“For some reason, I’ve had an interest in politics since a very young age, even when I was a teenager,” says Phillip Wallace, who joined Intellectual Ventures (IV) as government relations manager in spring 2015. “When I was in high school, I was always in student government, I was my class president every year. I always enjoyed the student elections.”
Phillip grew up in Baton Rouge, La., about an hour north of New Orleans, and he went on to study political science and economics at Southern University in his hometown. “Political science was a very natural choice for me,” he says. “I wasn’t one of the college students who struggled to find a major, or didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was interested in the political process.”
The logical next step for Phillip after he graduated was to move to the nerve center of national politics: Washington, D.C. His first job on Capitol Hill was with Senator Mary Landrieu from his home state, and then he decided to further his education by pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at George Washington University. “You don’t get much more political than being blocks away from the U.S. State Department and the White House,” he says, “having professors who’ve had distinguished careers in government and politics.”
His graduate school experience steered him to a position in the government affairs office with Hyundai Motor America, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company. Phillip enjoyed his role with Hyundai and stayed there for 2.5 years, but then he saw an opportunity with IV in 2015. “I knew that after working for such a large company,” he says, “I wanted to take advantage of a company that had greater flexibility, and those tend to be smaller companies, companies with 1,000 people or less. Their day-to-day business is innovation, they know how to be quick and adapt.”
That’s why the D.C.-based government relations office at IV felt like a great fit for him, and he now says—with his trademark sincerity—that his work has become “so natural that a lot of times what I do now doesn’t really feel like work.”
At the Office
Today, Phillip’s role as senior manager of government relations takes many shapes. “I spend probably about 40 percent of my time doing what I consider retail lobbying: examining issues that are important to the business, whether it’s tax reform and tax policies, or whether we’re talking about patent reform, or looking at bills that impact the patent system.”
This sort of retail lobbying, says Phillip, often involves him going to Capitol Hill and meeting with members of Congress and their staff, occasionally meeting with regulatory officials in the new administration, and a range of other events and activities.
He then spends another 35 to 40 percent of his time making sure IV is visible in the right places, such as at industry conferences (when we caught up with him recently, he was at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property’s Fifth Annual Fall Conference, “Real Intellectual Property Reform”).
Another huge project for Phillip, starting in 2016, has been organizing the first two Intellectual Ventures Expos on Capitol Hill. “In an ideal world,” he says, “it would be perfect if we were able to get every member of Congress and their staffers over to the IV Lab in Bellevue to see what we do on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, that’s not feasible, so I said, ‘Well, the next best thing is to bring some of the Lab to D.C. and show them what we’ve got.’ So we did. We took up space in one of the larger ballrooms on Capitol Hill on the House side and literally flew in the photonic fence, technology from various spinouts like Evolv and Pivotal [Commware] and Kymeta and TerraPower, and in kind of a science fair expo format, opened it up to the entire Hill and the general public. And we had tremendous success.”
Both expos were filled to capacity, and that success was a big part of what earned Phillip one of IV’s annual awards recognizing employees in 2016. “Yeah, that was a great surprise to me,” he says. “I was not expecting that, and honestly, it’s really a team effort. It takes a lot of work to pull off bringing that kind of equipment to Capitol Hill. The security checkpoints, the protocol to follow—it’s really a gigantic team effort that involved a lot of people.”
The 2018 expo is coming up on May 10, and Phillip is looking forward to the ‘wow’ factor. “My favorite part of my work is wowing people,” he says. “We show someone the type of technology we’re working on, or are capable of, or something in our pipeline for commercialization, and people are like, ‘Wow.’ People literally say ‘wow.’ It’s just very innovative.”