Startup News Digest 10/2/15


Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy.

Rise of the Rest Tour. Engine spent the week traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Check out our posts on our visits to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Buffalo.

#Visagate2015. An unexpected, last-minute policy change by the Department of State blindsided thousands of highly skilled immigrants seeking green cards, leaving them ineligible to apply and frustrated by yet another delay in the unreasonably tedious application process towards permanent residence. So frustrated, in fact, that a number of them have sued the State Department. This is not the first time immigrants have had their green card hopes dashed by an agency about-face—there was a similar fiasco in July 2007.  And as Emma writes, this represents “yet another indication of how our broken immigration system is plaguing the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

A Fireside Chat with CTO Megan Smith. On Thursday night, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith sat down with Khan Academy founder Salman Khan at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco to talk about the intersection of technology and public policy. As a former Google executive and the founder of her own media company, Megan Smith has a unique understanding of how bringing TQ (or “technology intelligence,” as she has termed it) to the public sector can help build a better government. She touched on a number of issues, including the importance of connectivity, STEM education and even prison reform. We took special note when she called on the audience to work together to improve diversity in tech. “We should be bringing our neighbors’ kids to work,” she said, arguing that diversity should be in the top three priorities at a company, rather than the top 20.

Bringing the ‘Techies’ to Congress. CTO Megan Smith also touched on the need for the “techies in Silicon Valley” to do a “tour of duty” in the government. A new initiative led by the Open Technology Institute hopes to facilitate just that. Beginning in 2016, the Congressional Innovation Fellowship program will place technologists in Hill offices to help “inject greater technical expertise into the policymaking process.” This program represents just another way in which the federal government is trying to bridge the gap with tech and prove that policymakers can be innovators too.

T-Mobile Plans to Buy Enough Spectrum to Cover Entire U.S. T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter reiterated some good news on Thursday—the company is aiming to purchase enough spectrum in next year’s incentive auction to cover the the entire U.S. We’ve talked before about why competition in the wireless market matters to startups, and we even wrote a letter to the FCC earlier this year advocating for safeguards that would improve the ability of competitive bidders like T-Mobile to play in this historic auction. With Sprint’s announcement last weekend that it plans to sit out the upcoming auction, we are thrilled that T-Mobile is still planning for robust participation.

The Federal Government Wants in on Crowdsourcing. In an op-ed published in Wired earlier this week, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) revealed the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act, which would give federal agencies the explicit authority to use crowdsourcing. According to Coons, the federal government is not prohibited from collaborating with the public to solve problems, but a lack of explicit authorization deters many agencies from taking full advantage of this option. He notes that “many of our nation’s challenging problems and questions can most effectively be solved and answered with the public’s help if they are given the chance.” We couldn’t agree more, and are happy to see legislation that would encourage these sorts of creative and inclusive approaches to policymaking.

Michael Petricone has “the best job in DC.” A Morning Consult write-up gave Engine Board Member and CEA’s SVP of Government Affairs, Michael Petricone, some much deserved recognition for his efforts to get Washington and tech companies on the same page. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! And nobody tells tech’s story better than Michael.