Friday Letter: What a Biden presidency means for VC

On January 20, a new administration will be sworn in, and this could impact many things of note for the VC community, carried tax and antitrust issues.

As of today, November 13, it’s 68 days until president-elect Joe Biden is due to be sworn in as the 46th president of the US.

What that means for the venture community is uncertain. The Biden/Harris campaign focused mostly on turning around the pandemic, addressing climate change, fixing the economy and dealing with social issues.

But there are some signals we can point to in regard to venture.

First off, it’s his chief of staff, Ronald Klain, who was appointed to the post this week. As the New York Times points out, Klain was most recently in venture capital. He’s been serving as executive vice-president and general counsel of Revolution, Steve Case’s firm, which makes growth-stage, venture and seed-stage investments. The seed practice is mostly through Revolution’s Rise of the Rest fund, which invests in the Midwest and other emerging US markets outside of the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, New York and Boston.

This is speculative, of course, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that venture could play a significant role in economic recovery. The administration has indicated that to get out of a recession, it will look to support green initiatives and related start-up technologies. Thus, it might zero in on emerging regions in between the coasts, meaning the Rise of the Rest fund as well as a host of other emerging managers in flyover regions may come into play.

When it comes to venture capital and presidential administrations, one of the main talking points centers around carried interest tax. Given all the other things the new president must tackle first, carried interest has received scant attention. But looking at his overall tax plan shows he could do away with it, or at least make the loophole meaningless because of his planned changes to the capital gains tax.

Another impact the administration may have is on antitrust and big tech. As I write this, the US federal government has said it will delay enforcement of its ban on TikTok, granting a temporary reprieve to the wildly popular, Chinese-owned social media app.

And then there’s Visa’s $5.3 billion bid to buy Plaid, which the current Department of Justice is seeking to block. How might a new administration impact that deal or any VC-backed exits? The answer may depend on who becomes the treasury secretary. Senator Elizabeth Warren seems like a longshot. But I believe the Biden administration will side with progressives when it comes to most antitrust issues, as it seeks to cut down big tech and corporates.

Related to that is the talk about standards in tech. I talked with a VC earlier this week, who noted that there are no international standards for 5G. But China is taking the lead on that and writing the rules on other emerging tech, leaving the US in the dust.

This could impact US investors in China if the new administration seeks to block more Chinese tech companies from engaging with American business – not just with consumer apps like TikTok, but also, for example, taking a tougher stance on the communications giant Huawei Technologies.

As always, let me know what you think. How will the new administration impact the venture community? I’m always happy to connect with investors and listen to thoughts and ideas. You can reach me at agoldfisher@buyoutsinsider.com and I’m open to voice and video calls, of course.