Startup News Digest 12/2/16

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

Tech Leaders Reach Out to Trump. On Wednesday, Engine’s Executive Director Evan Engstrom and sixteen other technology industry leaders sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump outlining a number of growth and innovation-driving principles he should consider as he sets his policy agenda. The letter outlines the impact of the technology industry on economic growth and encourages Trump to tap into the sector’s ingenuity to solve some of America’s biggest challenges. Specifically, the letter recommends investing in an improved technology infrastructure, modernizing the ways laws and regulations govern data, pursuing tax reform, and filling government with people who are committed to working faster and smarter. Read the full letter here.

White House Releases List of Entrepreneurship Accomplishments. Coinciding with the final day of National Entrepreneurship Month, on Wednesday the White House released a Top 10 list of President Obama’s most significant actions to promote American entrepreneurship over the past eight years. The list highlights the impressive legacy that the President is leaving behind and includes achievements such as making the Research and Experimentation (R&E) tax credit available to startups, releasing the International Entrepreneur Rule, signing the Jumpstart our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, and prioritizing and encouraging diversity and inclusion in tech. In addition to publishing the Top 10 list, the White House announced a number of new efforts to build on the Administration’s successes, including a pledge made by over 30 investors to diversify access to capital.

Techstars Releases New Diversity Report. At last year’s White House Demo Day (another item that made it onto the above list), national accelerator Techstars announced a diversity initiative to promote the participation of women and ethnic minorities among their staff, applicants, and mentors. Accordingly, they tracked their progress throughout the course of 2016 and were are able to report measurable success. To achieve this progress, the program took a number of steps, including creating of the Techstars Foundation, which awards grants to mission-driven organizations, surveying nearly 700 founders about diversity at their startup,  producing a website with resources to help founders increase diversity at their companies, training staff and portfolio companies about unconscious bias, and piloting diversity office hours. Engine, who shares this commitment to diversity in technology, applauds Techstars and their progress on this important issue.

Senators Introduce Legislation to Codify Presidential Innovations Fellowship.  On Wednesday, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and James Lankford (R-OK) introduced a bill to codify the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which was established by President Obama in 2012. The proposed legislation would make the pathway to bring technology entrepreneurs and investors into government service permanent. A similar bill, the TALENT Act, introduced by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), easily passed the House in June. The program, which has received broad, bipartisan support, has been credited with modernizing, streamlining, and increasing the efficiency of the government over the past four years. It is run jointly by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration. A number of industry leaders, including Engine Advisory Board member, Ron Conway, wrote to Senate leadership to endorse the legislation.

CRFA Headed to President’s Desk. The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) was approved by the Senate this week and will now head to President Obama for signature. Once the bill is signed and becomes law, it will prohibit the use of non-disparagement and gag clauses to silence and retaliate against consumers who post negative reviews online. As Evan noted when CRFA passed the House in September, “There are countless startups that provide platforms through which individuals can share feedback and unbiased reviews of the businesses and services they rely on.” Protecting the ability of these individuals to share their opinions freely is critical to a functioning and successful digital marketplace, and Engine welcomes the passage of CRFA.