Facebook's former top lawyer joins powerful VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz

For better or for worse, most startups don’t see themselves as mere companies. They’re trying to do something different and new.

That means many so-called disruptive organisations are running into policies and lawmakers that have yet to catch up with the times. Now at least one VC firm wants to help move the tide along.

Andreessen Horowitz is announcing a new internal branch focused on Policy and Regulatory Affairs. At the helm of this new arm is Ted Ullyot. Ullyot is most famous for being Facebook’s general counsel from 2008 to 2013.

Just looking through the company’s own portfolio, it’s easy to see where outdated regulations could be a problem.

Ridesharing startups like Lyft (as well as Uber, which isn’t an Andreessen-Horowitz investment) have faced numerous regulatory questions from local lawmakers. Ditto for Airbnb, which has led many cities and states to re-think hotel laws. New companies like Airware and Skydio are looking to make money from drone technology, where the FAA has only just begun looking into policies surrounding their use.

Inevitably companies like these face regulatory “opportunities and issues” as time goes on, said partner Margit Wennmachers. So Andreessen Horowitz is bringing on a guy who knows the legal terrain as well as the tech world. His role will be to bridge the two.

Ullyot said that his time at Facebook helped him understand the how critical it is that companies focus on policy hiccups head on. His experience at the then-somewhat young social network had him dealing with everyone from federal commissions to state Attorney Generals to even the European Commission.

“I observed that a lot of young tech companies were finding themselves in the same situation that we did in the early years,” Ullyot said.

He sees his role as educating lawmakers about the issues he sees at hand, regulatory challenges, and networking with both Silicon Valley executives and lawmakers. He emphasises that the new role is not about advocating for the firm’s companies, nor is it about lobbying: “It’s mainly about connecting lawmakers, regulators, and other leaders on these issues,” he said.

Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.

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