Startup News Digest: 5/19/17

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

FCC Votes to Begin Dismantling Net Neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the first official step in eliminating existing net neutrality protections this week. In a 2-1 party-line vote, the Commission adopted Chairman Ajit Pai’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which would reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order and the agency’s Title II classification of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In a statement reacting to the vote, Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom noted that “Any effort to undermine existing net neutrality rules would greatly harm the startup ecosystem...We must not remain silent. Now is the time for the startup community to galvanize around meaningful protections.” Y Combinator founder Sam Altman echoed this sentiment in a Wired op-ed published the same day as the vote, arguing that startup founders have a duty to fight for net neutrality. “Without strong net neutrality rules...the cable and wireless companies that control internet access will have outsized power to pick winners and losers in the market,” he writes. The FCC’s vote initiates a public comment period of 90 days.

Lyft and Waymo Team Up on Autonomous Vehicle Efforts. As more and more companies focus their attention on bringing self-driving cars to market, two of the industry’s most prominent players are teaming up. In separate statements, Lyft, a ride-sharing service, and Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, confirmed the partnership. This new alliance is just one of many in the autonomous vehicle market, as new companies enter the space regularly, angling to capitalize on what many believe will be a multibillion dollar industry. But the Lyft-Waymo partnership has real implications for Lyft’s primary competitor, Uber, who, despite being the largest ride-hailing service, has faced a number of very public setbacks in recent months. It may also indicate that Waymo believes, after eight years of testing, that its technology is ready to come to market.  

Study Shows Differences in How Investors Perceive Women vs. Men. New research covered by the Harvard Business Review this week shows that investor perceptions of female versus male entrepreneurs are radically different and it’s having a negative impact on investment in women-led startups. The researchers, who observed Swedish government venture capital decision-making meetings from 2009 to 2010, found that “the financiers rhetorically produce stereotypical images of women as having qualities opposite to those considered important to being an entrepreneur, with VCs questioning their credibility, trustworthiness, experience, and knowledge.” While a male entrepreneur might be described as “young and promising,” a female founder would be considered “young, but inexperienced.” This stereotyping through language had a real effect on which entrepreneurs received investment and which didn’t: women received funding only 47 percent of the time (versus men receiving 62 percent of the time), and those females who did receive funding only got 25 percent of the applied-for amount (versus 52 percent for men).  

The House Votes to Modernize Government IT Systems. On Wednesday, the House voted to advance Representative Will Hurd’s (R-TX) Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. The bill, which received bipartisan support, emphasizes Congress’ growing concerns about the country’s aging technology systems. According to recent reports, at least ten critical systems are more than 40 years old. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle urged the Senate to prioritize the introduction of a companion bill. “Our government needs to be able to introduce cutting-edge technology into our workforce and to increase efficiency and decrease cost,” Rep. Hurd said. Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) added, “This won’t be a controversial bill; it won’t be on the front page of the paper...but it will have a serious impact on our country.” In addition to support from both parties, the legislation also enjoys the endorsement of many tech companies who see it as an opportunity to help the government bring its technology into the 21st century.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Zack Miller (Hampton Roads, VA). This week, we talked with Zack Miller, founder of Hatch and startup ambassador, cheerleader, enthusiast, and educator for anyone who is looking to build and grow their business in the Hampton Roads region. Read the full profile here.