Bradley Tusk is the founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings. In conversation with Data4America, he discusses fighting battles for Michael Bloomberg, Uber, and other disruptive players.
On his unique career path:
Bradley Tusk: I’ve had kind of a weird, somewhat itinerant journey. My career didn’t follow a totally linear path, and I think that ended up being helpful because the kind of business that I started – and run now – depended on that weird set of experiences.
On the fight between Uber and NYC mayor Bill de Blasio:
BT: There’s that adage that you can’t fight City Hall, but we did – and we won.
On Tusk Ventures:
BT: The main idea is to protect innovation and prevent intrinsic interests from using political power to stifle new startups before they can get started.
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On Michael Bloomberg:
BT: If you were to say to me, ‘What’s Mike Bloomberg’s greatest accomplishment as mayor?’ even if I named 100 different policy accomplishments – of which there were over 12 years – it’s not any one of those specifically. It was the culture and approach to hiring that really did it. What Mike did that was so radical was that he solely hired people based on merit and talent. He didn’t care about politics, who sent him, or if it could help his re-election.
On Bloomberg and Uber’s Travis Kalanick:
BT: They’re definitely two of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with and for. Their management styles are a little different. I didn’t get to know Mike until he was in his sixties, and I got to know Travis in his mid-30s. Travis comes off as more aggressive than Mike; when he’s that age, there may be something that comes from being so successful for so long that you can kind of be just as effective while taking half a step back in your tone and approach. In terms of people who have vision and drive and the ability to put lots of different things together and make incredible sacrifices, too.
On changing policy for the better:
BT: If you want to save democracy from the polarization and dysfunction you see in Washington right now, you’ve got to increase turnout.
BT: I’m not sure that I’m willing to accept the basic premise that Amazon Go or Auto or whatever means that 7 million cashiers and truckers are suddenly out of a job, or there won’t be an adaptation we can’t think of right now.
On never giving up:
BT: Mike Bloomberg got fired by Solomon Brothers, took his severance package, and put that into creating Bloomberg LP. Uber isn’t Travis’s first startup. He got sued by the record companies. These guys had a lot of failure, and it taught them how to succeed and motivated them more. You need to get punched a lot – and you need to get back up.
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Data4America is an educational non-profit bringing data science and data visualization to the understanding of politics.