Startup News Digest 10/14/16

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at

Engine Releases 2016 Senate Candidate Voter Guide. Engine and Tusk Ventures have released our second “Grading the Candidates on Tech” report card, this time focusing on the candidates in some of November's tightest Senate races. We evaluated the candidates in eleven different contests based on their positions on key issues including broadband access and infrastructure, intellectual property, data security and privacy, and talent acquisition. The report card showed there were no overall leaders in the pool of 22 candidates and all but four candidates received an “incomplete” on a key issue on their respective report cards. The grades also reveal that many have failed to outline or champion any tech policies throughout their political careers, with data security and privacy receiving the most “incomplete” grades. View the full analysis here.

The White House Publishes Report on Future of AI. The White House released Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence on Wednesday, which explores current and future applications, as well as the public policy implications, of AI. The report also surveys specific policy opportunities that have arisen as a result of AI, in particular, how it can be used for social and government improvement. In addition, the publication suggests how to adapt regulations that impact AI technologies as to not inhibit further innovation or threaten public safety. This release is the product of nearly a year’s worth of of outreach by the White House Office of Science and technology Policy (OSTP), including a Request for Information (RFI), in which Engine participated. In our comments, we cautioned policymakers about heavy-handed regulation and encouraged collaboration, as technology often progresses faster than legislation.

Report Shows Positive Impact of Foreign Entrepreneurs. According to a report published by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) this week, immigrants in the U.S. play an outsized role as entrepreneurs. In 2016, 40.2 percent of Fortune 500 firms had at least one founder who was either foreign-born or first-generation American. And cumulatively, these firms produced revenue exceeding $4.8 trillion. Moreover, in 2007, immigrant business owners employed more than 5.9 million workers in the United States. PNAE’s report only further justifies the White House’s International Entrepreneur Rule, proposed in August, that will allow promising foreign entrepreneurs to start and grow their companies in the U.S. Comments on the proposal will be accepted through this Monday, October 17. We encourage you to take a few minutes to share your support here, if you haven’t already.

Commerce to Expand Digital Attaché Program. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced on Wednesday that the agency plans to expand a program helping U.S. businesses navigate digital policy and regulatory issues in foreign markets. The digital attaché program, launched in March 2016, serves six markets and will soon double in size to serve twelve. In advance of the announcement, Engine convened a roundtable between the current attachés and a group of startups to discuss the program and its impact on smaller companies. Technological advances have enabled new means of trade and there are more opportunities than ever for startups to expand internationally. However, startups must navigate these markets and the complex challenges they present with dramatically fewer resources than larger companies. Commerce’s digital attaché program helps to bridge this gap, and Engine welcomed the Secretary’s announcement. As we noted in Politico, "One of the most important things Commerce can do is be a resource and an advocate.”

Apple and Samsung Face Off Before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Apple v. Samsung this week, a case the startup and tech communities have watched closely. In addition to the enormous financial implications for the parties involved, the case is significant because it will set an important legal precedent around design patents and whether “total profits” should be awarded for the violation of a design patent on a single feature of a product—in this case, the patented design features used in Apple’s iPhone device. Samsung’s primary argument before the court was that “a single patent on the portion of the appearance of the phone should not entitle the design-patent holder to all the profit on the entire phone.” And we agree. In an op-ed this July, Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom warned that “total profits awards for complex modern technologies will foster an environment prioritizing litigation over competition,” in addition to endangering innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

Engine Hosting 10/19 Event in SF on Regulation, Innovation, & the Platform Economy. On Wednesday, October 19 at 4 pm, Engine will be co-hosting a conversation at Galvanize SF between startups and regulators that will take an in-depth look at at licensing and mobility issues in the emerging Platform Economy. We’ll hear from panelists from AirBnB, Lyft, Peers, the California Department of Insurance, and more. Learn more and RSVP here.