Born in Tbilisi, Ugulava studied at the Tbilisi Theological Seminary (1992-4) and the University of Saarbrücken (1995-7), and graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at the Tbilisi State University in 1998. Having briefly worked as a journalist for a Tbilisi-based Iberia TV, Internews, and Transparency International (1997-9), he became a consultant for the Eurasia Foundation in 2000. He directed the World Bank Association of Legal and Public Education from 2001 to 2003, and helped organize the youth organization Kmara! ("Enough"). The Kmara movement played a critical role in the bloodless Rose Revolution, which would bring the reformist leader Mikheil Saakashvili to power. Ugulava assumed the position of Deputy Security Minister in the new government and was moved to the post of Governor of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti in September 2004. On April 20, 2005, he was appointed Chief of the Administration of the President of Georgia. Ugulava was appointed Mayor of Tbilisi on July 12, 2005. When this post became elective in 2006, he ran successfully for mayor, and was elected by the Tbilisi Assembly on October 12, 2006.