Startup News Digest: 7/14/2017

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

Engine Testifies Against Bad Patents at House Judiciary Committee Hearing. On Thursday, Engine’s President, Julie Samuels, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet on the impact of bad patents on American businesses. Julie spoke to the weaknesses in the patent system and the progress that has been made to weed out low quality patents by Congress, the courts and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Patent trolls, armed with low-quality patents, are able to extract settlements from startups and small businesses, adversely impacting the companies that can least afford these threats. Since startups and small businesses are key drivers of innovation and job growth, troll threats against them are particularly stifling to American economic growth and prosperity.

Watch the hearing here. And read Julie’s full testimony here.

Trump Administration Delays “Startup Visa” Rule. Engine spoke out against the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to delay and potentially eliminate the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER). The rule was enacted to create a pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs to build companies and create jobs in the United States. Immigrants with startup ideas should be encouraged to come to America and build the next great company. Undoing IER will signal to entrepreneurs globally that our country is not a place where their ideas and talent are welcome. Companies that could have helped grow the U.S. economy will instead launch in other countries, putting our position as the leader of the tech world at risk. Engine has long advocated for reforms to our immigration system that will ensure that the world’s best innovators are able to build and contribute to companies in America.

The Net Neutrality Day of Action Draws Attention… but the Issue Remains. Over 80,000 companies and organizations, including Engine, joined forces on Wednesday to urge citizens to stand up for net neutrality protections. From simple website widgets, to larger campaigns, the initiative was certainly succeeding in attracting attention. As of yesterday, Demand Progress had recorded that 200 million comments were submitted to the FCC, 5 million emails were sent to Congress, 124,000 phone calls were made to Members of Congress, and 20 Congressional offices were visited by supporters of the cause. Despite the impressive participation though, the fight is far from over. As Chairman Pai has said repeatedly, the Commission has no responsibility to respond to public opinion, no matter how loud net neutrality advocates get.

Echo Dot Helps Amazon Break All-Time Sales Record on Prime Day. Amazon held its annual Prime Day sale on July 10th, 2017, offering steep discounts on a range of products to new and existing Prime subscribers. This year’s sale broke the record for Amazon’s biggest sales day in its history, with overall sales up a staggering 60% from 2016’s sale. These sales figures were largely driven by hardware, headlined by Amazon’s own Echo Dot. The signature Echo was discounted by 50%, while the Echo Dot’s price dropped from $50 to $35. Although exact numbers are unavailable, the Echo smart speaker device line is growing in popularity, with Amazon reporting that Prime subscribers ordered seven times as many devices as compared to last year. Other popular deals included products like 23andMe and Sony Playstation 4.

Democrats Hope to Out-Tech Republicans in 2018. A new startup incubator, founded by some of Obama’s key tech aides, is accelerating its efforts to raise money to invest in high-tech tools to help Democrats win races this election cycle. On Thursday, the program, called Higher Ground Labs, announced that it had added Ron Klain, the former top advisor to the President during the global Ebola crisis and current general counsel of Revolution, to its team as Chairman of the board. By the end of next month, the organization will release the names of the first cohort of campaign startups that it hopes will aid Democratic candidates in the 2018 election through Silicon Valley-style approaches to polling, data, analytics, and messaging. In a statement, Klain explained why Democrats felt the need for this type of organization. “We can’t face the superior funding the Republicans have,and their advantage in controlling state legislatures, state houses, the Congress and the presidency ... and then also be behind in technology,” he said.

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Events! The deadline for submitting comments to the Federal Communications Committee on its notice of proposed rulemaking for new net neutrality regulations is MONDAY. If you haven’t submitted a comment yet, you can do so here. On Wednesday, July 26, Engine is co-hosting the third lunch briefing in the “Nuts and Bolts of Encryption” series. Location and speakers will be announced early next week. Finally, August 1 is the annual Startup Day Across America. If you’re a startup looking to connect with your congressional member, or a staffer to a Member of Congress who is interested in participating, you can learn more here.