Startup News Digest 9/23/16

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

Stock Options Tax Bill Moves Forward. An Engine-championed bill that would make it easier for startup employees to exercise their stock options cleared important hurdles in Congress this week. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Empowering Employees Through Stock Options Act, and a companion bill cleared the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the week. Even with partisan divisions higher than usual in this contentious election year, Democrats and Republicans came together to support EESO, passing the bill unanimously in the Senate Finance Committee and with substantial bipartisan support in the House. As we’ve written in the past, because employees exercising certain types of stock options must pay an immediate tax upon exercise (even though there is no public market on which to sell some of the newly acquired shares to pay the tax), startup employees are often unable to purchase their shares, making it difficult for startups to attract and compensate top talent. EESO allows employees to defer the tax payment on options for seven years or until the underlying shares are actually sold, providing workers with the flexibility they need to realize the value of their contributions to their companies. We are hopeful that the full Senate will consider the bill as expeditiously as possible so that it can head to the President’s desk before the end of his term.

Feds Issue Self-Driving Guidance. On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation released its long-awaited guidance on autonomous vehicles. The guidance establishes 15 safety benchmarks that automakers must meet before deploying self-driving cars, proposes a model regulatory policy that states can adopt, and lays the groundwork for a national framework that governs the emergence and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Stakeholders welcomed the guidance, lauding its balanced approach as a signal of the federal government’s support of the development of the emerging technology. The policy will be open for comment for 60 days, and federal officials have stressed that the framework is a living document that will be updated annually.

Techies: Congress Needs You. As technology issues pervade policy discussions in D.C.—from encryption to spectrum to surveillance reform—it is more important than ever that staffers and members on the Hill have a knowledge base to understand the technologies being discussed. That’s why Travis Moore started the TechCongress fellowship program, which places technologists in Congressional offices. The program is going into its second year and is looking for new fellows to help bring tech expertise to the halls of the Capitol. If that’s you or someone you know, you can apply or nominate someone here. But don’t wait, applications close a week from today on September 30th.

Engine and Rise of the Rest Head West. Engine is packing its bags for the fifth Rise of the Rest tour, which is scheduled to kick off in just over a week. The tour will highlight the rising startup ecosystems in Omaha and Lincoln, Denver, Salt Lake City and Provo, Albuquerque, and Phoenix over five days. Each stop culminates in a $100,000 pitch competition and the finalists for each city were announced this week. Check out the companies that will be pitching Steve Case and make sure to catch the tour when it rolls through your city. RSVP for events here.