On Friday night, Ron Conway found himself at dinner in San Francisco with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, offering the two Democratic monarchs something of a tutorial on the sudden failure of Silicon Valley Bank. Sure, Conway was talking to Joe Biden’s former boss, and perhaps the most important lawmaker in America. But as the so-called Godfather of Silicon Valley who has worked in the industry longer than SVB has even existed, he understood the bank’s interconnectedness more intimately than anyone else—the manner in which the bank provided the liquidity for the broader tech economy.
The timing of the dinner was fortuitous, but hardly an accident. Since 24 hours prior, when he had last spent time with Obama, on stage at his venture capital firm’s own conference, Conway had been on a mission to leverage much of his reputational collateral to convince Washington policymakers that the bank wasn’t just a parking lot for the capital of the ultra-rich, but that a run on SVB would tear asunder the private tech economy and cascade into an economic disaster of generational proportions.
While other billionaires were espousing bromides and dark prophecies on Twitter, Conway was sticking to his craft, racing behind the scenes to manage the political narrative, which was oscillating between populist outrage against the tech industry and outright panic. As the broader public bickered over what would constitute a bailout, Conway, a political mega-connector with his own exposure to SVB, felt he was uniquely positioned to help foam the runway and ensure that depositors—startups, mature companies, V.C.s, etcetera—had a path toward liquidity.