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"The Fixer" book cover art. Image: Tusk Strategies

"At the end of the day, politics comes for you." That's a hard reality startups must face and embrace, according to Bradley Tusk, an ex-Mike Bloomberg campaign manager turned tech investor.

Why it matters: Tusk has parlayed his career’s lessons into a new book, “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics,” which he hopes can help startups operating in highly regulated industries like transportation, sports betting, and cannabis.

Top lesson: “You've got to take government and politics seriously because it can make or break your business,” says Tusk. After years in politics, he decided to open a consultancy to help businesses launch political-style campaigns on public issues.

  • In 2011, he was introduced to Uber’s then CEO, Travis Kalanick, who needed some help dealing with New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission.
  • Uber was also the first client he took on in exchange for startup equity (in part). “I had no idea what it was!” exclaims Tusk when asked if he knew his Uber equity would one day be so valuable. “To his credit, the deal was very fair — I would have signed anything.”

One increasingly popular tactic for startups is to get their customers to become their political activists, and pressure officials on their behalf—as Uber did in New York City in 2015.

  • But: “It only works when people are really passionate about your product,” says Tusk. "People really didn’t like the taxi system and were really passionate about Uber...FanDuel is another example of that.” Airbnb, however, is an example where that would be much harder to execute, he says. (The home-sharing company, which defeated a San Francisco ballot measure in 2015, would probably argue otherwise.)
  • It also turns out that you can’t always win against city hall, as one of Tusk’s investments, scooter startup Bird, learned last month when San Francisco decided not to give the company a permit to participate in its pilot program. Tusk says that S.F. is an outlier and Bird has been embraced by many other cities, not all of which are enacting such tight regimes.

The big picture: Tusk’s book includes guides to help startups deal with a number of political dilemmas, but he also argues for the value of applying a “basic conscience” in those situations.

  • Tusk worked for then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and briefly for Lehman Brothers before the bank went under, which reinforced that "very obvious message," he says.

Go deeper: 🎙Listen to Axios's Dan Primack chat with Tusk on Monday's Pro Rata podcast.

Go deeper

The Fed isn't the only problem investors are worried about

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Reserve will be raising rates, just as the economy is slowing. The markets hate that.

Why it matters: The ugly start to the stock trading year doesn't just reflect Fed-induced agita — investors are also worried about a growth slowdown.

2 hours ago - Health

White House says Obamacare sign-ups hit record

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra speaking in the White House in December 2021. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The White House said Thursday that a record 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through Obamacare marketplaces since Nov. 1, including more than 10 million enrollments through HealthCare.gov.

Why it matters: Last year's stimulus bill contained substantial investments in the program, including increased subsidies for people who don't receive health insurance from an employer or through Medicare or Medicaid.

2 hours ago - World

Kremlin says U.S. written responses ignored Russia's main NATO demand

Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Dimitar DilkoffI/AFP via Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that the United States' written answers to Russia's security demands do not contain a "positive response" to the Kremlin's top priority, which is a freeze on NATO expansion, according to Russian state media.

Why it matters: A spokesperson for the Kremlin stressed that no conclusions will be drawn until Russian President Vladimir Putin has time to analyze the papers, but a lack of movement on Russia's core concerns means the crisis over Ukraine is unlikely to de-escalate.