Startup News Digest: 3/10/17

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

Private Solutions for Public Problems. Engine released a report on Wednesday highlighting the ways in which startups are capitalizing on Big Data to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. The paper also offers insights for policymakers seeking to foster innovation and social transformation while maintaining sufficient protections for the American public. To celebrate the report’s publication, Engine hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill, which was headlined by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA). They were joined by a distinguished panel of policy analysts and startup leaders from ITIF, FarmLogs, and LendUp. Panelists explained how the convergence of multiple datasets is really what drives insights, even more than the size of a single dataset. The also argued that the data generated and shared by the government should be high quality, interoperable, and widely available to entrepreneurs.

Why You Should Still Pay Attention to Apple v. Samsung. Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court finally issued a decision in the highly anticipated Apple v. Samsung design patent case. In a victory for startups, the court ruled in favor of Samsung, finding that damages for design patent infringement may be limited to revenues attributable to a component of an article of manufacture rather than profits from the entire article. In February, there was another development in the case when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit remanded Apple v. Samsung to the Northern District of California court. In Morning Consult this week, Engine Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, explains why this case is still important to keep an eye on. Read the full op-ed here.

USCIS Suspends Fast Track for H-1B Visas. Starting next month, it’s going to become a lot more difficult to get an H-1B visa. Last Friday, the Trump Administration announced that it would be temporarily suspending its 15-day “premium processing” program for H-1B applicants starting April 3. Under the current framework, a company can pay a $1,225 filing fee for accelerated review of a petition. Without fast track processing, an application can take anywhere from 4-12 months. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) justified the decision as an effort to clear the backlog of “long-pending petitions” and noted that the suspension will last no longer than six months. However, some have expressed concerns that this could be a first step in rolling back the program, which is highly utilized by startups and technology companies.

Immigration Ban Refresh. The Trump Administration signed a revised immigration ban executive order on Monday, suspending entry for immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries and banning refugees from around the world. The new order differs from the original in a number of ways: it is not immediate, going into effect on March 16; it excludes Iraq from the list of banned countries; and it will not impact current visa and green card holders, among other things. While these changes are an improvement over the original ban, the new order is still deeply troubling. The first executive order received strong pushback from the startup community, with more than 200 investors and companies joining a letter led by Engine and the National Venture Capital Association opposing the Administration's actions. Reception of the new travel ban remained negative, with technology leaders from Uber, Salesforce, Airbnb, and various other companies voicing opposition to the executive order. Whether this revised order will pass legal muster remains to be seen, but a number of states have already launched challenges. We’re tracking.

Diverse Stakeholders Unite Around Net Neutrality. On Tuesday, Engine joined over 170 organizations, ranging from environmental groups to radio stations, in a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Senate Commerce Committee leadership expressing support for net neutrality and urging the recipients to uphold strong protections for a free and open internet. “Since the [Open Internet] order went into effect,” the groups write, “broadband infrastructure investment is up, ISP revenues are at record highs, and businesses continue developing innovative ideas and offerings.” The letter also points to four key values—competition, innovation, free speech, and equality of access—that are fostered by net neutrality and would be threatened by any government actions to roll it back. As the debate over net neutrality heats up again, Chairman Pai and congressional leaders should expect persistent pushback from the startup community and countless other groups against any efforts to undermine an open internet.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Kyle Ashby in Santa Barbara, CA. This week, we talked with with Kyle Ashby, the co-founder of The Sandbox Santa Barbara and StartupSB, about how Santa Barbara’s coastal, laidback lifestyle has attracted entrepreneurs to the growing startup ecosystem. Learn more about how Santa Barbara’s history of success, outdoor culture, and young talent have come together to drive innovation in the city: read the full profile here.