We met with Thuc Vu, cofounder and CEO of OhmniLabs, a startup that produces home always-on robots that help people communicate at a distance. Vu and his team have partnered with policymakers to help communities in their healthcare and workforce development efforts. As OhmniLabs continues to grow, Vu hopes policymakers look for solutions to immigration reform and incentivizing research and development.
As 2018 comes to a close, one key policy area that is sure to take center-stage in 2019 is the passage of the updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). While the USMCA is a big win for startups in several areas, Congress should continue to push the Administration in two areas to ensure that entrepreneurs will flourish under the new agreement. Overall, the USMCA sets a high standard for future free trade agreements and will positively impact the growth of American startups.
The Big Story: Trump’s STEM push. The White House released a report this week aimed boosting the country’s science, technology, engineering, and math skills over the next five years, including through work with educational institutions like colleges and libraries as well employers, nonprofits, and others.
Memphis has served as the epicenter of music for great stars from Elvis Presley to B.B. King. The city has also become an epicenter for the region’s ecosystem, led by Leslie Smith, the president and CEO of Epicenter. Leslie and her team work to identify gaps in the ecosystem and work collectively to fill those for gaps for the region’s growing population of innovators.
The Big Story: FTC wants more authority, resources for privacy. During a hearing this week, the commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission told lawmakers the agency needs more authority to better protect consumers’ privacy online, including the ability to bring civil penalties against companies that violate privacy rules.
A flood of perspectives on privacy. Late last week, the federal government got dozens of comments from companies, trade groups, non-profits and more on how to approach consumer privacy online. As part of the response to a request for comments on a broad framework for consumer privacy, Engine submitted comments to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, outlining the ways in which various privacy proposals and laws affect startups.
Nearly two hours into a congressional hearing earlier this fall, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked what seemed like an obvious question.
“Anybody here planning to pull out of Europe because of those privacy protections” under the newly implemented General Data Protection Regulation, he asked. And not one of the witnesses — each representing some of the biggest companies in the country — really responded, confirming for Blumenthal that AT&T, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Apple, and Charter Communications are not changing their plans based on the new privacy rules.
Engine filed an amicus petition to the Supreme Court of the United States on Tuesday, November 13th to urge the court to consider the case. In our brief, we argue that the Federal Circuit’s decision in the case conflicts with the Supreme Court’s ruling on patentable subject matter eligibility.
Beth Zimmer has worked to grow the ecosystem into the powerhouse it is today as the managing director and co-founder of Innovation Collaborative. Bringing together all members of the ecosystem, Beth and her team have gone as far to map out all of Erie’s assets. Beth would like to see more emphasis put on entrepreneurial ecosystem building from a policy level, including tax credits and additional resources.
Engine has released a new booklet that outlines why the strength of the patent system is so important for startups.
After Tuesday night’s midterm elections, we’re facing a new makeup of Congress next year, with a Democratic-led House and a Senate with a more significant Republican majority. Despite the new composition, we’re sure to see a lot of familiar debates surface around policy issues that impact the U.S. startup ecosystem, including around privacy, net neutrality, immigration, access to capital, and more.
In celebration of National Veterans Small Business Week (November 5-9), we met with Donald Coolidge, co-founder of Elemental Path (EP). Thanks to his experience in the military Donald learned leadership, critical thinking, planning and most importantly, cutting edge technology. Looking at government, Donald hopes policymakers develop more resources to help educate veterans in how to translate their skills, educate them on entrepreneurship (with real entrepreneurs).
A U.K. tax on online services. The British government has announced a new tax on the biggest companies offering online services in the United Kingdom. The tax, 2 percent of U.K. revenues, will be levied on companies with global revenues of $640 million or more starting in April 2020.
Sonya Dunn, founder and CEO of JEMH Enterprises, and military spouse for over 20 years, will be on the panel, to discuss ways in which active military/military families/veterans can utilize tech and entrepreneurship for opportunity. Sonya is excited by recent legislation, such as the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018, to better support military families and is hopeful lawmakers will continue to partner with military spouses to create for more entrepreneurial opportunities.
The Big Story: Patent trolls aren’t a fairy tale. Last week, in a speech to the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association, the United States Patent and Trademark Office Director Iancu told a room full of trial lawyers that there is no patent troll problem and that it's just a "narrative" being pushed by large companies trying to decrease innovation and competition. This week, we pushed back on that claim, explaining that abusive patent litigation is “a real threat and one every startup founder dreads.”
Last week, United States Patent and Trademark Office Director Andrei Iancu gave a speech to the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association, where he implied that patent trolls were not a real problem faced by innovators, but instead just a “narrative” made up to scare away innovators. Not only is this factually inaccurate, but it is troubling that Director Iancu would ignore the overwhelming data showing that low-quality patents have led to a rash of abusive patent litigation directed towards small companies and entrepreneurs over the past decade.
This week, we met with Alec Sorenson, Founder and CEO of Tradespace. Leaning on his view of both the D.C. ecosystem and San Francisco ecosystem, Alec offers a unique perspective of how government can work with startups. He offers a key piece of advice, as Alec believes “This work starts with us - having conversations with lawmakers and speaking up. Education on this issue is key.”
Pushing 5.9 GHz for 5G. The federal government is seeing more and more pressure to free up airwaves currently reserved for vehicle safety so that they can be used for the next generation of wireless networks, especially as different vehicle safety technologies that don’t depend on that spectrum are becoming commonplace.