Startup News Digest: 4/28/17

Startup News Digest: 4/28/17

On Wednesday morning, more than 800 startups, innovators, investors, and entrepreneurial support organizations from all 50 states joined Engine, Y Combinator, and Techstars in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to protect a free and open internet. As we note in the letter, the success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on strong, enforceable net neutrality rules. Any effort to roll back these rules would allow for discrimination and impede entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their companies, reach customers, and compete with incumbents. Rather than dismantling the existing net neutrality framework, signatories called on Chairman Pai to “focus instead on policies that would promote a stronger Internet for everyone,” such as removing unnecessary barriers to construction of new networks. Read the full letter and add your company’s name here.

Startup News Digest: 4/21/17

Startup News Digest: 4/21/17

On Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reiterating the Administration’s policy to buy and hire American. On the ‘Hire American’ side, the EO directs federal agencies to evaluate the various programs that allow foreign workers to enter the United States, with a particular focus on the H-1B visa program. While the EO will not have a direct, immediate impact on the H-1B program, it brings new scrutiny to a visa category relied on heavily by the tech and startup communities. In a statement responding to the EO, Engine Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, called on the the Administration to consider the concerns of the startup community when reviewing and reforming the program: “[I]t is essential that they take into account the economic realities of the startup ecosystem and work to craft reform policies that do not inadvertently make it harder for startups to hire the talented workers they need.”

Engine Statement on President Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order

Engine Statement on President Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order

Yesterday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reiterating the Administration’s policy to buy American and hire American. The ‘Hire American’ side of the Executive Order directs federal agencies to evaluate the various programs that allow foreign workers to enter the United States, with a particular focus on the H-1B visa program. 

Startup News Digest: 4/14/17

Startup News Digest: 4/14/17

Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai floated a proposal during a meeting with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that would roll back the net neutrality rules put in place by the previous Administration and replace them with “voluntary” commitments from ISPs. The proposal would completely undermine the Open Internet Order that the startup community backed in 2015, and Engine has put together a startup letter in conjunction with Y Combinator to push back, telling FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that any efforts to undo net neutrality will threaten startups’ ability to innovate and thrive. Learn more and sign the letter here.

Startup News Digest: 4/7/17

Startup News Digest: 4/7/17

H-1B season kicked off on Monday, and while the the White House missed the opportunity for a larger overhaul of the program before the lottery opened, the Administration did slip in a few changes at the last minute that have made the already chaotic process of applying for H-1Bs even more frenzied. Late last Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly issued a policy memo indicating a more rigorous vetting process for computer programmers. While the changes are mostly cosmetic in nature (USCIS has maintained that the guidance is a clarification of existing policy, not a “policy change”), the agency also announced on Monday that it would be increasing the number of targeted site visits to crack down on H-1B abuse and fraud. The same day, the Justice Department issued a strong warning that employers seeking H-1B visas must not discriminate against American workers. On their own, each of these changes is arguably meant to target outsourcing firms and abuse of the system, not technology companies (most of whom reserve their visas for more complicated, higher paying roles that cannot be filled by U.S. workers). But taken together, they indicate an intentional effort by the President to deliver on his campaign promise to “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program.” We’re tracking.

Startup News Digest: 3/31/17

Startup News Digest: 3/31/17

Engine Examines the Limits of Filtering. In a congressional briefing on Tuesday, Engine Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, and Princeton University professor Nick Feamster introduced the report they co-authored exploring various content filtering technologies and the impact that their mandatory application could have on startups. Feamster, a computer scientist, explained the primary modes of filtering and each of their shortcomings in identifying copyright infringing material. Engstrom addressed the implications for startups if policymakers moved to require the use of these technologies. Not only would companies suffer because of the limited ability of the current methods to accurately filter infringing content, he said, but they would also be unable to pay the extremely high price required for full-scale operation of the filtering technology. The full report, which elaborates on the speakers’ remarks, can be found here.

Startup News Digest: 3/24/17

Startup News Digest: 3/24/17

Following last year’s dramatic removal of Maria Pallante as Copyright Register, the struggle between Congressional leaders and the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, continues. Despite the fact that Hayden has been clear about her intention to appoint the new Register, (as current law grants her the authority to do), top Republicans and Democrats introduced legislation yesterday that would make the position President-appointed and Senate-confirmed. This shift comes at a time when stakeholders across the board are calling for modernization of the Copyright Office, especially the digitization of records in order to simplify the determination of copyright holders. Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees met with Hayden earlier this month in an attempt to hold off on her nomination, however she later wrote them to tell them she planned to move forward with the process in order to ensure an “efficient and effective Copyright Office to serve Congress and the wide variety of stakeholders.” We’re tracking.

Event Recap: Private Solutions for Public Problems

Event Recap: Private Solutions for Public Problems

Earlier this month, Engine held its first briefing of the year: a conversation around the ways that startups are harnessing big data to drive innovation and develop targeted solutions for some of society’s greatest challenges. The event was headlined by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who were joined by a distinguished panel of startup leaders and policy analysts.

Startup News Digest: 3/17/17

Startup News Digest: 3/17/17

A federal judge in Hawaii issued a freeze on President Trump’s new immigration ban on Wednesday, just hours before it was scheduled to take effect. Two weeks ago, President Trump signed the revised immigration ban, which narrowed the scope of the original ban to six countries and removed some of the most contentious aspects in an attempt to satisfy the courts. However, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson was not convinced, arguing that “a reasonable, objective observer...would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” Almost 60 technology companies signed an amicus brief supporting the state of Hawaii in its suit against the federal government. The decision by Watson is probably not the final word, as the Justice Department will likely appeal the ruling and continue to fight for the ban over the coming months.

Startup News Digest: 3/10/17

Startup News Digest: 3/10/17

Engine released a report on Wednesday highlighting the ways in which startups are capitalizing on Big Data to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. The paper also offers insights for policymakers seeking to foster innovation and social transformation while maintaining sufficient protections for the American public. To celebrate the report’s publication, Engine hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill, which was headlined by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA). They were joined by a distinguished panel of policy analysts and startup leaders from ITIF, FarmLogs, and LendUp. Panelists explained how the convergence of multiple datasets is really what drives insights, even more than the size of a single dataset. The also argued that the data generated and shared by the government should be high quality, interoperable, and widely available to entrepreneurs.

In Apple v. Samsung, SCOTUS Sided With Reason Over Rounded Corners

In Apple v. Samsung, SCOTUS Sided With Reason Over Rounded Corners

After almost five years of legal volleying, the U.S. Supreme Court finally issued a decision in the highly anticipated Apple v. Samsung design patent case late last year. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the court delivered a unanimous decision in favor of Samsung, finding that damages for design patent infringement may be limited to revenues attributable to a component of an article of manufacture rather than profits from the entire article. While this is an important victory for startups and innovators—from global corporations to inventors toiling in garages—courts must still work to provide the guidance and clarity necessary to prevent bad actors from abusing the patent system to the detriment of innovation. And they have a new opportunity to do so: On Feb. 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit took a significant step in that direction by remanding the Apple v. Samsung case to the Northern District of California court.