Here's how nervous start-ups should deal with Trump, explains VC

How should start-ups prepare for the next four years of President Donald Trump? Buckle up, said venture capitalist Bradley Tusk.

"We're going to have four fairly bumpy years," Tusk told CNBC at the StrictlyVC speakers series in San Francisco on Wednesday night.

In the weeks since Trump took office, Tusk has received a slew of inquiries from concerned portfolio company CEOs and clients. In response, he created a "basic intellectual framework on when to engage or not engage" with the Trump administration, and a president who is not afraid to tweet at companies, singling them out for praise or punishment.

Tusk, who was an early investor in Uber, advises companies on how to navigate challenging regulatory environments.

Start-up CEOs should not feel compelled to take a stance on every issue, he said.

Though internal pressure and a public backlash forced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to step down from Trump's advisory council, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has managed to position himself close to Trump without facing the same pressure.

"In some ways he [Musk] is probably picking his spots and saying 'There may be a time when I have to do what Travis did, and really speak up and take some sort of action, but let me do it on issues that are really impactful to my business,'" he said. "Realizing where you're relevant and where you're not is really important."

Musk may decide to stand up to the government on environmental issues, whereas immigration was a more personal and critical issue to Kalanick and Uber, he said.

Tusk is also a former aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and has advised Fortune 500 tech and media companies including Alphabet's Google, AT&T and Walmart.

"There is a bit of irrational fear — 'Oh, well I don't want to make Trump mad' — it depends on what you do," he said. "If you're Apple — at the end of the day — what is he going to do to them? The answer is nothing really," said Tusk.

"This notion that you have to capitulate in some way just because you're worried about getting tweeted at is a little silly," he said.

But one company which he suggests might be vulnerable is Amazon.

"If the Justice Department chose to do to Amazon what they did to Microsoft in the 1990s, even though Amazon would probably win at the end of the day, like Microsoft it is so bruising, so expensive, such a distraction, that you want to avoid that if you can."