Longtime political operative Bradley Tusk got his start in Silicon Valley in 2011, when a little-known founder of a transportation startup requested his help surmounting regulatory barriers. That founder, Travis Kalanick, couldn’t afford Tusk’s $25,000 fee, so Tusk agreed to accept half of his payment in equity. As you can imagine, that deal worked out pretty well for Tusk, whose shares in Uber are now said to be worth $100 million.
Tusk (pictured) spent several years advising Uber’s expansion strategy and, in 2015, decided to turn his efforts into a full-fledged business: part venture fund, part political strategy. Today, Tusk and his partner, Jordan Nof, filed paperwork to raise $70 million for their second venture fund, Tusk Venture Partners II.
A spokesperson for Tusk Ventures declined to comment.
The New York-based firm previously brought in $36 million for its debut fund — capital it used to back scooter “unicorn” Bird; medical marijuana delivery company Eaze; the marketplace for household service providers Handy; cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase; and fintech startup Grove.
In addition to deploying capital into startups, Tusk Ventures lends its political expertise to support companies plagued with regulatory barriers and communications issues, as well as help with grassroots organizing, opposition research and partnerships. Bird, of course, is an excellent example of a company that’s struggled with local politics as it has scaled across the U.S. and beyond. The scooter-sharing company was banned from San Francisco after releasing scooters without permits and has upset local leaders in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and more.
“Our diverse team of regulatory and political experts take on entrenched interests and politicians trying to stifle innovation so our companies don’t have to,” the firm writes on its website. “Our unique model provides startups with access to political, investment and operational expertise that is second to none.”
Prior to transitioning into startup advising and investing, Tusk served as campaign manager for Mike Bloomberg, as deputy governor of Illinois and as communications director for Senator Chuck Schumer. He also penned the book, The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics, released last year.
Tusk joined us last week on TechCrunch’s Equity podcast to discuss mobile voting, his thoughts on Uber’s upcoming initial public offering and sky-high valuation and Saudi money in VC. Listen to that episode below.
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