Why Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus Is Joining a Venture Capital Firm

March 28, 2017, 3:01 PM UTC
Photo by Alex Wong—Getty Images

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GV, venture the investment arm of Alphabet (GOOGL), has added four new advisors to its stable: Craig Kornblau, former president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Guillaume Le Cunff, president of Nespresso USA, Sanyin Siang, the executive director of the Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) at Duke, and former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

I spoke with Mabus, who told me he plans to help GV portfolio companies scale their teams, instill cultures, and run large organizations. As SecNav, he led an organization of 900,000 that had an annual budget of $170 billion. He was known for advocating for social change, including fully integrating women in the military and increasing maternity leave. Under Mabus, the Navy also significantly reduced its reliance on fossil fuels. (Mabus also happens to be the only person to have thrown out a first pitch at every baseball stadium in the U.S.)

Mabus’ duties could include mentoring GV companies on how to navigate the complicated world of defense contracts and procurement, though he notes that he’s prevented from approaching the government on anyone’s behalf for two years because ethics rules.

Mabus is one in a pattern of Obama administration officials to make the jump to Silicon Valley. (One could argue former members of the George W. Bush administration preferred private equity.) Even Obama himself has hinted at an interest in becoming a venture capitalist.

Asked about the growing D.C.-Silicon Valley connection, Mabus said, “the energy, the intellectual capital that is there, the intensity of these founders and companies that GV is invested in, it’s very appealing to me, much more appealing than maintaining something that’s already gotten there.”

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