What this Entrepreneurial Governor Can Teach Us About Inventing the Future

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe shows his entrepreneurial side to DC's Startup Grind community..

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe shows his entrepreneurial side to DC’s Startup Grind community..

Getting some perspective on Richard “Terry” McAuliffe, the 72nd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is good. He can be larger than life when he winds up for a good story. It’s all in the name of public service. A businessman from age 14, with a driveway sealing and parking lot resurfacing business, 58-year-old McAuliffe observes he has never worked for anyone else.  He has had experience in some 30 different fields, from nation’s youngest bank chairman, home builder and Florida real estate developer. What he likes most about that was trying 30 different fields.

Terry McAuliffe grew up in Syracuse, NY, and has spent half his life as a volunteer raising a total of about $1 billion for the Democrats. From 2001-2005 alone he raised an unprecedented $1/2 billion for the Democratic National Committee.

At 23, he left Georgetown Law School (and a scholarship) to raise funds for the Carter/Mondale campaign. After co-chairing Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and chairing Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.  He had followed his love of politics and temperate climate and moved to raise his family in Northern Virginia.

The governor is passionate about helping people, particularly if they are from the state that elected him. He told Startup Grind DC:

I’m on a mission to bring as much business, industry, and investment as I can into Virginia…

Less Military Spending, More Innovation

Gov. McAuliffe laid out the problem/solution: Government defense and military spending and related contracts awarded in Virginia are diminishing. The world’s biggest naval base is in Norfolk, VA.  Sequestration is coming in October. The future requires non-military industries and that’s going to take the right infrastructure, workforce, and lots of money.  He said:

Our economy is changing…To be honest folks, we are unique in Virginia as being the largest recipient of all military dollars.  That’s great when the government is spending money, but not wen we’re in a period of defense cuts.

Gov. McAuliffe announced he is set on winning the new cyber security campus the White House is expected to spend billions building to consolidate its considerable security resources.  He declared, nearly growling towards the end:

The White House has announced it will be building a cyber security campus.  I want that campus in Virginia.

[Pause here for applause during a political speech.]  Because he is addressing Startup Grind, instead of pausing he outlines how he is attracting more investment, global business, and new industry to Virginia.

The U.S. Government is expected to spend millions on a cyber campus, and Virginia’s Governor says:

Virginia has a built-in advantage because Cyber is so related to defense, military.  The Pentagon is in Virginia.  Quantico already has a cyber presence with the FBI, which has a facility at Quantico.  We have all the cabling, all the data centers, we are a natural place.

Virginia has been preparing to go after the Cyber Campus, it has:

1. Created a Cyber Commission where the best cyber companies in the community advise the Governor’s office, which coordinates with the schools, and

2. Named Richard Clarke, who advised the past three presidents on cyber security, to head his Cyber Commission.

Other Targeted Industries

Virginia’s other targeted industries also include:

  • UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) industry.  The Federal Government has designated Virginia as one of six state sites, down at Virginia Tech, to develop and test UAV technology.  They will coordinate with the Wallops Island launch pad. Virginia is building UAW testing infrastructure in parts of 495, 95, and 66.  “I’m passionate about driverless cars.  I’ve talked about this extensively with [Senator] Mark Warner — who got in early on the cell phone — and he thinks this could be bigger than the cell phone…,” says the governor.
  • Satellite Technology
  • Human Genome Sequencing/Personalized Health/Medicine
  • Environmentally sound Energy sector plays.  Virginia is the first state to get an offshore lease for a wind turbine.  The Governor’s new solar development fund got Dominion Power to contribute $700 million.  “Solar, renewable energy, this is huge,” he said.  “Net metering, energy efficiency are incentivized through our tax code.”
Gov. McAuliffe has honed his comedic timing.

Gov. McAuliffe has honed his comedic timing.

Startup Grind’s DC host, Brian Park pitches him a softball:

Amazon just announced it’s building the largest solar farm East of the Mississippi…

McAuliffe goes to bat:


Brian responds:


McAuliffe connects…:

Thank you!

He adds, scoring a laugh with his comic delivery:

Why do you think?

Learning the Limits

As a young entrepreneur, McAuliffe learned it could pay to go big and push the limits. By age 15 he tells of driving around town in a pickup truck with no drivers license, no license plates, and a business card that named him as CEO of a driveway sealing and commercial parking lot business. The worst that happens is you fail.  It’s what you do the next day that matters.

In 2009, I ran for governor on a platform of high speed rail, renewable energy…and said ‘if you don’t like my big ideas, don’t vote for me’…and they didn’t!  I got up the next day and got back to it and now I’m the governor of VA.

McAuliffe made it clear, he’s got no time for gossip.  He’s all about being positive, forward thinking, and helping Virginia transition into a new business era. He has the chops of a seasoned stand-up comedian. Listen to him tell a few stories on the taped interview from Startup Grind and you’ll hear the laughter escalate. He published a book with writer Steve Kettmann, What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and other Wild Animals.  Bill Clinton’s book jacket soundbyte read:

Terry McAuliffe has discovered that laughter is the best survival strategy.

Let’s hope his ambitious plans for Virginia keeps everyone laughing all the way to the bank.

About Janice K. Mandel

I'm a storyteller engaged in the evolving voice tech community. Early adopter experience in New York City included: Sr. Editor, EIC/Intelligence, the first online, commercial database (1980s); Communications/Voice of Equinta.com, like Zillow but in 1999; and Reach networks -- like Mosaic, only four years sooner. I've recruited speakers for VOICE Summit (https://voicesummit.ai) and contributed regularly to its "flashbriefing" on Alexa leading up to the event.
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