that can’t be taken away.
Bluey: That’s great. Well, let’s get into some of those things in just a moment. But you mentioned a couple of examples there of censorship, and I wanted to ask you how urgent you see this problem of censorship, eliminating of speech for conservatives, or libertarians, or classical liberals, whatever you may be.
Essentially, anybody who values free speech seems to be in a position now where some of these tech companies are cracking down really hard in various ways. It’s not just suspending somebody from Twitter anymore, it’s [Amazon Web Services] pulling the plug on hosting for Parler.
So how urgent is the threat and what are some of the solutions that you hope to offer to counter that?
Avila: I think it’s a huge threat. Early on in the process, I was talking to my dear friend Chris Bedford. He was asking me, “Martin, what’s the extent of which a tech company could just decide to remove someone?” And we got into, “OK. Yeah, sure. If you get removed from Twitter, you can go somewhere else and still have a voice.”
It gets bigger when you start thinking about the implications of a company like Salesforce, who has access to a bunch of the means of production and commerce. And what if Salesforce decided to remove a political party from the platform? What if even certain applications within Salesforce and the infrastructure around that—you’re familiar with it. A lot of our enterprise, listeners, will be familiar with Salesforce.
The CEO of Salesforce has a very, very close relationship with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi; very, very close relationship with a lot of the Democratic Party leaders. If Salesforce was to remove an organization from their infrastructure, it would be nearly impossible for those companies to reconstitute in a quick manner. And you would be losing, potentially, millions of dollars.
Now, you might say you might have recourse through legal action, but they could just choose to not re-up your contract.
… And I’ve got friends who are like, “We need to rebuild Salesforce. We need to rebuild MailChimp.” And I said, “That’s exactly right. We do.” But in order to stand up those things, we needed the hard infrastructure. And that’s what RightForge is. It’s the ability for those companies to be created on the hard assets distributed across the globe so that entrepreneurs can respond to this problem that, I think, is massive. I think a lot of people think it’s massive.
Bluey: Now, in your own personal case, you taught yourself how to be a computer programmer and started a website development company back when you were in high school. You’ve also worked in politics. How do those two worlds intersect and lead you to the creation of RightForge?
Avila: Oh, well, growing up in Santa Cruz with a mind toward libertarian ideas, you see the insanity of the state. I mean, even at this point, right? They’ve all but banned logging companies. But now [California Gov.] Gavin Newsom has a $500 million plan to go out and log because there’s too many trees—literally, firs, redwoods, pines—that they need to remove. Just looking at things from market standpoint, the government doesn’t work.
I got involved in politics here in Santa Cruz, ended up working for [former Rep.] Ron Paul on his 2008 campaign, involved with FreedomWorks, and actually did contract work for Heritage Action at one point.
So just involved in this marketplace of ideas as a technologist and developed relationships in that space, and grew some other companies, and then just saw this problem and just was in the right place and right time to be able to then go and build this infrastructure company. So that’s the genesis of it.
Bluey: Well, we’re so glad you did. As you mentioned before, RightForge provides businesses, government, nonprofit organizations with an alternative on a range of services from application development to web hosting. I would imagine our listeners are familiar with some of those, but there’s a lot of things that you offer that probably are even beyond my scope of understanding from a technology perspective. Can you explain how you plan to cut into the Big Tech behemoth’s marketshare and all levels of the services you’re offering?
Avila: I think that’s the key here, is we’re not actually trying to do everything. What we’re saying, simply, is that if you have a hosting agreement with a company, if you have a website hosted somewhere, you can quickly bring that to RightForge.
If you have an application that you’re developing with Rackspace, in Google, in Azure, Google Cloud, or AWS, we can actually migrate that and you can be on servers at the exact same cost, if not less, than you’re you’re developing right now. And then you can just know that you’re living on the real estate of the internet that’s not going to pull you down.
So that’s really where we can make referrals to application development companies and all that sort of stuff who are actively looking to solve these other problems. But we start it with the real estate, and the ability to build tools, and have access to servers, have access to internet service providers—just like Amazon would, and just like Rackspace would, and these other companies. So that’s what we’re doing.
But what we’re doing is building it of a freedom first—an internet that’s dedicated to the entirety of the Bill of Rights and those applications that are developed on top of it are going to be done by other people.
And that’s what’s really exciting, the economy is shifting because people know, and they see what’s coming, and they know they just want to get back to just doing business and get away from a politicized internet, a politicized, even, commerce.
Bluey: Following up on that, you’ve written about and used the term “second internet,” which will provide users with the freedoms that they are lacking elsewhere. Can you explain what you mean by that term and why … it’s so important to create this internet with these values?
Avila: Well, because the internet is everything. Right? I mean, it’s in our barbecues, it’s in our doorbells, it’s in our pockets at all times.
You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to me and they say, “Hey, Martin, you got to start a bank.” And I’m like, “Well, what I’ll do is I’ll stand up a bunch of server infrastructure so that bank won’t get pulled by the internet provider.”
And then we’re talking to people who are starting banks. We’re talking people that are thinking about Stripe and how much power it has, or Square, like point of sales. And there’s entrepreneurs that are just beelining to create solutions because they see the enormity of the market. And what RightForge can do is support those things where they won’t be taken down.
Bluey: One of the things that I often hear from our listeners or our Daily Signal readers is their own personal interactions with Big Tech companies and some of the challenges that they face themselves. As you look at the landscape, what are the greatest threats that Americans and, perhaps, conservatives or libertarians specifically face on the internet today? Where do they have to be worried the most about maybe losing their voice?
Avila: I mean, obviously, social media platforms. I think the scariest thing for me is the speed of which these companies precautionarily remove content.
What we’re seeing right now with the debate around the origin of the virus. There are people asking basic questions last year, … Jon Stewart on “[The Late Show with] Stephen Colbert” the other day. This place is named after the virus. Don’t you think, maybe, it could have been done there? It seems like it should have. It probably was. And people were just asking basic questions about that.
The same exact thing that, now, Jon Stewart is saying on “[The Late Show with] Stephen Colbert.” And they’re being told that that wasn’t true. And so they’re getting into people’s heads before, right? And they’re changing our behavior.
Rob, I bet you might even have written a piece yourself and Twitter’s saying, “Do you want to read that before you retweet it from [The Heritage Foundation?” That’s the fear, right? You know that you want to retweet this, but you’ve got this action put in front of you that says, “Are you sure, Rob?”
I’ve gotten that for nearly everything I’ve written in the last six months, “Are you sure you want to retweet that?” I’m like, “I know this person. I wrote the article. Of course, I do.” So it’s that soft second layer, things that we’re not even talking about when we’re talking about regulation.
I think [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ bill starts to get into definitions there, which I think is important, so we actually can think about what the implication is.
They don’t do that to content that they agree with, it sure seems to only be things that we’re writing about, because that’s what I’m seeing flagged on the internet. It’s like, “I wrote this piece. My friend wrote this piece.” And that’s that soft censorship, or the routing of content, or just that you’ll never see whether or not the distribution of what you shared, did it get in front of the people that follow you?
So I think it’s those definitions of what is the value of that you’re engaging with on these platforms in terms of what you’re reaching, your followers, and they have so much control there. And I think that’s, for me, where I think people should be going back to controlling more of their assets and doing what you guys do at [The Daily] Signal and just getting content out from places where they don’t control it.
Because I think, right now, until an entrepreneur comes in and creates a platform, something like Rumble—which is a great competitor to YouTube, Congressman [Devin] Nunes has half a million followers there. Right? And he’s got next to none on YouTube. That’s weird. There’s a lot more people on YouTube.
So that’s the kind of power, that’s what I think people need to be most worried about. Those types of things where you just look at it—obviously, shouldn’t Congressman Nunes have more than a million [followers]? I mean, there’s still conservatives on YouTube who would love to hear from him. It just happens to not be distributed.
Bluey: As a tech company CEO, I want to get your opinion on some of the solutions that have been proposed. I mean, we hear a lot in Washington about reforming Section 230, of course, the House is moving forward on these antitrust bills. Do you have an opinion on how conservatives or libertarians should deal with this, from your perspective, from where you sit in California?
Avila: Yeah. I actually worked for Sen. [Mike] Lee on his first campaign for Senate, and I agree with everything he said this week.
Isn’t it shocking that the only people who are opposed to the regulation right now happened to be paid by Big Tech? People who are libertarian-minded or conservative-minded who are thinking about the broader implications right now, I think it’s important to be doing that. And I think, certainly, that does interface with regulation, but I think it’s totally disingenuous.
In his words, “This is why we can’t have nice things when you have the only conservative and libertarian organizations that are lining up behind to protect Big Tech are literally being paid, and they’re throwing their principles out the window right now.”
And I think that’s really what’s important right now because whatever we’re going to talk about with regulation, we have to be calling that out so that we can have a reasonable discussion.
I’m a business guy, right? I’m a political guy. So, of course, I know that there’s a role for government at some point. I’m not openly calling for any piece of regulation, but I think that [what] Sen. Lee is doing right now is hugely important because the discussion needs to be had. And I think that’s when we start actually having a fair discussion, is when we start calling out where the money’s come from. Right?
Bluey: And obviously, … the interaction between the Big Tech companies and government officials as well, we see that that has a big influence. And one of the alternatives that we’ve noticed is, you mentioned the Florida bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis states, “What role do you see states having here? Might these laboratories of democracy be an opportunity to try some things that maybe Washington can’t get done?” And if you have thoughts, specifically, on the Florida bill, but in the absence of federal legislation, do you think the states might have a role in this debate?
Avila: I absolutely do. I just think we should not do whatever California does. I live here and it’s just, I mean, it’s a mess. And I think that there’s been some good proposals. The core ideas are so important, right? And the states are incubators of democracy and they should be experimenting with these things.
Our first podcast that we were ever on talking about RightForge was on The Federalist. I think that’s a great way to go about it. The Big Tech lobbyists are like, “This is going to be a total mess,” and all that stuff. But states have every right to protect the rights of their citizens.
And sure, it’s going to be challenged. DeSantis himself even said, “This bill, of course, it’s going to get challenged and pieces of it are going to fall apart as it goes up. But here’s what we’re going to make. We’re starting here.” So I think that’s important.
Bluey: Yeah. One of the things that I think people sometimes hear are Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey talking about user empowerment or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg coming to Washington and giving a big speech on free expression.
Do you think these companies are capable of giving users more control over their digital life and giving them an opportunity to speak freely? Or is it going to be up to companies like yours to really push them in that direction and create that marketplace that gives people that alternative or provides some competition? What’s it going to take to fulfill those promises they, themselves, have made?
Avila: Yeah. Actually, I have huge respect for the people that created these companies. They’ve created incredible products. Rob, you and I both know that movement-based candidates wouldn’t exist, right? Donald Trump, Ron Paul, even Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, they’re powered by people being able to connect together and push out information.
What you’re seeing right now at GameStop, right? A huge market shift in terms of people being able to connect and share information, and get it out there rapidly, and get around this before the media interferes with it, or these Big Tech companies get their hands on these pieces of things.
What I look at, to that question, is Google Ads used to be an enormously effective tool at microtargeting, advertising, down to what people were … searching and when. And they’ve continued to abstract the ability for people to put direct advertising in and actually target specific variables.
And they tell you, “Well, now we’ll just do it. We’ll let our [artificial intelligence] do it. And we’re going to take away this really useful tool that you had where you were measuring the specific … ” And I’m very proficient at Google Ads. And so I’ve just been watching this abstraction of my control, even as someone who’s placing advertising. And it’s going more to the TV model where it’s, “OK. Just broadly pick audiences and we’ll pick that for you.”
So I think that there’s a reason why they’re doing that, right? It makes them more money, right? It’s easier to just market this as a one-click tool, and I think that’s what’s happening. It’s the money, and the profit, and the ability to put advertising in front of things. That’s what these companies are driven by, that profit motive.
So, yeah. More free expression, but more opportunity to put ads in front of things equals easier buckets for advertisers to place those things in.
And that user control, that one-to-one connection, photos of your grandchildren, you’re going to get hit with more ads between them. You’re not going to have that direct connectivity because there’s not as much opportunity to monetize that. So they’re always pulling that away and trying to get value put between that.
And that space between two people connecting is the algorithms, because that’s money, because that’s how they’re making the money. So, sure. More free expression, but more advertising, more space to put TV ads, or the way that they make money. Right? So those things are … contrasting outcomes.
Bluey: It certainly seems to be that way. You’re absolutely correct on that. You recently spoke at The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank meeting, which brings together a broad range of conservative leaders. What was your message to them? What can they do in their own organizations to make sure that we’re pushing forward with these ideas that you spoke about? And what does success look like to you if they adopt those ideas that you spoke to them about?
Avila: Well, I mean, for our company, it’s being able to just move folks over and say, “Hey, look, start doing business with a company that can take your standard website up and get your infrastructure up on a company that believes in these values. Because we are going out and trying to help other entrepreneurs and other tech companies stand up infrastructure at the same cost as Amazon and those sorts of things.”
So success means creating an ecosystem whereby, eventually, we can have entrepreneurs with the technologies of tomorrow solving problems that Salesforce and companies like that solve today, Big Tech companies that control a lot of our livelihoods, through just being the apparatus by which we connect with each other. But there is a market force here where there are a ton of entrepreneurs who care about the things that we’re talking about today, who want to solve those problems for tomorrow.
So success to me is that ecosystem of all these companies succeeding and growing, and then being able to offer alternatives to groups like yours for video streaming, or customer relationship management, or even connectivity, even texting, and those sorts of things.
And I have a lot of optimism for tomorrow because people are right. The free market folks are right. The internet is going to change and there’s going to be new tools available. But today, we’re dealing with these big behemoths. But there are people that are responding to it in an entrepreneurial way, in the American way, frankly.
Bluey: Martin, one more question for you. For our listeners who are asking what they can and should do, how do they learn more about RightForge and how can they get involved and connect with you if they, themselves, are running a nonprofit or business and want to utilize your services, or just are an individual who wants to contribute in a positive way?
Avila: Absolutely. RightForge.com. We’re going to be launching a new site here in the next few weeks, which will have a lot more features. But just for now, sign up and we’ll get in touch.
We’ve got our team and we have an office space in D.C. And so we’re based in D.C., and Raleigh, [North Carolina], and have a spot out here in Northern California in LA, and building one out in Florida. So we’re there for you.
We’re going to be launching some really cool tools, you’ll be able to just register domains, launch your your WordPress sites. And then we’re continuing doing our enterprise, so medium to large nonprofits getting their infrastructure moved over. So, yeah. That’s RightForge.com.
Bluey: It’s fantastic. Martin Avila, thanks so much for the work you’re doing at RightForge and being a guest on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s great to talk to you about this.
Avila: Thank you for everything you guys are doing. I really appreciate it, Rob. Thank you.