By Omar Akhtar, reporter
The consultancy, RiceHadleyGates LLP, headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice includes former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former White House national security advisor Stephen Hadley, and it will provide advisory services for venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.
“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 press 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.”
Silicon Valley-based Khosla Ventures invests in clean energy and tech startups. Its portfolio includes ZocDoc, AppNexus and VOX Media. Vinod Khosla, founding partner of Khosla Ventures, said, “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.”
Khosla’s partnership with a team of ex-Bushies may be surprising to some since 86% of his campaign donations since 1996 have gone to the Democratic party. Rice isn’t the first political figure to partner with Khosla Ventures, the firm previously employed the services of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as an advisor on environmental issues.
Anja Manuel, founding partner at RiceHadleyGates says that while the partners at RHG are known for their foreign policy credentials, they all came from business backgrounds. Manuel, who previously served as special assistant to Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the U.S. Department of State cites her own background in investment banking and Rice’s previous positions on the board of Chevron (CVX) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
Based in Silicon Valley and Washington D.C., Manuel says the firm helps its tech-focused clientele in its international expansion plans, especially for the Middle East, China, India and Brazil. “We generally advise CEOs and top-level management on how to understand and expand into international markets, helping them overcome national security and public policy challenges,” says Manuel. As an example, she says the firm recently helped a client expand into ten different countries in Africa and advised another on navigating India’s stringent internet freedom laws.
Samir Kaul, partner at Khosla Ventures says the deal came about through shared presence at KiOR, a clean energy tech startup controlled by Khosla Ventures that has Rice on its board. “We developed a great rapport while serving on the board with KiOR,” says Kaul. With discussions starting in the late summer, Khosla Ventures decided to bring on Rice and her business partners for “their strategic insight and leadership guidance.” Kaul says, “It’ll be a huge value-add for our portfolio companies.”