Andreessen Horowitz prides itself in being a full service venture firm. Over the years, it has built a hefty staff of more than 100 professionals that help its portfolio companies with executive recruiting, engineering talent, market development, marketing and corporate development. Now it’s going even broader, creating the first policy and regulatory affairs group at a venture capital firm.
The firm has invested in several companies that have been in the cross hairs of regulators and policy makers including Airbnb, Lyft and Coinbase, a popular Bitcoin wallet. The issue is only going to get bigger, says Scott Kupor, a managing partner at the firm. “There are more and more of our investments that will intersect with traditional industries, and those are often regulated,” Kupor said.
Other firms have hired prominent Washington insiders as advisors and to help foster ties with government. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for example, counts former vice-president Al Gore among its staff and former Secretary of State Colin Powell among its strategic advisors. But no firm has built a policy and regulatory affairs group, as Andreessen Horowitz plans to do. The size of the group has not yet been determined.
Ullyot said his team would build ties with regulators and lawmakers at the local, state and federal level. While Ullyot may advise the firm on investment decisions that have a regulatory component, his primary focus will be on ”enhancing an understanding so when lawmakers are thinking of what rules to put in place, they have a consistent point of contact in the Valley that is not wedded to one company,” Ullyot said. The network will work the other way, he added, “so companies can know who to talk to and be part of the right conversations.”
Before moving to Silicon Valley to join Facebook in 2008, Ullyot held various position in conservative policy circles in Washington, D.C. He served in the Bush administration as associate White House counsel and as a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. He also served as chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Ullyot clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
While his policy career is firmly rooted in conservative circles, Ullyot said he was worked with Democrats and Republicans alike, especially during his tenure at Facebook, when the company had several dealings with the Obama administration. “If you are going to be effective you need to develop relationships with people on both sides of the aisle,” he said. Andreessen Horowitz’s links with Democratic policy makers, presumably, have been championed by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who is a strategic advisor.
Ullyot attended Harvard University, where one of his roommates was David Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. He was also a partner at Kirkland and Ellis and worked in AOL’s legal department.
Miguel Helft is the San Francisco Bureau Chief for Forbes. Follow him on Twitter at @mhelft.