INNOVATE2016: General Catalyst’s Hemant Taneja on the importance of politics for startups

With his five — yes five — degrees from MIT and investments in huge wins like Stripe and Snapchat, General Catalyst Managing Director Hemant Taneja is one of Silicon Valley’s most meretricious success stories.

And yet Taneja is under no illusions about the power of Silicon Valley start-ups to entirely control their own fate. Fifteen years ago, he says, start-ups didn’t need to worry about government or regulation.

But today, Taneja – who is heavily invested in traditionally highly regulated sectors like healthcare and education – argues, “everything has changed”. There’s been what he calls a “global application rewrite” which means that entrepreneurs need to understand that “regulation is part of their product”.

For all his appreciation of the disruptive qualities of technology, Hemant Taneja is anything but a libertarian.

While he seems critical of Title II (over) regulation, he nonetheless sees a role for government in ensuring basic fairness in Internet access. And he’s even in favor of what he calls “algorithmic accountability” (embedding laws in algorithms) which will regulate the pricing of sharing economy companies.

Taneja is, in fact, an example of a worldly Valley VC who understands that technology and politics need to work together to foster responsible innovation. If only Washington was producing politicians of similar nuance and maturity.

As always, many thanks to CALinnovates for their help in the production of this interview.