Business

Former Bush cabinet members to guide Khosla startups through all waters, foreign and domestic

What’s a former Bush cabinet member to do? Advise tech startups, apparently.

Khosla Ventures and RiceHadleyGates are forming a strategic partnership. RiceHadleyGates is an international consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. As part of this agreement, RHG will lend its expertise on international and domestic issues to Khosla portfolio companies as they face regulatory, political, and public policy issues.

The technology community is now global. Each country has its own set of laws, cultural mores, and political issues, not to mention Internet guidelines. There are emerging markets in all corners of the globe and teams are increasingly distributed across national borders. Maneuvering through this brave new world is challenging for anyone without an extensive background in international relations, and all the more so for young entrepreneurs. This relationship between Khosla and RHG is intended to give startups the advice they need to successfully navigate these murky seas.

During an interview with VentureBeat, RHG founding partner Anja Manuel said the firm already works with technology companies and has a range of expertise to offer, spanning business, operations, governance, and international policy. In many cases, the consultants will help Khosla’s startups figure out which emerging markets to enter from a strategic business perspective, as well as how to navigate the regulatory and governmental environment in those countries. RHG’s role will also be to provide expert insight into foreign affairs to help entrepreneurs understand the global picture.

“We consider ourselves a Silicon Valley firm,” Manuel said. “We can help them understand changes happening in those emerging markets. For example, we are helping one of our clients understand what’s going on with the debate over Internet freedom in India and then how to influence the debate. Then you look at how Twitter and Facebook are used as a megaphone and were catalysts of Arab Spring. These are interesting problems for the governments that are being affected, but difficult for the companies themselves who were thrust into this unintentionally.”

Khosla Ventures is a prestigious venture capital firm that invests in sustainability and IT technology, including clean energy, mobile, IT, cloud, big data, storage, health, food agriculture, and semi conductors. The firm firmly espouses the importance of building companies with “lasting significance” and extends its involvement with portfolio companies beyond financial backing.

“We view ourselves are operational and strategic partners,” said Khosla partner Samir Kaul in an interview with VentureBeat. “After working with Condi and RHG on a few projects, we thought about how we can broaden this relationship between our two groups. There are a lot of places in the world where RHG has great insights and experience that most venture capital firms just don’t have or wouldn’t be able to provide, but there are policy and regulatory issues that need to be understood, particularly for our companies as they grow and aspire to go global.”

Over the past couple of years, venture capitalists have started to put greater emphasis on their role as strategic advisors. Big-name firms have added personnel to help portfolio companies with PR, HR, marketing, finance, and recruiting. This agreement with RHG is an extension of that trend and a smart move for a firm like Khosla that leans towards investments that extend far beyond Silicon Valley.


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