Adrian Fenty

Former Mayor of the District of Columbia

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 01, 2016

Discussion

Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
Hi. I’m Adrian Fenty. I like competing in triathlons and love watching sports. My favorite teams are the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors. I was mayor of Washington DC from 2007 to 2011. Since leaving office I’ve been working in technology and now work with Andreessen Horowitz and Perkins Coie.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What's one thing that you haven't yet achieved that you're striving for?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@ems_hodge Skydiving!
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hi Adrian, thanks for taking the time. I'm curious from your point of view as to how the office culture differed between being a Mayor and working in tech? And, which do you like better? And also, working at a16z, how come you don't use Twitter? Thanks!
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@mrsharma my twitter is @adrianfenty Being Mayor of my home town Washington, DC was the best job I will ever have, however, I absolutely love working in Silicon Valley. The willingness to try new things, invest in human capital, and disrupt old ways of doing things is really exciting. I wish there was more of that in government
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
@adrian_fenty Agreed! Thanks
Sean Gannon@seangannon · Developer
What would you say are your strategies for identifying markets vulnerable for disruption, and do you have any anecdotes about how you leveraged those strategies as Mayor of the District?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@seangannon I think a good disrupter sees all markets as vulnerable for disruption as follows. Here in the Valley the best CEOs are recognized for being able to maintain a "startup mentality". Meaning they are always looking over their shoulder to make sure that they are continuing to innovate and not get disrupted themselves. This is one of the reasons you see really successful companies acquire other smaller great companies. They are bringing in talent, ideas and staying fresh and competitive in the meantime. So much of the government is ripe for disruption. It would be really great to see governments adopt the same mentality of hiring the best and brightest people and challenge them to come up with great ideas from within or acquiring some from the outside. Too often officials in government are complacent or comfortable when what is needed is restlessness and discomfort in order to be more productive
Andrew Parker@andrewparkr · Founder of Givebuy
Adrian, thank you for taking the time to do this I've heard many people say that 4/5 start-ups with a revolutionary idea will fail because there wasn't a market/audience yet created for them. A good example of a company who succeeded in this manner would be Uber. In your opinion, what characteristics of start-ups (like Uber) make them successful when there isn't really an audience yet created?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Adrian, what surprised you most about your time as mayor of Washington DC?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@ems_hodge the most surprising thing about my time as Mayor in DC is how authentic and excited and positive people are about their community. However, it is strange that as excited as people are it is really hard for people to pay close attention to what is going on because people are so busy with their everyday lives. As a result, special interest groups who are around government all the time end up with undue influence over government.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Do you think there are certain characteristics that makes for a good startup founder?
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@amfenty thanks so much for joining us today, I would love to hear how you feel working as Mayor affected your role and approach to your work with a16z? How did it prepare you well? Is there anything that you were surprised about when coming into the role?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@harrystebbings @adrianfenty is my correct twitter. I have been working in the Valley for just over 3 years. Since that time, the number of tech companies that are impacted by government has increased dramatically. Many people believe that will continue. As someone who knows how government officials think and how their decisions impact the community, I have been able to help some tech companies strategize and better work with governments
Alex Dadds@alex_dadds
Hey Adrian, thank you for taking the time to do this! As a former collegiate runner in DC, I'm quite familiar with training in the area and some of the gems the city has to offer runners and bikers. I was wondering what your typical day is like trying to balance a busy schedule with work and a heavy training load?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@alex_dadds I have found that the longer you stay in a job, the easier it is to develop a routine, even one as busy as when I was Mayor of DC. I often would run at 6am and bike or swim at noon. Sometimes this meant I would work a longer day but sometimes it would just force me to be more efficient with my time and work product. I am impressed with companies here on the west coast (and some on the east) that invest in their employees fitness and health by making sure there is either healthy snacks or a great workout facility or both available. I have been really lucky to live in DC where we have great places to train like Rock Creek Park and the Waterfront or in the Valley with the great climbs and climate
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Adrian! Thanks for joining us. Out of all the things you could have done after Mayor, What inspired you to get into technology?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@eriktorenberg Erik I actually had no idea what in the world I would do when I lost my re-election for Mayor. I spent the first year out meeting as many people as possible and was lucky to land consulting jobs at Rosetta Stone and Everfi in Washington, DC. Since both companies were involved in education, I was able to help them with strategy, etc. From there I started working with a couple east coast startups which led me to make trips to the Valley for fundraising, etc. Once I saw the depth and expansiveness of the ecosystem out here it was intoxicating/addictive because it looked like there was no limit to how many smart people with great ideas that would get funding there were here. I really like working in tech because, like being in government, there is the ability to scale solutions and impact a great amount of people in a positive way
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Adrian, What's a day in the life of a Mayor? What do most people not understand about the job?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@eriktorenberg The most important thing to focus on when holding a position like Mayor is human capital. Much of my day was spent ensuring that the government was being managed the way the citizens would want it to be (or at least was headed fast in that direction). So I often could be found meeting with cabinet directors, going to new employee orientations, doing an hour review of the performance of an agency, walking through an alley or random neighborhood to see whether city services were being delivered effectively, popping in on a school, rec center or government agency to say hello to the employees or kids and adults being served. The biggest misunderstanding about public service is that I think everyone gets into the jobs for the right reason and, that is, to serve the community in a passionate way. unfortunately, what happens to often and too quickly is that people begin to think and worry about reelection and then that becomes more important than getting things done.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@jakecrump Luckily much of my day involves meeting with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. I love the energy within the startup ecosystem. Its terrific to hear about a new idea and think, "why didn't I think of that?" or "I would have never thought of that" but its also terrific to see an idea that others have had be executed in a fantastic way. its also great that there are so many venture capitalists in the valley and elsewhere who are willing to invest in great people and great ideas
Nico@twitlandnico
Have you made any game (even if it is a browser one)?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@twitlandnico Nico I haven't yet made a game or an app. I am actually not very technical in nature but maybe in the future I will find the right co-founder and come up with a fabulous idea that helps make the world a better place (or at least is really fun to use!).
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
How did you first get interested in triathlons?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@jakecrump my father was one of the early triathletes (circa early 80s). when I was younger I watched him compete in them and later open up the first east coast franchise of Fleet Feet Triathlete Sports Shop. But I actually didn't finish my first triathlon until I was elected to the city council and was doing a couple of marathons but realized I needed to cross train to save my knees. By signing up for triathlons (I did my first one at 33), I forced myself to cross train and I have been doing them ever since.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's something you've changed your mind about in the last year?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@jakecrump A year ago I thought that Steph Curry was as good a shooter as Reggie Miller, Larry Bird but now I believe that he is the best shooter in NBA history. The other day he shot 12/16 from 3 point territory with either someone all over him or 27 feet back or further or both. Who does that?
Steph Garrett@ongarrett · Founder, Product, https://www.podDB.me
@amfenty I watched your passion and drive for educational reform in while major and other roles in D.C. How has your most recent years experience in Silicon Valley evolved your thinking on educational reform if at all? Also Are there any tangible programs you wish to see urban and economically depressed areas like D.C. (or Baltimore) enact for education reform?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@ongarrett @adrianfenty I tend to agree with Joel Klein, the former Chancellor of NYC when asked what he would do again he replied, "I would have gone even faster". Even though we have made great and measurable progress in DC there is really so much more to be done and, as a community, there needs to be more outrage, frustration and a sense of urgency about the deplorable graduation rates, reading and math levels, and college placement in our inner cities and poor areas in this country. As a Democrat, I also wish the Democratic party weren't so beholden to the status quo and was willing to really push for education reform the way the Republican party is able to do since they are not as beholden to the special interests.
Steph Garrett@ongarrett · Founder, Product, https://www.podDB.me
@adrian_fenty @adrianfenty Thanks incredibly helpful to hear your thoughts on this. And agreed on your points.
Steph Garrett@ongarrett · Founder, Product, https://www.podDB.me
@amfenty Many of the projects you put into place as major are now coming to fruition around the District. Is that satisfying?
Adrian Fenty@adrian_fenty · Business Development Director
@ongarrett @adrianfenty Hey, I heard that the Mayor was able to get the streetcar launched on H Street. Kudos to her and her team and people like Gabe Klein and Dan Tangherlini and Neil Albert who worked for me and helped make that happen also. DC is such a great city and projects like that are going to make sure it keeps getting better