Event Recap: Private Solutions for Public Problems

Event Recap: Private Solutions for Public Problems

Earlier this month, Engine held its first briefing of the year: a conversation around the ways that startups are harnessing big data to drive innovation and develop targeted solutions for some of society’s greatest challenges. The event was headlined by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who were joined by a distinguished panel of startup leaders and policy analysts.

See you in Austin? Vote for Engine’s SXSW Panels!


It may seem early to be thinking about next year’s SXSW, but the panel picking process is already getting started. From now until September 4, the public can vote on over 4,000 potential panels for next year’s SXSW agenda. The team at Engine has submitted several proposals that we think will make for fascinating and informative conversation at the intersection of technology, startups, and policy. Plus, we’ve proposed a panel on how to launch a nonprofit organization like Engine. Help us make sure these panels get picked by voting for them today. You’ll need a SXSW account, and then you can vote for other great panels you’d like to see as well.

Last year, Engine discussed the “Politics of Innovation” with Techstars, Senator Jerry Moran, and Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

We hope to see you again in 2016!

Engine's Panels:

Tech at Issue in 2016 Election

Featuring Julie Samuels (Engine), Ron Klain (Revolution), Tod Ullyot (Andreessen Horowitz), Tony Romm (Politico)

Crowdfunding: Possibilities and Policy Challenges
Featring Evan Engstrom (Engine), Ryan Feit (SeedInvest), Sara Hanks (CrowdCheck), Michal Rosenn (Kickstarter)

Startups & Diversity: Can Public Policy Help?

Featuring Julie Samuels (Engine), Robin Kelly (House of Representatives), Robin Hauser Reynolds (Finish Line Features, LLC), Charlie Hale (Pinterest)

Interactive: Start a Nonprofit Without Tearing Your Hair Out
Featuring Chhaya Kapadia (New America's Open Technology Institute), Brooke Hunter (Engine)

Music: Start a Nonprofit Without Tearing Your Hair Out
Featuring Chhaya Kapadia (New America's Open Technology Institute), Brooke Hunter (Engine), Jesse von Doom (CASH Music)

More tech policy panels from Engine's friends:

Can Congress Tackle the Internet of Things?

Featuring: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; Elizabeth Frazee, TwinLogic; Paul Daugherty, Accenture; Nicole Gustafson, National Football League.

Decrypting the Cyber Security Debate in Washington

Featuring: Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas; Chani Wiggins, TwinLogic; Sonny Sinha, Department of Homeland Security; Denise Zheng, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Are We Giving China the Internet? ICANN Explained

Featuring: Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; Christian Dawson, i2 Coalition; Michele Neylon, Blacknight Internet Solutions; Tiffany Moore, TwinLogic.

Elise’s Data-Plan: Connecting Rural America

Featuring: Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Rebecca Thompson, Competitive Carriers Association; Kristi Henderson, University of Mississippi Medical Center; Eric Woody, Union Wireless.

Following the Stream: Congress & Music Royalties

Featuring: Casey Rae, Future of Music Coalition; Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif.; Katie Peters, Pandora; Rachel Wolbers, TwinLogic.

Winter is Coming: Copyright Chill on Security

Featuring: Corynne McSherry, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Laura Moy, New America Foundation; Kyle Wiens, iFixit; Karen Sandler, Software Freedom Conservancy.

Pixelated & Political: The Internet in Washington

Featuring: Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.; Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.; Michael Beckerman, Internet Association.

Internet Economy: In the U.S. & Abroad

Featuring: Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Michael Beckerman, Internet Association.

Embedding Human Rights in the Internet

Featuring: Joseph Hall, Center for Democracy & Technology; Karen Reilly, Independent; Eric Sears, MacArthur Foundation; Lindsay Beck, Open Technology Fund.

How to Fight ISIS without Breaking the Internet

Featuring: Rebecca MacKinnon, New America Foundation; Judith Lichtenberg, Global Network Initiative; Shahed Amanullah, LaunchPosse; Andrew McLaughlin, Betaworks.

The End of Online Free Expression?

Featuring: Gautam Hans, Center for Democracy & Technology; Dorothy Chou, Dropbox.

CDT/Fitbit: Ethics & Privacy in Wearable Research

Featuring: Michelle De Mooy, Center for Democracy & Technology; Shelten Yuen, Fitbit.

Everybody Dies: What is your Digital Legacy?

Featuring: Alethea Lange, Center for Democracy & Technology; Megan Yip, Law Office of Megan Yip; John Troyer, Centre for Death and Society; Vanessa Callison-Burch, Facebook.

Protecting the Digital You

Featuring: Nuala O’Connor, Center for Democracy & Technology

Euro vs. American Privacy: Clash of Civilizations?

Featuring: Jillian York, EFF; Ulf Buermeyer, Netzpolitik; Raegan MacDonald, Access; Chris Soghoian, American Civil Liberties Union.

Every City is an Internet City

Featuring: Nika Nour, Internet Association; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

The Killer Congressional Office

Featuring: Seamus Kraft, Open Gov Foundation; Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Internet of Things: Just Someone Else’s Computer?

Featuring: Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas; Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge; Jen Ellis, Rapid7; Sara Watson, Berkman Center.

Using data to power criminal justice reform

Featuring: Emily Shaw, Sunlight Foundation; Wesley Lowery, Washington Post; Tracy Siska, Chicago Justice Project; Clarence Wardell, Presidential Innovation Fellows Program.

The New Battle Over Encryption & How to Survive It

Featuring: Kevin Bankston, New America Foundation; Moxie Marlinspike, Open Whisper Systems; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Wall Street Journal; Heather West, CloudFlare.

No Encryption Backdoors, Please. Myths Debunked.

Featuring: Sunday Yokubaitis, Golden Frog.

Cryptowars 2.0: Silicon Valley vs. Washington

Featuring: Sara Sorcher, CS Monitor; Matt Blaze, University of Pennsylvania; Amit Yorak, RSA; Stewart Baker, Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Smart Cars, Smarter Cities: New Transit Tech

Featuring: Michael Petricone, Consumer Electronics Association; Susan Zielinski, SMART; Andrew Collinge, Greater London Authority; Ashwini Chhabra, Uber.

Get your Goods: Unmanned Systems and 3D Printing

Featuring: Doug Johnson, Consumer Electronics Association; Gur Kimchi, Amazon; Ping Fu, 3D Systems; Richard Pelletier, Ford Motor Co.

Building better cities with better data

Featuring: Chris Gates, Sunlight Foundation; Tony Yarber, City of Jackson; Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America; Daniel X O’Neil, Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Be the Next Tony Stark

Featuring: Mike Geersten, TandemNSI; Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association; Christina Winn, Arlington Economic Development; Brad Tousley, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

5 Best Startup Ideas in VR / AR

Featuring: Robert Scoble, RackSpace; Nonny De La Pena, Emblematic Group; Shawn Dubravac, Consumer Electronics Association.

High Res Audio in Every Earbud

Featuring: Jeff Joseph, Consumer Electronics Association; Maureen Droney, The Recording Academy; Aaron Levine, Sony; Pal Bratelund, TIDAL.

Online Privacy and the Price of Free

Featuring: Sunday Yokubaitis, Golden Frog; Alan Fairless, SpiderOak; Alex Bradshaw, Center for Democracy & Technology.

Zombie SOPA—A New Threat to the Open Internet

Featuring: Charles Duan, Public Knowledge; Mike Godwin, R Street; Abigail Slater, Internet Association; Ellen Schrantz, Office of Rep. Darrell Issa.

Autonomous Vehicles Are Here. But Are We Ready?

Featuring: Ian Adams, R Street; former National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland; Jim Chen, Tesla; Jennifer Haroon, Google[x].

Disintermediation in Digital Content Markets

Featuring: Katie Oyama, Google; Casey Hastings, Pandora; Sasha Moss, R Street; Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.

Regulate All the (Internet of) Things!

Featuring: R.J. Lehmann, R Street; John Godfrey, Samsung; Eli Dourado, Mercatus Center; Lauren Soltani, Office of Rep. Suzan DelBene.

Disrupt the Grid! The Politics of “Homebrew” Power

Featuring: Catrina Rorke, R Street; Lynne Kiesling, Northwestern University; Tom Tanton, Reason Foundation; Doug Lewin, SPEER.

Ride the Wave: Data as Movement Builder

Featuring: Greg Fischer, City of Louisville; Dewey F. Bartlett, City of Tulsa; Michele Jolin, Results for America; Lori Sanders, R Street Institute.

Wi-Fi in Jeopardy: Losing the Signal

Featuring: Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission; Michael O'Rielly, Federal Communications Commission; Maura Corbett Glen Echo Group

Unlocking the Future of Music with Transparency
Featuring: Hank Shocklee, Shocklee Entertainment; Anthony Ray Sir Mix-A-Lot; Panos Panay, Berklee Institute for Creative Entreprenuership; Maura Corbett, Glen Echo Group

DC Tech Breaks Out: Why Community Support for Startups Builds Better Ecosystems for Growth


In the three years we’ve been building Engine, growth in entrepreneurism and startups has increased at a breakneck pace, with new opportunities for growth popping up in cities and towns all across America. That growth has also been a political focus point, with supporters across the political aisle lining up to support new technologies and innovations. In this political climate hungry for opportunity to promote success, it’s not surprising that we have seen rapid growth in tech entrepreneurship in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

With organizations like our friends at 1776 supporting the local ecosystem and a renewed focus on innovating right in the heart of government, DC has quickly become a hotbed of entrepreneurship, attracting local startups and as well as transplants, like the Austin-bred RideScout. The best way to sustain and increase this growth is through lasting connections made through a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Enter DC TechDay. A “science fair for startups,” TechDay started in New York and will have their first DC event on October 2 that will bring emerging, high growth companies together with sponsors to learn about what’s being built in their own community. More than 150 exhibitors will gather with over 3,000 attendees to talk about their products, growing their businesses, and why they’re building in DC.

It’s also a great opportunity, as we have done with our Startup Day on the Hill events, to bring together policymakers and entrepreneurs to talk about what’s driving success and what both sides do to turn connection into growth. But with DC TechDay, that opportunity is all the more powerful with these entrepreneurs working just blocks away from Congress, the White House and regulatory agencies.

We’re proud to support efforts like DC TechDay. Contact us if you’re a DC-based entrepreneur or a policymaker looking to learn more about growth happening in your community, and get more information at

Startup Day Across America 2014


The story of startups isn’t just happening in the Bay Area or New York City. It’s happening all over the country, as we’ve learned through our growing “Startup Cities” initiative, our recent road trip with Steve Case highlighting the “Rise of the Rest,” the labor economic research we’ve done to highlight the growing impact young companies have on communities, our political work in Washington and around the country urging policymakers to support and create better conditions for startup growth.

At Engine, we’re committed to fighting from and for the startup community to grow opportunity and strengthen communities. And that’s why, for the second year running, we’re working with the Congressional Innovation Caucus and friends in our own community like 1776 and the National Venture Capital Association to come together and celebrate startups with Startup Day Across America. Startup Day is an opportunity for Members of Congress, their staff and other policymakers to meet with entrepreneurs, tour their businesses, and get a sense for how they are creating economic opportunity, right at home.

Last year’s Startup Day gave more than 100 members of Congress the opportunity to meet with startups in their home districts. This year, with events starting today, we’re hoping for even more participation from new places and new faces. We’ve got events on tap throughout the country, from Kansas City to Columbus, Brooklyn to Seattle and everywhere in between, with more being announced each day.

We’ll be pulling together highlights from these events throughout August both here and on our social channels. Make sure to follow #StartupDay on Twitter to watch startups and government coming together to learn from each other.

And, if you’re interested in hosting a Startup Day event in your hometown this August, let us know and we can connect you with your local Congressional office. (And if you call and do it on your own, let us know and post on #StartupDay!)

Engine Joins Steve Case's Rise of the Rest Road Tour Team


For four days in June, we’ll be joining Steve Case, Revolution, and Up Global to celebrate entrepreneurship across the country, showcasing startups and entrepreneurs in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville.

From our recent research, we know that the growth in high-tech startups is not simply a “tech center” phenomenon. In fact, high-tech startups are being founded across the country, fueling local and national economic growth.

“I have always believed in the power of entrepreneurship to change the world,” said Steve Case.  “This four-day journey will shine a spotlight America’s best and brightest, wherever they reside, to demonstrate that great ideas and great companies can come from anywhere.”

“We’re so excited to hit the road and report back on a story that demands more attention: some of the most exciting things happening in tech are happening far from San Francisco and New York City,” said Julie Samuels, Executive Director of Engine. “And it’s these young startups -- growing in these cities across the country -- that will create the jobs the next generation relies on.”

We will be joined along the way by nationally recognized entrepreneurs and civic leaders to celebrate the progress of the startup economy. Steve will also personally invest in each city’s startup community by hosting a series of pitch competitions - one winner in each city will earn a $100,000 investment in their company.

Each stop along the route will feature:

  • Visits to local startups, accelerators and incubators
  • Fireside chats featuring Steve Case and other entrepreneurial luminaries in a candid conversation about the local startup ecosystem
  • Local startups pitching a panel of all-star judges, with $100K investment at stake
  • Celebration and networking for local entrepreneurs

We hope to see you on the road!

More information on the Rise of the Rest road tour, including times and locations for specific events in each city, is available at and by following #riseofrest on Twitter and Instagram.

Critical Mass Supports Timely Patent Reform


This morning, we -- and 5600 other people -- sent a letter to the Senate urging real patent reform. Those people include 1507 entrepreneurs, 758 investors, and 1006 inventors -- at least 150 of whom own their own patents. This should serve as yet another reminder of the critical mass of job-creating entrepreneurs and businesses that support patent reform; the Senate should take note and act swiftly.

This letter is in addition to a letter the Senate Judiciary Committee received from U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and 15 others  late last week. Signed by a broad coalition of Democratic and Republican senators, the letter cites widespread support across the county and in Congress for reforming the U.S. patent system to protect America's most innovative industries, as well as Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs across the nation, from abusive lawsuits and costly settlements.

As the Senate receives this letter, over 100 people will meet at Stripe’s office space tonight to talk about patent reform, listen to a panel of experts -- including former USPTO Chief of Staff and Engine Fellow Peter Pappas -- and formulate a plan of action for passing meaningful reform this year.

With the majority of patent troll targets making under $10 million in revenue, this is an issue so important to our community, and the economy as a whole, that we cannot afford to wait for action. When small businesses face dubious multimillion dollar lawsuits, our innovation economy suffers.

With the Senate poised to take up this debate in earnest early next month, we are entering the final, and most important, stretch of this battle. And we need you more than ever.

If you signed today’s letter and want to do more, or if you're just joining this coalition, stay tuned for the launch of, a site that will help you call your Senators directly. A number of Senators and Representatives in Austin last week confirmed that making a phone call is the single most influential action you can take to encourage action in return, so we hope you’ll join us.

As we celebrate today’s actions, we also know there is still a lot more to do. Don’t stop here. Help us see this through.

What Every Entrepreneurial City Can Learn From Austin

What Every Entrepreneurial City Can Learn From Austin

Last week was Startup Week in Austin, Texas and as I was sitting, meeting and writing on Congress Street I was reminded of Austin’s special place in the lineup of growing entrepreneurial communities across America, from New York to San Francisco. In addition to being proudly weird, Austin is providing a blueprint for other communities that want to strengthen their local economies by incubating the growth of young high-tech companies.

Engine Unites With International Advocates on Key Issues


Ensuring compliance with myriad layers of government regulations in one country, let only globally, can be a daunting task. Take Square's recent run in with the State of Illinois, for example. Though market demand may be similar around the nation, and around the world, the regulations that guide markets vary from one region to another, much to the woe of startups.

That’s why Engine attended the first-ever international Startup Advocacy Summit in East London, organized by UK-based organization COADEC. The aim was to bring together policy groups representing tech startups, share our experiences, and devise a clear path forward to affect change on the way politicians create laws that impact startups. Alongside startup advocates from France, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Denmark, and the UK, Engine

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delved into the issues that impact startups worldwide.

After hearing from different speakers on the first day, it was clear that despite location, all startups want to innovate freely. With that in mind, we worked to create an ideal startup ecosystem focusing on the issues that impact startups the most: immigration, patents, and data security.

After hours of healthy debate, we reached an agreement relatively painlessly -- confirming our shared ground, and affirming our policy views as reasonable.

Here’s how we answered three key questions:

1. How do we solve the visa problem?

Visa policies should be clear and flexible, allowing startups to find the talent they need, when they need it. We think the Senate Gang of Eight proposal will help startups in the U.S., so we're fighting for the change it promises.

2. What would the ideal Intellectual Property system look like?

Patent systems should promote and incentivize innovation by having clear and easy to understand frameworks. It's clear that we need comprehensive reform here in America, and startups need to be at the table when lawmakers discuss what that looks like.

3. How do we secure the open Internet?

Data regulation should be simple, giving industry room to innovate.

Of course, things get a lot messier off the island, but there’s hope that these reasonable voices will be heard more loudly when smaller organizations band together. We’re not exactly sure what the collaboration will look like in the future, but we’re looking forward to working closely with many of the folks we met, and others we haven’t, to advocate for better conditions for startups globally.

We welcome your thoughts on how this can best be achieved.

Politics and Brisket: Moving the Political Dialogue at SXSW


As the developers and technologists -- and techie reporters -- head out of Austin as SXSW Interactive comes to an end, it’s important in the afterglow to focus on what drove conversation during the event itself. This year, a lot of focus has fallen on the lack of a major “hype” event -- no new Twitter, or even Highlight emerged as a social media victor -- but instead of riding a wave of hype, those of us in attendance got to experience people actually making, doing, and talking about interesting things. 

In the same vein, the conversation around politics was also markedly more advanced. Last year you couldn’t go more than a block down 6th Street without someone wanting to talk about SOPA and PIPA. This year the intersecting communities of technology and policy, and our friends, new and old, in government, were at SXSW talking about a broader range of issues -- including immigration reform and broadband access.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), now a SXSW veteran, started many of those conversations during his opening panel on Friday at the Austin Convention Center. With the assistance of Techcrunch’s Greg Ferenstein, Moran centered much of his energy around recruiting founders and entrepreneurs to support Startup Act 3.0, but he also talked patents, privacy, data, broadband policy and the general economic impact of tech startups.

And he reinforced his message by asking questions of his own. He wanted to learn more from the startups in attendance and he implored them to reach out to his colleagues in Congress to help carry their message of “what tech needs” into new offices.

It was a message he carried to a private meeting which we and our friends at Austin Technology Council convened on Saturday morning. This meeting featured a more tactical discussion of ways for founders, in Austin and around the country, to get more involved in issues that matter to them. And Senator Moran didn’t stop there. Later, on a panel with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) convened by Austin tech impresario Erika Sumner, the two Senators sounded a bipartisan note in support of Startup Act 3.0, and continued to build support for the measure as we grow closer to a national immigration debate.

Sen. Warner stuck around to debate more internet issues with Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Jeremy Robbins, who chairs Partnership for a New American Economy, and me. We covered a number of issues, from breaking down immigration proposals like Startup Visa, to tax credits, to opening up Congress and making federal data more accessible to constituents.

Elsewhere, despite being “snowquestered” in Colorado, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joined a panel with Politihacks’ Craig Montuori and Gina Cooper, our friend Alexis Ohanian called his Congresswoman, Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), from the podium to implore others in the audience to connect, and former Vice President Al Gore talked about the importance of climate change in the political debate. And these are just a few of the many public meetings and panels and speakers on political issues, not to mention the chance encounters, private strategy sessions and coordination that SXSW promotes so well.

And through it all, one fact rang true: whether we were talking immigration or patent or broadband expansion, or any other issue, the political consciousness of the entrepreneurial community has been raised significantly in the last year. Many of these discussions were built from those that occurred at CES earlier this year. As the 113th Congress gets rolling, and our issues come to the fore, it will be imperative that startups and entrepreneurs continue to raise their game as part of that debate. This year at SXSW, the hype may not have been high, but I’m hopeful that what we’ll get out of our time together is a deep and lasting impact in areas of policy that can help our businesses grow and thrive.

Photo courtesy of Alex de Carvalho.

Entrepreneurs Tell Lawmakers What They Need


At the end of February, Engine took 32 startups from across the country to the very heart of policy-making in Washington D.C. for our second annual Startup Day on the Hill. The aim was to facilitate interactions between lawmakers and entrepreneurs in order to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Participating startups include Etsy, Lyft, Yelp, and Maybrooks, among many others.

Here’s what Stacey Delo, Maybrooks Founder, had to say about her experience in Washington D.C. and what she went to talk about.


Debi and I founded Maybrooks as an online resource for smart moms – at all stages of their careers – to go to find jobs, post jobs, and connect with like-minded women.

We built tools to harness the powerful word-of-mouth network among moms, and empower them to help each other find flexible careers. And there’s one key differentiator -- our growing job board that features meaningful opportunities for highly experienced working women who seek job flexibility. The site is a place where small businesses and startups can find overqualified talent on a flexible basis, and where large corporations can tout their amazing flex policies.

Just before our trip to D.C. with Engine, the New York Times ran a piece about how men are benefiting more from the economic recovery - from a jobs perspective - than women. As a result, our visit, and the opportunity to talk to lawmakers about women and jobs was well timed. Debi and I were particularly interested in telling policy makers about the large, smart, work-ready talent pool of women looking to put their skills to work with some level of flexibility.

To help craft our message, we built a survey to identify what working moms want when it comes to flexibility, and found that sixty percent wanted full-time job opportunities with options for flexibility. Ninety-four percent of the respondents said job flexibility was as or more important to them than money. See an infographic of the results here.

On the Friday before our trip, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer demanded that all remote-only workers come into the office, opening a floodgate of conversation nationally about workplace flexibility particularly as it pertained to working mothers. I felt fortunate to have the survey data showing that the majority of women we interviewed wanted full-time work with options for flexibility, not necessarily an entirely remote-work setup. (Here’s our take on the conversation about women in the workplace.)

The survey also highlighted the fact that 94 percent of women say flexibility is as or more important than money, yet 78 percent say finding flexible work is very or extremely difficult. These numbers, together with our belief in the Maybrooks platform as a way to raise awareness and make it easier for women to find the right job convinced us that attending Startup Day on the Hill with Engine was the next logical step. With the numbers and the platform, my meetings in D.C. allowed me to talk directly to lawmakers about supporting policies that keep women in the workforce, contribute to job growth for women, and provide greater flexibility and income parity with men.

I was so grateful to have this opportunity to meet face-to-face in small groups with some of the most influential people in D.C., not to mention the cool factor of simply being able to “check in” on Facebook at The White House. We were inspired by the country’s CTO Todd Park and his team, who are keenly in tune with the needs of startups, and working to operate their portion of government with as much agility as possible. I was also honored to sit at a dining room-sized conference table with three of the most accomplished women in government, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Anna Eshoo, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- all Democrats of California.

Impressed with how all the government officials were so open and willing to listen to startups and their needs, Debi and I thank Engine for opening this important line of communication between the tech community and Washington.

Stacey Delo, cofounder & ceo



Tech State of the Union


Today, President Obama will deliver his view on the state of our union to the Congress, as mandated by the Constitution. Tradition, and the aforementioned constitutional mandate, holds that this speech serves as an opportunity to set the President’s legislative agenda for the coming year in consultation with Congress. While these speeches are often far-reaching in promise and grand in tone, they serve as a platform for many interested parties to get a sense of how their policy goals might mesh with the legislative calendar for the coming year.

We at Engine have set fairly aggressive policy goals in many different fields. We are looking forward with particular interest to hearing what the President has to say about technology, and to seeing what the Congress intends to do in the coming year. Be it immigration reform, patent fixes, or reforms in other areas, we’re looking to this speech as a moment when we can get a sense of what we can reach for in 2013.

No matter what is discussed, and what policy priorities are laid out in front of us come Wednesday morning, we know that we won’t be able to achieve anything alone. To that end, we’re partnering with Google and local incubators and tech councils throughout the country to have a series of events this week on tech policy, where we’ll discuss what you as an entrepreneur, investor, or startup aficionado can do about advancing a range of policy goals while maintaining your focus on building your business.

We’ll be holding these events in five startup cities around the country, from Boston to LA, New York to Austin, and beyond, and we hope they will serve to build the core strength of our community in policymaking. By engaging with the issues as a community, collecting and sharing stories, and planning our next moves, we can set ourselves up for making positive changes to the policy and regulatory landscape in 2013. And, just as important, we hope these events will give you the chance to see how many of your friends, colleagues, and fellow travelers in the startup world are also happy to get involved and make it easier for startups to thrive in America.

If you're in Cambridge, join us tonight: Event details and RSVP form.

Or, join us on Wednesday February 13th in Austin: Event details and RSVP form.

Join us in San Francisco on Friday February 15th for our Block Party: Engine Block Party.

Photo courtesy of WCHI News.

Join us for Startup Day on the Hill


Over the last year, Engine has worked to improve the entrepreneurial environment by providing knowledge to both lawmakers and startups about the issues that impact our community. We’ve released our first paper, met with officials in our offices, and brought entrepreneurs together around issues. One of our most successful events has been Startup Day on the Hill. Last year, we took 18 startups from all around the country to talk about the products and services startups are creating and how archaic laws are impacting their ability to innovate. Now we’re gearing up to do it again.

This year, Startup Day on the Hill is aimed at showing lawmakers that startups are creating jobs all across the country and spurring economic growth across many sectors of the economy. On February 26th and 27th we are taking Congress by storm. We’ll be meeting with the Chief Technology Officer at the White House, talking to Senators and Representatives about how immigration reform impacts the technology community, and educating our elected officials about the issues that directly affect our ability to invent, start companies, and create jobs.

The startups coming to Washington are making the next generation of educational toys and inventing new approaches to semantic search. They are pioneering medical devices to help detect and prevent heart disease, and building low-cost satellites to provide universal access to information about the changing Earth. These are just a few examples of the work that we’ll showcase for legislators -- work that is disrupting industries, creating new economic opportunity, and creating greater social good.

Check out our website to find out more about the agenda and consider joining us, too. Make your voice heard.

After CES: One More Thing About Patents

PhotoStartups are taking the lead in the debate on patent reform, but the nature of litigation is keeping too many victims silent. Settlements agreed to by startups often prevent information from coming out about the hardships faced by entrepreneurs.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show with patent experts from groups including Google, EFF, and Newegg. A lot of ground was covered (find great roundups in Ars Technica and Forbes), but we ran out of time before addressing one of the most critical issues facing startups: the inability of many companies to discuss cases after settling.

Why is this big deal for startups? As moderator Marvin Ammori pointed out at the end of the session, his call for questions on Twitter was answered by a host of direct messages from entrepreneurs unable to discuss the terms of settlements made. This opacity prevents a truly comprehensive understanding of the damage wrought by entities abusing bad patents.

Not much can be done to combat the silence imposed by gag orders and NDAs, but
Congressman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, highlighted legislation during the panel that will help start the conversation on litigation reform in Congress. By decreasing the incentives to litigate, it is hoped that some of the thousands of annual patents suits may be prevented.

Startups can’t afford to be silent about the pain caused by the patent system. Engine is working to gather the stories of entrepreneurs to share with lawmakers. If you have a story to tell about the patent system, please reach out to me at Together we can change the way the patent system works.

Continuing the Conversation: A Roundtable on San Francisco, Prop E, and Technology


The move by San Franciscan voters to approve Proposition E earlier this month was something of a coup for the tech industry. This shift in tax policy aims to encourage hiring and new business development in the city and saw support from the mayor, tech companies, and leaders in the venture capital community. While the impact of the reform will be evaluated over the coming years, the coordination of the tech and startup community around this policy is an encouraging achievement.

The important question we face after the success of Prop E is how to keep the dialogue between government, citizens, and innovators moving forward?

Technology companies and other interested advocates including the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation ( backed Prop E, arguing the reform would be a catalyst for job creation in San Francisco. A video released during election season by highlighted the important role technology can play in improving local governance and day-to-day problems.

For years, licensing, policy, and regulation have pitted the tech industry against itself, seeing companies use government as a wedge against competitors. Working together with businesses and other stakeholders to address policy challenges will help our communities and country emerge stronger, more efficient, and more prosperous. The first step is coming together. Engine has been working in local communities across the country as well as here in the valley to make local startup policy a priority. We encourage you to join Engine to be part of future success stories in your own backyard.

Next Thursday, we are going to continue this conversation. Please consider joining Engine for a roundtable on technology, economic growth, and local policy at 10am December 6. For more information, email us at

Photo courtesy of  MomentsForZen.