Startup News Digest 11/10/2017

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


The Big Story: Senate panel approves SESTA. This week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved with little debate the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, a bill ostensibly written to combat online sex trafficking that could have grave consequences for user-generated content online and the platforms that host that content.

While the bill’s authors have made some changes to the legislation and some in the tech industry have backed the measure, the bill as written is still a threat to a foundational Internet law: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. We teamed up with TechFreedom to explain the very real dangers this bill poses.

Sen. Ron Wyden announced that he would hold up the bill -- which will keep it from passing in a streamlined Senate process -- and warned that, despite the changes, the bill “will make it harder to catch dangerous criminals, that it will favor big tech companies at the expense of startups and that it will stifle innovation.”



What’s Happening in Policy:

Tax bills contains startup stock measures. The new tax reform bill from House Republicans contains a widely-supported provision that would make it easier for employees of privately-held startups to change jobs by deferring a tax penalty that’s triggered when they exercise vested stock options. The measure is notably missing from the Senate version of the bill. Even worse, the Senate proposal contains as a provision that would make stock options, restricted stock units, and other common forms of startup compensation taxable upon vesting rather than upon exercise. This would make stock options even more unaffordable for most startup employees and seriously damage startups’ ability to compete with larger incumbents for top talent.

House moves online spying reform bill. Despite concerns from privacy advocates on and off the Hill, the House Judiciary Committee this week passed the USA Liberty Act, a bipartisan bill that makes some changes to the controversial spying programs conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

On ‘strong encryption,’ again. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein touched on cybersecurity issues in a speech this week, again criticizing encrypted technologies that don’t allow for law enforcement access and specifically citing the FBI’s inability to access encrypted data on a device belonging to the shooter in last week’s tragic shooting in Texas.

Senate approves NTIA pick. After his nomination in May, the Senate has confirmed David Redl to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency that deals with telecommunications policy.

Mayer apologizes for Yahoo breaches. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee during this week’s hearing on data breaches, apologizing for massive data breaches that occurred during her tenure.

CNN sale confusion. AT&T’s CEO denied reports that the Justice Department has asked the company to sell of CNN as part of the company’s proposed deal to buy Time Warner.


Startup Roundup:

  • #StartupsEverywhere: Northwest Arkansas. Our latest installment of the #StartupsEverywhere series profiles Michael Iseman of Startup Junkie in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He explains how accessible and supportive government, low costs, and wealth of entrepreneurial support organizations make Fayetteville “the startup city of the South.”

  • Bridging the gap. VentureBeat looks at one former Googler’s plan to build innovation hubs across the country.

  • “Vetrepreneurship.” In honor of Veterans’ Day, Forbes ranked the top 25 startups founded by veterans. Our friends at Sandboxx made the list at #18. Bunker Labs is a national nonprofit founded by veteran entrepreneurs to help other veterans start and grow businesses such as these.