Uber’s recent win in Washington DC over taxi regulations has sparked some debate about the approach startups should take to dealing with government. Working with state, local, or federal government is never a perfect process, companies often rightly feel that revenue, consumer access, or effective competition are threatened by new laws or existing regulations. Whether a process involves clash or compromise, results aren’t guaranteed.
At Engine, we have worked with policymakers on proposals that impact startups’ businesses, like Startup Act 2.0, and have helped to stage wide-scale protests, as was the case in confronting SOPA/PIPA. Both approaches brought results, though not perfect solutions, and moved things in the right direction for the startup ecosystem.
No startup should hesitate from playing hardball by harnessing user-advocates who are passionate about their products if they think customers deserve to be heard. Nor should an entrepreneur shy away from engaging directly with government where discussion might improve policy. Personalities, politics, and ideas will clash whether they are trumpeted in the public square or discussed behind closed doors. We need more, not fewer people involved in the lawmaking process.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to startups. Disagreements public and private occur constantly in DC, Sacramento, Albany, and Des Moines, and involve some of the largest companies in the world. When AT&T sought approval to acquire T-Mobile, more than 40,000 public comments were filed with
the Federal Communications Commision and firey rhetoric was directed by and at many invovled.
Engine is building tools that make it easy and effective for entrepreneurs to connect with and influence government. In the end,
whether you work with Engine, call on your users to tweet support, or meet with a representative one-on-one, as an entrepreneur, you should feel empowered to engage with your government. Our stories and experiences matter and should help guide these debates. Startups working with government -- choosing to engage and doing so in an effective manner -- go beyond simply creating debate, they foster a stronger ecosystem for our businesses and our community to thrive.