Bradley Tusk: Lessons in Tech and Politics from “The Fixer” – Venture Stories

Key Takeaways

  • Every politician is solely motivated by the next election
    • If you can do something that makes them think they’re going to win the next election, they’re going to do what you want — and if you can’t do that it doesn’t matter what you want
  • “The vast, vast majority of politicians, to be blunt, are desperately insecure. They’re often self-loathing people who can’t live without the validation of holding office and they will do anything to fill that hole in their psyche.”
  • Two of the most regulatory complex areas to create a startup:
    • Educational-tech
    • Recreational drones
  • Politicians don’t care about your education, company or money – they care about votes, poll numbers, and media attention
    • The main problem politicians are trying to solve is getting themselves reelected

Intro

What does Bradley do?

  • Bradley’s superpower is the ability to help startups solve political problems or deal with regulations that prevent the company from growing
  • “Every single politician I’ve ever worked with, with the exception of Mike Bloomberg, is solely motivated by the next election, and if you can do something that makes them think they’re going to win the next election ….they’re going to do what you want”

Thoughts on Regulation

  • Regulation can slow down growth and be annoying for startups trying to do something new, but it’s a necessary evil to separate legitimate companies from fraudulent ones
    • Crypto is one of the hardest industries to regulate
      • “It’s especially hard with crypto and probably harder than any other sector — how do you regulate this thing that by design is meant to avoid federal currencies, sovereignty, and nationality and is a reaction against all that?”
        • Since crypto is a worldwide currency, it will likely take a couple of decades before there are regulations for it across the globe
  • Regulations vary across states
    • For something like autonomous vehicles, it will be really difficult for consumers if there are 50 different laws for each state
    • The same is true for cannabis – it’s legal in some states and illegal in others which require consumers to be aware of the penalty if they cross state lines
  • Two of the most regulatory-complex areas to create a startup are the spaces of educational-tech and recreational drones
    • Why ed-tech?
      • There are 15k school districts and “the smallest one is just as political and bureaucratic as the biggest one” – you also have to compete with the existing big education companies
    • Why drones?
      • There are dozens of authorities to deal with – the local department of transportation, airports etc.

The Truth About Press & Politicians

  • “The vast, vast majority of politicians, to be blunt, are desperately insecure. They’re often self-loathing people who can’t live without the validation of holding office and they will do anything to fill that hole in their psyche.”
    • A lot of politicians fill their insecurities by looking for media attention
      • If you can help a politician get media attention and/or elected, they will do “anything you want”
  • “In my experience, the vast majority of journalists are just curious people who are trying to figure out the truth of any given situation”

Thoughts on Politics and Silicon Valley

  • Politics is its own world and language – it is very different from Silicon Valley
    • “People in the Valley tend to not know what they don’t know, meaning that because they’re very intelligent and because they have had success in some areas of life, they assume that is applicable to everything they do”
      • “Just because you were a really good engineer or you figured out how to market a product does not mean you can figure out politics too. That’s an incredibly dangerous assumption.”
  • Politicians don’t care about your education, company or money – they care about votes, poll numbers, and media attention
    • The main problem politicians are trying to solve is getting themselves reelected
  • “The naiveté of people in the Valley in thinking that just because they attend political fundraisers and write checks that they have some level of understanding or influence over the process…they have none.”
  • It’s not smart for startups to make a lot of political contributions – if you are a new entry in the market and are trying to take out the incumbent, they likely already have lobbyists and have been giving contributions to politicians for years
    • Give donations to causes you believe in, don’t try to mix politics with business

Additional Notes

  • Bradley believes that within the next decade, people will be able to vote in elections on their phones
  • “There’s no one in the Valley, at the moment, who could plausibly be a presidential candidate in 2020.”
  • To be a politician, you have to get a rush from being around people and getting lots of attention.
  • “You look at issues in this country like guns or immigration or healthcare or climate change, most polls show that 70% of people agree on the basic tenets of what to do about this stuff, and then there’s about 15% on either side that disagree. Unfortunately, right now the 15% on either side are the people that vote in primaries. They’re the ones who really call the shots.”

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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