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 http://engine.is/digest.
Chairman Goodlatte Unveils His Innovation Agenda. On Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) revealed the committee’s top tech priorities for this Congress. Among the issues he hopes to address are encryption and surveillance, as well as high skilled immigration. On immigration, he suggested that too many green cards were being given to family members of current U.S. residents, instead of going to skilled laborers. He told reporters that his goal was to “find a balanced solution to increase the high-skilled talent pool to promote job growth through visa and green card reforms,” and to protect “job opportunities for similarly qualified Americans.” He also emphasized his focus on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which currently allows the government to surveil non-citizens. The Chairman brought up the House’s successful passage of the Email Privacy Act earlier this year, as well. “We will continue to work with our counterparts on the Senate side to get this one across the finish line and to the President’s desk for his signature,” he said.
Net Neutrality Updates. Last week, the big net neutrality news came out of the executive branch in the form of a formal proposal from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to undo existing net neutrality rules. This week, the legislative and judicial branches got involved as well. On Monday, a group of nine GOP senators led by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, a bill that would repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order and prohibit the FCC from reclassifying internet service providers under Title II again in the future. The bill represents a parallel congressional effort to complement FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent proposal to kill net neutrality and represents another direct attack on the free and open internet. In more positive news, the same day the Restoring Internet Freedom Act was introduced, a federal court declined to rehear last year’s landmark case upholding the 2015 Open Internet Order, preventing the full DC Circuit from reversing the decision. While the Supreme Court could choose to hear the case, it seems unlikely that the Court will take it up, as the agency is already in the process of dismantling the rules. We’re tracking.
Startup Economy Stabilizing. According to new data from Bloomberg, things are looking up for the startup ecosystem. The Bloomberg Startup Barometer, which measures a variety of inputs to gauge the health of the startup ecosystem, rose 0.6 percent over last year’s index. Specifically, larger funding totals (such as AirBnB’s recent $1 billion round and WeWork’s $300 million round) and a number of new exits (including Snap and MuleSoft’s IPOs) helped to push the index up. However, key indicators of startup dynamism—the number of deals and the number of companies that raise money for the first time—have continued to decline compared to last year’s levels. Bloomberg updates the Barometer every Monday.
President Trump Forms Group to Modernize the Government. On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order signaling the formation of the American Technology Council, an elite group of executives from technology companies who will focus on ways that the Administration can move to modernize the federal government. While the White House has yet to release the specific participants of the council, it is rumored that the Administration has reached out to Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Amazon, IBM, Salesforce, SpaceX, and Oracle. Leading the group will be Chris Liddell, a former Microsoft executive who has been working with the President on his private sector strategy since the beginning of the term. While President Trump is not the first president to try and capitalize on Silicon Valley’s experience and knowledge, he may face more obstacles than his predecessors, as relations between his Administration and the startup ecosystem have grown increasingly icy over the last several months (see: immigration, net neutrality, and general push-back).
This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere: Stuart Gutwein (Greater Lafayette, IN). Think Indianapolis is the only major startup hub in Indiana? Think again. This week, we talked with Stuart Gutwein, attorney at Gutwein Law and startup ecosystem builder in Greater Lafayette, about the region’s burgeoning startup community. “Greater Lafayette has a diverse mix of individuals. Having a research university campus within the city generates a lot of thinkers and innovators for the startup community. Greater Lafayette has also traditionally held a culture of hard work and dedication. These two mindsets working together present a unique and valuable partnership that sets the community up for success,” argues Gutwein. Read the full profile here.
Know Someone Who Has Been a Victim of the Patent System? One of the biggest contributors to our country’s patent problem is the abundance of low quality patents. While stopping the bad actors who take advantage of them may prove challenging, improving the system to limit the tools that these groups have is a common-sense first step. To help with this, Engine is gathering stories of startups and entrepreneurs that have faced problems with the patent system, whether it's being victimized by patent trolls or facing a lawsuit from a legitimate patent holder but for a questionable patent. If you have a story or know someone we should connect with, send an email to Emma Peck at email@example.com.