When Ben Horowitz stopped by PandoMonthly last June, he celebrated the work done by AngelList’s Naval Ravikant to help push the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act through Congress. Horowitz said, “He went to Washington and he changed the law! That blew me away.”
Now that Ravikant is in the PandoMonthly hot seat, we can find out for certain if that’s actually how it all went down. The verdict? Yeah, Naval Ravikant pretty much changed the law — though he had a lot of help.
With an army of lobbyists and industry leaders at his side, Ravikant set out to convince lawmakers that the JOBS Act, which eases securities laws, would encourage more small business investment. Any one who’s seen a debate or political speech over the past four years knows that “building small businesses” is golden rhetoric for politicians on both sides of the aisle. But even amid this climate, it wasn’t easy.
“People told us that it was impossible – and it actually basically is impossible,” Ravikant said. “We just pulled out all the stops.”
By pulling out the stops, that means encouraging entrepreneurs and investors to call their Congressmen to communicate the importance of the legislation. “We basically showed (lawmakers) how in every state and in almost every major city, we had a bunch of investors and a bunch of startups that were willing to stand up for what we were doing.”
But it was more than just calling Congressmen — it was also calling in favors. “It’s one of those things like where you pull 100 favors,” Ravikant said. “You call in literally 100 favors, and each one of them takes a toll on you. And then at the end of the day a random five come together.”
But perhaps the biggest factor tipping the scales wasn’t Ravikant at all — it was whoever came up with the name JOBS Act: “What congressman is going to vote against something called JOBS?”
Although the odds were against them (Ravikant calculated a 10 percent chance of success), he emphasizes that, when it comes to federal legislation, the best way to change the law is to not break the law. Otherwise you could end up like Napster.
“I still can’t believe it sort of magically came together.”
Watch Ravikant describe the whole story below.
To watch the interview in its entirety, click here