Startup News Digest: 1/27/17

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

Trump Taps Ajit Pai for FCC Chairman. Earlier this week, it was announced that President Trump had tapped Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Pai is currently the senior Republican commissioner at the agency and as such, his nomination will not require Senate approval. Engine is hopeful that as chairman, Pai will preserve Chairman Wheeler’s tradition of championing America’s innovators and ensuring that startups and entrepreneurs have a voice in the critical debates impacting our 21st century innovation economy. While we have disagreed with Commissioner Pai on a number of issues during his tenure (most notably on net neutrality), we see promise in areas such as his proposal for the creation of Gigabit Opportunity Zones and his efforts around promoting the growth of internet-based services. Expanding access to broadband and preventing incumbent gatekeepers from undermining competition are critical to fostering a thriving startup ecosystem, and we look forward to continuing the important work of ensuring that our communications infrastructure supports innovation in all corners of the U.S.

Senate Committee Approves Important Tech Bills. In its first hearing of this year, the Senate Commerce Committee approved seven technology-related bills, including the Mobile Now Act and the DIGIT Act. The Mobile Now Act, reintroduced by Chairman John Thune (R-SD) earlier this year, would make more 5G wireless spectrum available, which would allow faster and increased wireless access. The DIGIT Act, introduced by the bipartisan Internet of Things working group, would  "convene a working group of federal entities that would consult with private sector stakeholders to provide recommendations to Congress." Both bills are bipartisan and have received little criticism, but are making their way through Congress for a second time.

Tech Roles Top List of Best Jobs in America. According to Glassdoor's new "50 Best Jobs in America" survey, the best jobs in America are in tech. This should come as no surprise: technology skills are now needed across a vast range of industries and the number of skilled workers who can fill these roles has not kept up with demand. As a result, competition for these employees has grown significantly and salaries continue to rise. Four of the top five jobs in the survey were technology-related. Data scientist took the number one spot for the second year in a row, while DevOps engineer, data engineer, and analytics manager also made it in the top five.

Diversity in Tech: A Lot of Talk, Not a Lot of Results. Diversity in the technology sector has been a hot topic over the last several years. Many of the biggest companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, have been public about their efforts to increase their ethnic and gender diversity. But despite this, numbers remain unimpressive. In 2014, 2 percent of Googlers were Black and 3 percent were Hispanic. These numbers remained the same heading into this year. Many of the companies blame a “pipeline shortage,” or a limited number of qualified, minority applicants. Academics and some industry insiders, on the other hand, blame an unwillingness on the part of hiring managers to adjust their own unspoken, abstract ideas of what makes a person fit for a position with their company. We hope that 2017 will be the year when we finally see some progress. We’re tracking.

The Key to U.S. Job Growth? Middle America. The 2016 election was a wake up call to many that a few parts of the country were enjoying economic prosperity while the rest was plagued by stagnant growth and uncertainty. Despite efforts by a few, including Engine, to shine a light on the innovation happening across the country, 80 percent of venture capital is concentrated in California, New York, and Massachusetts. If we expect to move into the future in our global economy though, we need to rethink investment strategies. Cities like Tallahassee, FL and Durham, NC are also home to entrepreneurial and creative talent, but lag behind traditional technology hubs in terms of resources. While these cities may hold the key to growth in the 21st century, we can’t just expect it to happen organically. As Steve Case, founder of AOL and Chairman of Revolution, argues in an op-ed this week, relaxed crowdfunding regulations and tax breaks would help these companies to access the capital they need to grow. Moreover, increased connectedness between local founders through institutionalized networks would also strengthen and foster growth. Finally, increased diversity is essential, as it brings new people and new ideas to the table.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Chris Heivly in Durham, NC. This week, we chatted with Chris Heivly, Managing Partner at the Startup Factory and “chief pot-stirrer” in the Raleigh-Durham startup ecosystem. Learn more how the Triangle is building on its unique assets to create a thriving startup ecosystem: read the full profile here.