a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast: The Art of the Regulatory Hack

Evan Burfield, Michael Copeland, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted May 16, 2016

If the next 20 years of startup-led tech innovation are going to be about addressing massive problems — like health, energy, transportation, cities, education, and more — it will mean more directly confronting (instead of stealthily bypassing) regulatory barriers and incumbent-driven regulatory capture challenges.

So how can startups “growth hack” in a highly regulated sector? In this episode of the a16z Podcast — the second of our podcasts from our most recent on-the-road trip in Washington, D.C. — Evan Burfield, the co-founder and co-CEO of D.C.-based global incubator 1776, outlines the techniques (really, an art form) of “regulatory hacking“. It’s not just a way to enter a market, but a way to create a market … much like Elon Musk did with Tesla: using the very system that drops lemons to make lemonade.

The technique begins by understanding informal and formal power; “power mapping” the influencers all across the chessboard (from the top down and bottom up); telling your startup brand/product story in a particular way; and then making your moves. Just as there’s a playbook for navigating Silicon Valley, there’s one for navigating D.C., argues Burfield; and while many entrepreneurs instinctively just want to get regulations out of the way, sometimes, you just need to know how to play the game.

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The a16z Podcast discusses the most important ideas within technology with the people building it. Each episode aims to put listeners ahead of the curve, covering topics like AI, energy, genomics, space, and more.

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