Throughout the long primary process, the tech world watched with growing concern as the candidates assiduously avoided focusing on many of the key policy issues impacting the technology sector. Considering both major parties have spent considerable time over the past few years trying to appeal to the tech world’s interests, it seemed odd that tech issues were receiving such little attention in the presidential election. Fortunately for startups and innovators, tech policy is on its way to the mainstream, as likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton today released her technology platform, covering issues ranging from STEM education to broadband expansion to intellectual property reform. Her surprisingly comprehensive tech agenda addresses virtually all of the significant policy issues impacting startups today and will hopefully prompt a broader, more public debate about what government can do to facilitate tech entrepreneurship in America.
Clinton had already positioned herself as the candidate most focused on tech issues, scoring the highest of the six candidates Engine reviewed in its scorecard of Republican and Democratic primary participants on technology policy. But, given the lack of focus on tech issues in the primary, the highest score we handed out was Clinton’s overall B+, a grade slightly diminished by the “incomplete” she received on IP issues. At that point, very few of the candidates had made strong policy statements on topics like patent reform or STEM education. Clinton has since made up for her limited track record on IP by openly embracing efforts to “to rein in frivolous suits by patent trolls” and “curb forum shopping,” both key reforms that the tech world has long supported.
Crucially, Clinton’s tech agenda calls for policies that impact the startup community specifically, recognizing that startups face unique problems that don’t impact larger tech companies to the same degree. Her platform endorses expanding programs that drive capital to small businesses, deferring student loan debt for young entrepreneurs to help make launching a risky company more achievable, and preserving the FCC’s strong net neutrality rules that are so critical for promoting startup competition. Understanding that America needs to recruit and train even more tech talent if we are to maintain our position as the innovation hub of the world, Clinton supports greatly increasing STEM education and crafting a start-up visa that would allow foreign-born entrepreneurs to launch tech companies in the U.S.
In an election that has seen a discouragingly low amount of serious policy discourse, Clinton’s tech policy agenda is commendable simply for surfacing the issues of most importance for the startup community. That her proposals are also credible and useful policy solutions supported by most of the tech community sends a reassuring signal to the startup world that there are policymakers in Washington interested in supporting America’s continued leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship. We hope that her willingness to take on these critical issues prompts a broader conversation in government about the needs of the startup sector and puts tech policy at forefront of the 2016 campaign.