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.
President Trump Signs H-1B Executive Order. 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 Submits Capital Access Priorities to Banking Leaders. In March, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs launched a solicitation for legislative proposals to increase economic growth in the U.S. Last Friday, Engine submitted comments to the Committee outlining a number of policies that we believe will improve the capital access landscape for startups and entrepreneurs and encourage the formation of new businesses. Noting the critical role that startups play in driving growth and innovation, creating jobs, and transforming communities, we proposed four specific policy priorities that we argue would help to create more sustainable capital streams for entrepreneurs: clarifying regulatory ambiguities around general solicitation for pitch events and demo days; improving the Title III equity crowdfunding landscape; remedying the “99 Investor Problem;” and retaining the current accredited investor financial threshold and adding qualitative measures for investor sophistication. Read a summary and the full submission here.
Fast Growing Startups are More Likely to be Run by a Woman. According to the 2017 Startup Report from TINYpulse, the fastest growing startups (i.e. those with more than 200 percent growth) are 75 percent more likely to have a female founder. As the report explained, the female-run startups “almost universally outperformed their male-only counterparts.” This is not an entirely new finding—a separate report published last year by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that “a move from no female leaders to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin.” Still, in 2017 only 17 percent of startups have a female founder according to a study published this week by Crunchbase. As Engine has expressed time and time again, diverse employees and executives bring a range of ideas and values to the table, which ultimately helps businesses to succeed, and the startup community should be doing everything it can to move towards this goal.
Engine Circulates Letter on Net Neutrality. Recently, 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 and TechStars 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.
Know Someone Who Has Been a Victim of the Patent System? One of the biggest contributors to our country’s patent problem is the abundance of low quality patents. While stopping the bad actors who take advantage of them may prove challenging, improving the system to limit the tools that these groups have is a common-sense first step. To help with this, Engine is gathering stories of startups and entrepreneurs that have faced problems with the patent system, whether it's being victimized by patent trolls or facing a lawsuit from a legitimate patent holder but for a questionable patent. If you have a story or know someone we should connect with, send an email to Emma Peck at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the Internet Association for a Conversation with Senator Wyden. This coming Tuesday, the Internet Association will be hosting a live discussion between its President and CEO, Michael Beckerman, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on some of the major topics impacting the startup and tech ecosystems. Members of the internet community are encouraged to watch and engage with Sen. Wyden through the interactive platform. Click here to register.