Bradley Tusk, the New York political consultant, is best known for his pioneering work on Uber’s multi-state, multi-city regulatory campaign to make digital ride hailing legal. He founded his firm, Tusk Strategies, in 2010 after having run Mike Bloomberg’s final re-election campaign for mayor of New York. Tusk had settled into a comfortable routine advising megacap corporations like Walmart, AT&T, and Pepsi when he got a call from Uber. Travis Kalanick needed help but was unwilling to pay cash. Would Tusk take equity instead? He would, a decision that made him fabulously wealthy.
Tusk, who was in San Francisco Thursday, has pivoted his career lately. He’s already the master of pivots, having also worked as deputy governor of Illinois (under the disgraced Rod Blagojevich), Sen. Charles Schumer’s communications director, and, briefly, at Lehman Brothers, where he built a never-launched investment vehicle to privatize state lotteries.
Now Tusk has become a venture capitalist—of sorts. He gives startups the same regulatory advice as big corporations. But seeing as it worked so well with Uber, Tusk only takes equity from the young companies. A politico by training, he has found his niche in the business world. “Startup stuff is most like a campaign of anything I’ve seen in the private sector,” he says. The companies typically are fighting entrenched interests and have urgent near-term objectives. Current clients include the betting site FanDuel; Lemonade, a residential insurance upstart; and Eaze, a marijuana delivery company.
I remind Tusk that services firms that took equity before the dot-com bust got wiped out and ask if that concerns him. His Uber stake plus ongoing (cash) business with durable concerns mitigates the risk, he says.
Tusk’s crossover knowledge gives him a good perch for higher-level advice too. He recently shot a memo to his network urging prudence in reacting publicly to the new administration in Washington. Rather than telling them what to do, he suggested some questions they ask themselves: How political do you really want to be? Is there pressure for you to act? How much does the issue at hand relate to your core business?
These are good thoughts to end the week. Have a great weekend.
BITS AND BYTES
The freeze on President Trump’s travel ban still stands. More than 130 companies, including tech giants Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, last week asked courts to halt the executive order freezing immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries. Not only is it unconstitutional, they argue, it’s bad for business. Courts have approved a halt while specific challenges to the ban are considered. (Wall Street Journal)
Zenefits lays off close to half its workforce. The decision to cut more than 430 jobs and centralize operations in Arizona was made by the previous CEO, David Sacks. The struggling human resources software company named a new leader, Jay Fulcher, earlier this week. (Fortune)
AT&T workers are poised to walk off the job if necessary. The contract covering 21,ooo employees in its wireless business is set to expire Saturday, and the union covering them has voted to authorize a strike if it doesn’t find common ground with management. The union representing 17,000 people in its cable and TV division took similar measures last month after working with a contract since last April. (Fortune)
Get ready for another Hyperloop startup. The founder of Hyperloop One, former SpaceX engineer Brogan BamBrogan, is starting another company focused on developing futuristic transportation pods, called Arrivo. He left the company he co-founded last year amid allegations of mismanagement but settled a legal dispute with his former business partners last November. (Fortune)
Nasdaq is planning to back more fintech startups. The exchange is setting up a venture capital fund that will invest more formally in entrepreneurs working on technologies such as blockchain or artificial intelligence, reports Reuters. The size of the initiative hasn’t been disclosed. (Reuters)
Don’t get too excited about the prospects for drone deliveries. A new research report from Gartner forecasts that schemes for dropping packages at customers’ doorsteps with airborne robots will account for just 1% of shipping methods by 2020. Its forecast is tempered by both technological and regulatory considerations. (Fortune)
Why Intel is finally shifting to favor servers over PCs. Progress often moves achingly slowly in semiconductors, where a new line of business can take a decade to reach the market and a new factory costs $7 billion.
For Intel, despite the best effort of CEO Brian Krzanich, the big strategic shifts needed to match the shifting demands of the market are taking a long time, too.
On Thursday, Krzanich and his team let slip a huge shift in strategy, although it was almost completely ignored by the attending audience of Wall Street analysts, who are so focused on their next few quarters of financial projections. Fortune‘s Aaron Pressman reports on Intel’s pivot to use its newest technologies first in server chips and then later in PC chips.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Twitter Needs More Than Donald Trump to Survive, by Mathew Ingram
Snap Updates IPO Filing to Show Only Female Director Doesn’t Make Less Than Men, by Valentina Zarya
Apple Shareholders Take On Diversity, by Ellen McGirt
Elon Musk Responds to Tesla Workers ‘Talking About Unionizing’, by Kirsten Korosec
SAP Launches Cloudier Version of Bread and Butter Software, by Barb Darrow
Accenture Makes It Easier for Businesses to Say ‘Yes’ to Blockchain, by Robert Hackett
Facebook Denies It’s a Media Outlet, But Many of Its Users Disagree, by Mathew Ingram
ONE MORE THING
Don’t like VR goggles, try these gloves instead. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg just posted some photos of a prototype being working on in the Oculus virtual reality research lab. (Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
IBM Connect 2017: Redefining work with Watson. (Feb. 20-23; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (West): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (Feb. 26-28; Phoenix)
Mobile World Congress: The world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. (Feb. 27-March 2; Barcelona)
Humanity.AI: Ideas for keeping humanity at the forefront of AI advancements. (Feb. 28; San Francisco)
Marketing Nation Summit: Marketo’s annual event for digital marketers. (April 23-26; San Francisco)
Pure//Accelerate: The future of data storage. (June 12-14; San Francisco)
Gartner Data & Analytics Summit: Strategies for generating business value. (March 6-9; Grapevine, Texas)
Google Cloud Next: Products and perspectives for developers and customers. (March 7-10, 2017; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (East): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (March 19-21; Hollywood, Fla.)
IBM Interconnect: Tap into advanced cloud technology. (March 19-23; Las Vegas)
Enterprise Data World: Become a data-driven business. (April 2-7; Atlanta)
AppianWorld: Accelerate your digital business transformation. (April 3-5; San Francisco)
Magento Imagine: Strategies and technologies for digital commerce. (April 3-5; Las Vegas)
Open Networking Summit: The future of open source communications. (April 7-9; Santa Clara, Calif.)
MuleSoft Connect: Connect apps, data and devices. (April 18-20; San Francisco)
JiveWorld: Strategies and technologies for workplace collaboration. (May 1-3; Las Vegas)
Apttus Accelerate: Perspectives on automating the “quote-to-cash” process. (May 2-4; San Francisco)
Collision: A tech conference created by the organizers of Europe’s Web Summit. (May 2-4; New Orleans)
Knowledge17: ServiceNow’s annual customer gathering. (May 7-11; Orlando, Fla.)
Outperform: The PROS annual conference about omnichannel commerce technology. (May 10-12; Chicago)
Build: Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers. (May 10-12; Seattle)
Google I/O: Alphabet’s annual developer conference. (May 17-19; Mountain View, California)
Signal: Twilio’s annual developer confab. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Cisco Live: Education for technology innovators. (June 25-29; Las Vegas)
Microsoft Ignite: Hands-on learning and industry insights for business leaders. (Sept. 25-29; Orlando, Florida)