It’s probably not that often that you’ll hear about politicians or traditionally non-tech influential leaders joining up with a company here in Silicon Valley. I mean, it’s not that it’s unheard of but it’s not very common. For politicians, typically you’re going to hear of them going to consulting firms or even lobbyists in Washington, DC. However, it looks like big-time venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has snagged two major policy leaders within the past couple of years.
Announced today, the firm picked up the consulting services of former Washington, DC mayor Adrian Fenty. The one-time mayor of the nation’s capital will join the firm as a special advisor where he will most undoubtedly use his expertise in policy, governance, and disruption to help startups better broach the mainstream and become better recognized by the government. As stated by Margit Wennmachers on managing partner Ben Horowitz’s blog, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Mayor Fenty’s uncanny ability to disrupt an age-old system in the nation’s capital have given him an iconic image of being a reformer and has led him to unheard-of success. In addition, he was the first in the city to spur technological innovation by finally opening up the city’s data and encouraging developers to create useful apps that would help save the city thousands, if not millions, of dollars, and create a better District for all its citizens.
While in office, Mayor Fenty decided to reform the public education system in his city. In a bold move, he brought on the city’s first education chief, Michelle Rhee and by the end of his term, the city went from having the lowest test scores and graduation rate in the city to something much better–test scores in reading increased 14 points, math scores increased 17 points–all unprecedented gains in the city and “unparalleled nationwide”. SAT scores also rose 27 points and graduation rates rose year after year with 72% of students taking the PSATs. This was all done after the mayor wrested control over the struggling system after years of neglect and inefficiency. And this was all done while facing what seemed to be insurmountable opposition. But Mayor Fenty still did it.
His ability to succeed in disrupting the system isn’t the only advantage that the former mayor brings to the firm. He’s also tech savvy as well–right around the time before he left office, Mayor Fenty was instrumental in finally opening up the city’s data to anyone who wanted to build an app or service with it. To do so, he brought on board the city’s CTO, Vivek Kundra, probably more well known as the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), which ultimately led to the campaign called Apps for Democracy. Both Mayor Fenty and Mr. Kundra partnered with iStrategyLabs to develop and execute this program which led to the development of 47 web, iPhone, and Facebook applications in just 30 days–an $2.3 million effort that only cost the city $500,000. With this background and success, it’s pretty impressive that Andreessen Horowitz got to have the mayor be an advisor.
Andreessen Horowitz is correct in that Mayor Fenty will “advise us and our entrepreneurs about the ins-and-outs of navigating state, local and federal government. He’s uniquely qualified to help companies understand everything from striking effective city partnerships to navigating regulatory issues.” As the Washington Post points out, one of the most disruptive technologies out there is happening right in the mayor’s backyard: Uber is being threatened by the DC government. His insights and connections will certainly be invaluable to any startup focused on public service, social good, and in education.
Mayor Fenty’s hiring is the second high-profile acquisition over the past couple of years that will certainly help any of the portfolio companies within the Andreessen Horowitz firm. Last year, former US Treasury Secretary and regarded economist, Larry Summers, joined the ranks as a special advisor. It looks like Andreessen Horowitz has done some great strategic planning and is on the lookout to help their companies better navigate the waters in public policy and any other regulatory concerns over the next few years. With both the mayor and secretary at their disposals, any startup will have incredible leverage to succeed.
Photo Credit: Adrian Fenty via Georgetown Voice