Startup News Digest: 8/4/2017

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

Startups Oppose Senate Bill Creating Exceptions to Bedrock Internet Law. A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation this week that would undermine Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), the fundamental intermediary liability law that protects Internet companies from being held legally responsible for what their users say on their platform. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act has the admirable goal of cracking down on sex trafficking online, however, injecting an exception like this in to CDA 230 would create a huge litigation risk for early stage companies that could drastically diminish investment in the sector. While we continue to work with legislators and victims groups to curb the horrific practice of sex trafficking, Engine has opposed this legislation. If you are a startup, sign onto our letter and tell Congress not to undermine the protections that created the Internet. Also, check out our op-ed with the Charles Koch Institute on the importance of CDA 230 to the success and growth of the Internet.

Tech Groups Urge Administration to Reconsider Startup Visa Decision. A coalition of 60 groups representing technology interests is urging the Trump administration to reconsider the change to the International Entrepreneur Rule. The Trump Administration has delayed implementation of this rule, known as the Startup Visa, which would allow foreign entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to the United States, promoting innovation. Engine has joined with others in the tech industry to urge the Administration to reconsider this rule as ensuring the best and brightest remain in America is crucial to growing our startup ecosystem nationwide.

Trump Endorses the New GOP Immigration Bill. On Wednesday, two Republican Senators, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA), introduced a bill that would dramatically reduce the number of green cards that the U.S. awards to foreigners. By design, the bill would reduce legal immigration by half within 10 years of enactment. President Trump offered the Senators his blessing saying, “we don’t want people that come into our country and immediately go on welfare and stay there for the rest of their lives. We’re not going to do it.” For its part, the tech industry was significantly less enthusiastic about the intended outcome of the legislation. “This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy,” the Information Technology Industry Council said in a statement.

Email Privacy Bill is Back. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have renewed their push to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act and require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing stored emails. As Engine Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, said in our statement this week, the bill "is a bipartisan effort to protect American’s digital content and is good for startups who currently face uncertainty with compliance." The House passed its version of this bill earlier this year.

A Big Week for Spectrum in the Senate. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced a bill -- the Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum, or AIRWAVES, Act -- aimed at freeing up government-held spectrum for commercial and unlicensed use. Also this week, the Senate passed Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune's (R-SD) MOBILE NOW Act, a bill aimed at boosting the next generation wireless network.

A Bipartisan IoT Bill is Introduced in the Senate. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation this week to raise security standards for government procured Internet-enabled devices. Titled the “Internet of Things Cybersecurity Act of 2017,” the bill would create minimum standards for IoT devices purchased by the government. Moreover, it would tweak existing copyright law to allow researchers to audit security protocols. The bill has received endorsements from several prominent cybersecurity experts, and has been praised as a necessary step to prevent hacking, distributed denial of service attacks, and privacy violations.  

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Randon Gettys (Peoria, IL). This week we headed to central Illinois, where the longtime presence of manufacturing and machinery companies, like Caterpillar, has inspired recent growth in tech startups. We spoke to Randon Gettys, the Director of Startup Greater Peoria, about the natural inputs in the ecosystem that have lent themselves well to building new companies. “[We have] two angel firms, 12 colleges and universities in a 30-mile radius, three world-class research facilities, a workforce brimming with engineering talent, a low cost of living, a handful of nonprofit startup initiatives, manufacturing and logistics expertise, and a multimodal transportation infrastructure,” Gettys explained. Learn more about Peoria startups by reading the full profile here.