Silicon Valley venture fund Andreessen Horowitz on Wednesday named former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty as a special adviser as it seeks to expand investments into online education and city-level software services.
The venture firm, which has backed Facebook, Groupon, and Skype, said Fenty will bring his ground-floor knowledge of how a city works and his vast rolodex of District and national connections to the company.
That could mean helping entrepreneurs create apps to find health clinics nearby and connect medical records or sites that provide coupons and make reservations at restaurants based on location services.
Fenty’s move follows a similar appointment of former National Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers to the venture firm last year.
Summers has advised the firm part-time on global economic issues, as Internet companies grapple with expansion plans outside the country. Now, Andreessen Horowitz hopes for political and policy know-how at the local level.
The former mayor, who gained national attention for his controversial education reforms, will serve as a part-time adviser to the company. Andreessen Horowitz declined to talk about his compensation.
“His education chops are only a small part of what Adrian brings to the firm,” said Margit Wennmachers, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “He will advise us and our entrepreneurs about the ins-and-outs of navigating state, local and federal government.”
The confusing world of city government has confounded many high-tech firms focused on engineering new apps for local retail, transportation, and health services, Wennmachers said. Silicon Valley firms aren’t focused on local laws but they are increasingly building local coupon sites, restaurant reservation services, and family online services that can get held up by local rules, the venture firm said.
For example, on-demand car service Uber is fighting local critics in New York and the District. Uber’s troubles highlight some of the issues Fenty will try to help Andreessen Horowitz untangle, the investment firm said.
“This is part of a new sharing phenomena that is requiring change or interpretation of state and municipal laws,” Fenty said in a phone interview. “Whether it’s rooms, cars, taxis, bikes or whatever, laws aren’t set up for sharing and that is just one example of the changes sweeping cities and local governments.”
The new adviser jobs are loosely defined.
Summers will be in Silicon Valley next week to meet with entrepreneurs at Andreessen Horowitz to offer his advice on global economic considerations to their business. More often, partners have tapped the former economic guru to the Obama administration for more casual counsel.
“Just the other day, I called up Larry to get his take on Germany’s economic plan and he gave me an encyclopedic take. It was [expletive] fantastic, if you excuse my French,” Wennmachers said.