Khosla Ventures is announcing a strategic relationship with RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm started by Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Rice and her business partners will help Khosla’s portfolio companies navigate both global and domestic regulatory, public policy and political environments.
This isn’t the first political figure to join Khosla’s team. In 2010, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair joined as a special advisor. Politicians not only bring a wealth of experience when it comes to both domestic and global regulatory bodies, but also bring their vast network of contacts to VC firms and their investments.
Rice, Gates, as well as former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former State Department official Anja Manuel will be helping Khosla’s companies in the technology, energy, security and healthcare sectors make critical business decisions around expanding to markets like China, India, and Brazil.
Considering Rice’s experience as Secretary of State, and as a member of the National Security Council in the most recent Bush administration, she brings a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in international law and business. Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, was also formerly in the CIA and on the National Security Council.
“All of us at RiceHadleyGates share Khosla Ventures’ vision and passion for helping the next generation of entrepreneurs change the world for the better,” said Rice in a release. “We look forward to putting our experience to good use by helping Khosla’s impressive portfolio companies navigate the tricky waters of political, policy, and regulatory issues around the world.”
In an interview, Manuel explains that the firm has already been doing business with technology companies looking for consultation on international regulatory environments, governance, emerging markets, and more. She cautions that RiceHadleyGates is not a lobbying firm, but more of a consulting body that gives advice to organizations.
Khosla partner Samir Kaul says that these services will be invaluable to Khosla’s companies, especially those in the technology, energy and agriculture sectors.
“Khosla Ventures continues to be dedicated to building lasting companies, with strong leaders and new technologies that have the potential to disrupt markets,” said Vinod Khosla. “The RiceHadleyGates team brings vast experience and unique insight to the table, which will extend and elevate our venture assistance model by directly contributing to the operational and strategic success of our portfolio companies.”
As mentioned above, the firm has already been helping a number of Silicon Valley companies. For example, Manuel says that RiceHadleyGates recently helped a tech company navigate laws around internet freedom and who to talk to in individual countries to influence and engage in the debate. Another client was thinking of expanding its product to emerging markets, and the firm helped narrow this list down to five countries from ten.
Now more than ever, VC firms are adding more services to help portfolio companies with recruiting, PR, marketing, design and much more. And an extension of this is providing advisors with knowledge of both domestic and international environments to help companies deal with these political and regulatory issues. Last year, former Harvard president and U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers joined Andreessen Horowitz, and earlier this summer, the former mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty, also joined the VC firm as an advisor. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is a partner at Kleiner Perkins.
VCs are as much about network and access as they are about investments now, so key figures in the political and government world not only add their expertise but also their connections in public policy. And in a world where disruption in technology is taking place across the globe, this information and access is invaluable.