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 http://engine.is/digest.
Engine Joins Election Day Off and #FreeRideToVote. This election will have an enormous impact on the future of the startup ecosystem and the broader economy. That’s why Engine has joined two important campaigns to encourage greater civic engagement and electoral participation. First, we’re giving our employees a day off on election day to drive voter participation as part of the Take Election Day Off campaign. We’re joining over 250 companies and encourage other startups to take part as well. Additionally, Engine is sponsoring a project in conjunction with Open Collective to crowdsource funds that will subsidize free rides with transportation network companies to polling locations. You can help bring more people to the polls by visiting the #FreeRideToVote site and sponsoring a ride. And whatever you do, be sure to vote on November 8th.
FTC Patent Troll Report. This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its long-awaited report on patent trolls, renewing calls for Congress to pass meaningful reforms this year. After more than five years and an investigation of over 349 patent trolls and affiliates, the report sheds light on troll practices and the negative impact they are having on innovation. The report also shows that while patent litigation disproportionately impacts startups and technology companies, the breadth of impact is much broader, with retailers comprising more than 17 percent of demand recipients for payoffs by trolls. Finally, the FTC makes a host of policy recommendations, many of which Engine has championed, including discovery reforms, heightened pleading standards, and increased transparency.
Amazon Sued by Delivery Drivers. Add Amazon to the growing number of “on-demand economy” companies that are tied up in legal battles with their independent contractors over worker classification disputes. In a lawsuit filed this week, three delivery drivers for Amazon’s Flex service allege that they have been illegally classified as contractors when they should be classified as employees. Being designated as employees would afford them more benefits and protections than their current contractor classification, and the drivers are seeking back pay, overtime, and compensation for fuel, maintenance, and other expenses. Similar lawsuits against Uber and Lyft are ongoing.
A Week on the Road. Emma spent the week traveling through Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Phoenix on the fifth Rise of the Rest tour with Revolution. Each stop celebrated the cities’ unique startup ecosystems through visits to companies, conversations with community leaders, and a $100,000 pitch competition judged by Steve Case to close the day. The main takeaway? While most of venture capital and traditional tech hubs may be concentrated on the coasts, there are extraordinary things happening in the five regions we visited. These “fly-over” states are becoming impressive destinations for entrepreneurial activity, and we are excited to see them continue to grow. Check out Emma’s recaps of Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado, and stay tuned for her take on the other stops.