The origins of “Unblocking Disruption”

 

I recently read “The Fixer” by Bradley Tusk. I found it fascinating. I believe that the business model that Tusk has created in the United States would be applicable to Spain (with the inevitable adaptations) and I intend to make it happen.

 

Tusk (born in New York in 1973) began his professional career in politics. He worked for New York Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (who, by the way, ended up in jail for auctioning off the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected President; Tusk was not involved in the case and was never charged with any wrongdoing). He was Mike Bloomberg’s campaign manager in his third and final mayoral election in 2009 and, after contributing to his victory, decided to leave politics and set up his own company.

This company was Tusk Strategies. His goal was to create his own market. The service he offered was to set up campaigns for large companies that wanted to be active in most US states. What kind of campaigns? Regulatory or business development campaigns to overcome strong vested interests. They helped, for example, Walmart to enter new states or Expedia to fend off attempts by hotel chains to push through new taxes on online travel bookings.

 

Everything changed in 2011 when he received a call from Travis Kalanick, the founder and then CEO of UBER (he was deposed in 2017). UBER was facing the challenge of entering the New York market. It had been born in San Francisco and needed to expand. Resistance from vested interests with strong political backing (in particular, taxi license owners) threatened to prevent it from offering its services in New York. UBER hired Tusk to overcome this resistance in order to operate in New York. Fortunately for Tusk, UBER did not have much money at the time and decided to pay him part of his fee in shares.

 

Tusk’s success and the payment in stock decided him to change his business model. He created Tusk Ventures. He would no longer be just a startup consultant but its investor and partner. His success in lifting the regulatory and political hurdles that prevented the startup from growing would allow him to multiply the value of his investment. UBER’s success continued with the insurance fintech Lemonade or the vitamin retailer CARE/OF. Tusk, in short, has based his business model on helping startups to overcome the vested interests (be they political, regulatory, economic or otherwise) that all companies face precisely because they are disruptive.

Is this model replicable in Spain? Yes, without a doubt. Any disruptive company in Spain or one that wants to operate in Spain faces not only potential competitors that dominate the market but also vested interests and regulation that is adapted to the market as it exists.

 

The type of advice they will need to truly be disruptive will vary widely: legal, litigation, political, communications, activist… Any successful strategy will need to take into account these different aspects of the project (in addition, of course, to making the numbers add up) and execute them properly. This is the origin, in short, of “Unblocking Disruption”.

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