Fee shifting, or "loser pays," is already in the Patent Act but the current wording -- only in “exceptional cases” can the court award attorney fees to the prevailing party -- left the door open for the Federal Circuit to define exceptional so narrowly that fees are only granted in a fraction of cases.
Today, 39 prominent venture capitalists sent a letter to Congress urging comprehensive legislation to address the patent troll problem. Together, the signatories have aided the success of companies such as Netflix, Twitter, and Kickstarter, and they invest upwards of $1 billion annually to ensure that even more young, high-tech companies continue to grow and fuel job creation in the United States.
Engine's Research Director Ian Hathaway recently spoke with Jason Grill on Entrepreneur KC Radio on how high-tech startups create jobs. Referencing his recent research on the impact of startups on job creation and growth, Ian also specifically highlights the unique conditions that have led Kansas City to become a growing hub for tech entrepreneurship.
This week, we signed and sent a letter to the U.S. Senate alongside other leading tech groups. The movement led by TechNet gathered over 100 signatories, including the Consumer Electronics Association, Cisco Systems, Facebook, and Partnership for a New American Economy. The technology community understands the importance of the high-tech industry to the American economy, and agrees unanimously that comprehensive immigration reform is the solution we need.
Over the last 18 months, Engine has grown quickly from loose coalition, to more formal coalition, then finally becoming a legal nonprofit. Now we’re ready to take the next step: embarking on a fundraising campaign to help seed the organization, and ensure it will be around for a while to come.
Since one of Engine’s key functions is connecting startups with government, and policy makers with startups, we’ve put a lot of energy into bringing the community together. Already during Engine’s short lifetime, our members have met with hundreds of policy makers, we’ve brought 70 innovators from across the country to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., and 15,000 calls were made from Engine supporters to Congress during the Stop the Wall campaign against SOPA/PIPA. In addition, on the education front we’ve published hundreds of informative blog posts and key pieces of research, including our Technology Works study.
This work depends on the support of startups, larger tech companies, and individuals who believe in the work we’re doing, and want to help support our research and advocacy. Since we do not charge startups dues to join, and hope we never have to, we need your support -- your support is critical to our continued ability to bring the community together, undertake research, and develop successful campaigns to educate lawmakers, local elected officials, and the public about the impact the tech sector can have on economic growth and job creation.
At the end of February, Engine took 32 startups from across the country to the very heart of policy-making in Washington D.C. for our second annual Startup Day on the Hill. The aim was to facilitate interactions between lawmakers and entrepreneurs in order to build mutually beneficial relationships.
Participating startups include Etsy, Lyft, Yelp, and Maybrooks, among many others.
Here’s what Stacey Delo, Maybrooks Founder, had to say about her experience in Washington D.C. and what she went to talk about.
Debi and I founded Maybrooks as an online resource for smart moms – at all stages of their careers – to go to find jobs, post jobs, and connect with like-minded women.
We built tools to harness the powerful word-of-mouth network among moms, and empower them to help each other find flexible careers. And there’s one key differentiator -- our growing job board that features meaningful opportunities for highly experienced working women who seek job flexibility. The site is a place where small businesses and startups can find overqualified talent on a flexible basis, and where large corporations can tout their amazing flex policies.
Just before our trip to D.C. with Engine, the New York Times ran a piece about how men are benefiting more from the economic recovery - from a jobs perspective - than women. As a result, our visit, and the opportunity to talk to lawmakers about women and jobs was well timed. Debi and I were particularly interested in telling policy makers about the large, smart, work-ready talent pool of women looking to put their skills to work with some level of flexibility.
To help craft our message, we built a survey to identify what working moms want when it comes to flexibility, and found that sixty percent wanted full-time job opportunities with options for flexibility. Ninety-four percent of the respondents said job flexibility was as or more important to them than money. See an infographic of the results here.
On the Friday before our trip, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer demanded that all remote-only workers come into the office, opening a floodgate of conversation nationally about workplace flexibility particularly as it pertained to working mothers. I felt fortunate to have the survey data showing that the majority of women we interviewed wanted full-time work with options for flexibility, not necessarily an entirely remote-work setup. (Here’s our take on the conversation about women in the workplace.)
The survey also highlighted the fact that 94 percent of women say flexibility is as or more important than money, yet 78 percent say finding flexible work is very or extremely difficult. These numbers, together with our belief in the Maybrooks platform as a way to raise awareness and make it easier for women to find the right job convinced us that attending Startup Day on the Hill with Engine was the next logical step. With the numbers and the platform, my meetings in D.C. allowed me to talk directly to lawmakers about supporting policies that keep women in the workforce, contribute to job growth for women, and provide greater flexibility and income parity with men.
I was so grateful to have this opportunity to meet face-to-face in small groups with some of the most influential people in D.C., not to mention the cool factor of simply being able to “check in” on Facebook at The White House. We were inspired by the country’s CTO Todd Park and his team, who are keenly in tune with the needs of startups, and working to operate their portion of government with as much agility as possible. I was also honored to sit at a dining room-sized conference table with three of the most accomplished women in government, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Anna Eshoo, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- all Democrats of California.
Impressed with how all the government officials were so open and willing to listen to startups and their needs, Debi and I thank Engine for opening this important line of communication between the tech community and Washington.
Stacey Delo, cofounder & ceo
Over the last year, Engine has worked to improve the entrepreneurial environment by providing knowledge to both lawmakers and startups about the issues that impact our community. We’ve released our first paper, met with officials in our offices, and brought entrepreneurs together around issues. One of our most successful events has been Startup Day on the Hill. Last year, we took 18 startups from all around the country to talk about the products and services startups are creating and how archaic laws are impacting their ability to innovate. Now we’re gearing up to do it again.
This year, Startup Day on the Hill is aimed at showing lawmakers that startups are creating jobs all across the country and spurring economic growth across many sectors of the economy. On February 26th and 27th we are taking Congress by storm. We’ll be meeting with the Chief Technology Officer at the White House, talking to Senators and Representatives about how immigration reform impacts the technology community, and educating our elected officials about the issues that directly affect our ability to invent, start companies, and create jobs.
The startups coming to Washington are making the next generation of educational toys and inventing new approaches to semantic search. They are pioneering medical devices to help detect and prevent heart disease, and building low-cost satellites to provide universal access to information about the changing Earth. These are just a few examples of the work that we’ll showcase for legislators -- work that is disrupting industries, creating new economic opportunity, and creating greater social good.
Check out our website to find out more about the agenda and consider joining us, too. Make your voice heard.
Here’s a secret from a former Capitol Hill staffer -- it only takes about twenty phone calls about an issue to merit a briefing in a staff meeting. Just a handful more will get lawmakers to reconsider. Can you imagine how easy raising a round of funding would be if you only needed a hundred users?
Making laws is a cumbersome process, and changing them is nearly impossible. Whether you like it or not, lawmakers you may never have heard of -- and the decisions they make -- affect how you run your business. They have a say in how you use data generated from your users, payment processing, and hiring.
Thankfully, laws are written, tweaked, and sometimes completely overhauled based on the concerns of those who make their voices heard. While the lawmaking process might seem long, laborious, and as about as comprehensible as the reasoning behind the fiscal cliff, it really just comes down to constituents (DC-speak for users).
Take SOPA/PIPA for example, where constituents succeeded in making their voices heard. The technology community stopped the proposals, but we were forced to rally in the eleventh hour with our backs against the wall. Engine is changing that.
Engine is proactively involved in the lawmaking process, rather than just waiting to react. We get startups a seat at the table, ensuring you have a say about the laws that affect the way you run your business. We’re meeting with lawmakers, doing the research about startups’ impact, and building a community where you can contribute your opinions. But we can’t do that without your support.
I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have time, I am building a business, I’m not really political anyway. We understand that. We’re there when you need us, doing the legwork, and giving you the opportunity to educate the government about your business at the start of the conversation. Being a member of Engine means that you will know in advance when you need to be caller number twenty.
Uber’s recent win in Washington DC over taxi regulations has sparked some debate about the approach startups should take to dealing with government. Working with state, local, or federal government is never a perfect process, companies often rightly feel that revenue, consumer access, or effective competition are threatened by new laws or existing regulations. Whether a process involves clash or compromise, results aren’t guaranteed.
At Engine, we have worked with policymakers on proposals that impact startups’ businesses, like Startup Act 2.0, and have helped to stage wide-scale protests, as was the case in confronting SOPA/PIPA. Both approaches brought results, though not perfect solutions, and moved things in the right direction for the startup ecosystem.
No startup should hesitate from playing hardball by harnessing user-advocates who are passionate about their products if they think customers deserve to be heard. Nor should an entrepreneur shy away from engaging directly with government where discussion might improve policy. Personalities, politics, and ideas will clash whether they are trumpeted in the public square or discussed behind closed doors. We need more, not fewer people involved in the lawmaking process.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to startups. Disagreements public and private occur constantly in DC, Sacramento, Albany, and Des Moines, and involve some of the largest companies in the world. When AT&T sought approval to acquire T-Mobile, more than 40,000 public comments were filed with
the Federal Communications Commision and firey rhetoric was directed by and at many invovled.
Engine is building tools that make it easy and effective for entrepreneurs to connect with and influence government. In the end,
whether you work with Engine, call on your users to tweet support, or meet with a representative one-on-one, as an entrepreneur, you should feel empowered to engage with your government. Our stories and experiences matter and should help guide these debates. Startups working with government -- choosing to engage and doing so in an effective manner -- go beyond simply creating debate, they foster a stronger ecosystem for our businesses and our community to thrive.
The move by San Franciscan voters to approve Proposition E earlier this month was something of a coup for the tech industry. This shift in tax policy aims to encourage hiring and new business development in the city and saw support from the mayor, tech companies, and leaders in the venture capital community. While the impact of the reform will be evaluated over the coming years, the coordination of the tech and startup community around this policy is an encouraging achievement.
The important question we face after the success of Prop E is how to keep the dialogue between government, citizens, and innovators moving forward?
Technology companies and other interested advocates including the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi) backed Prop E, arguing the reform would be a catalyst for job creation in San Francisco. A video released during election season by sf.citi highlighted the important role technology can play in improving local governance and day-to-day problems.
For years, licensing, policy, and regulation have pitted the tech industry against itself, seeing companies use government as a wedge against competitors. Working together with businesses and other stakeholders to address policy challenges will help our communities and country emerge stronger, more efficient, and more prosperous. The first step is coming together. Engine has been working in local communities across the country as well as here in the valley to make local startup policy a priority. We encourage you to join Engine to be part of future success stories in your own backyard.
Next Thursday, we are going to continue this conversation. Please consider joining Engine for a roundtable on technology, economic growth, and local policy at 10am December 6. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of MomentsForZen.
Last week, Engine hosted Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. The lawmakers, both Republicans, joined a host of startups to discuss issues involving copyright, patents, and other intellectual property issues critical to entrepreneurs developing technology products for consumers.
The conversation revolved around a number of subjects. Entrepreneurs expressed concern about a second coming of bills like SOPA and PIPA as well as an interest in fixing the patent regime to keep trolls from harming young companies. We also discussed Rep. Chaffetz’s Internet Radio Fairness Act of the 2012 -- introduced with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon -- which would level the playing field between radio broadcasters online and off.
Rules changing how startups can use and display content will be critical to the evolution of the technology industry. At Engine, we will continue to get entrepreneurs involved in the debate on intellectual property as it affects their businesses.
Commissioner Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission joined us yesterday to discuss issues impacting technology companies at an event co-hosted by Engine as part of the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Net West series. The commissioner heard from entrepreneurs, policy wonks, journalists, and activists in the technology and startup ecosystems. You can watch the event in full here:
We are encouraged by federal regulators’ increased interest in connecting with entrepreneurs on policies that influence their businesses. Q&A from the crowd touched on a number of tech policy subjects including Do Not Track standards, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the commission’s work on mobile app privacy, and its actions against larger companies like Facebook and Google. The conversation primarily centered on regulations’ impact on innovation across the internet economy.
The FTC has focused on providing guidelines to developers to better and more clearly inform mobile app users. A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project survey found that more than half of people that use apps decided not to download a program based on information about the data it would need to collect to operate. It will be important for the commission to keep in mind the sophistication of users as it continues to pursue guidelines on the amount of information and disclosure imposed on mobile developers.
We will continue to host events that connect entrepreneurs and startups to policymakers and we hope to continue our partnership with the Congressional Internet Caucus in the future. If you would like to find out more about Engine events join us as a member and we’ll keep you in the loop.
Engine is excited to host a townhall with Commissioner Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday at 4:00 pm. Join us for the event at The Hattery in SOMA (414 Brannan Street, San Francisco, California). Video will be available after if you can’t attend. We’re bringing together startups, entrepreneurs, policy wonks, and lawmakers to talk about data, privacy, and other policies that impact small businesses and technology firms. Commissioner Brill’s visit is part of the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Net West series.
Why should startups care about the FTC? The agency has been working to create guidelines for businesses on consumer privacy, releasing its “final report” on the subject March 26. Data exchange is central to the relationship between internet-based businesses and their consumers. Maintaining and enhancing trust between innovators and users will be critical to the continued success of startups across the web.
While the commission has focused on large tech companies, search engines, internet service providers, data brokers, and web browsers, perspective from dynamic young companies may help in the construction of policies that preserve the internet ecosystem that has opened doors for entrepreneurs.
Large companies tend to have established practices that are easily conveyed to users and the government. Startups, on the other hand, often change strategy, business model, or size rapidly and require a great deal of flexibility. Policymakers must be mindful of these difference as they consider rules that would affect tech companies of all ages and sizes.
Data’s regulation is one of the areas addressed in the issue book we circulated at the party nominating conventions a few weeks ago. So far, the government has taken a relatively low-impact approach to the regulation of data in the form of privacy, cybersecurity, and data breach rules. Calls for the government to become more involved have intensified in recent years. It’s critical that startups and entrepreneurs make their voices heard in this debate to ensure that the opportunity to innovate remains open.
Dialogue between entrepreneurs and lawmakers like Commissioner Brill will be critical to the success of government and business. For new rules to effectively protect customers, businesses must be able to grow, innovate, and offer new products to consumers. Engine’s goal is to foster these connections, inject startups into the policy dialogue, and promote entrepreneurship in Washington and beyond.
Photo courtesy of Priya Deonarain.
Our trip to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions are more proof of Engine’s ability to build the discussion about startups and create knowledge about the critical role innovation plays in our economy. We’re back from a busy few weeks in Tampa and Charlotte. Fresh and energized from talking with hundreds of engaged Americans as well as policymakers from both sides of the aisle about the importance of startups and the innovation economy, we’re looking forward to continuing to work on these issues in the coming months leading up to the election and beyond.
Key at both conventions was the growing certainty that innovation is an issue of national importance. Across the board, people from both parties, from communities all across the country, are concerned with economic prosperity and global competitiveness. We saw this at panels with Startup America and Huffington Post at both conventions. We saw it at events we co-sponsored with Startup Rockon. We heard it from the candidates themselves in their speeches.
We were able to connect with people from all across the country, showing them how high-tech industries and startups in their communities are helping to drive the economy with our data visualization, built on Google maps in partnership with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI). And we launched a guide to the key issues that are affecting startups and innovation.
We’ll be continuing to work with BACEI to examine the data around high-tech sector job growth across the United States, with a full report from BACEI coming out in the Autumn. And we’ll be working with policymakers and candidates to educate them about the issues and help them make good calls for startups in the next Congress and beyond.
Today Engine hosted Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), a member of the House Democratic leadership, at a lunchtime roundtable with members of the startup community. The meetup was part of a series of events hosted by Engine at the Hattery offices in SOMA to promote dialogue about policy issues that are impacting startups across the country.
While in the Valley, Rep. Hoyer is visiting large tech companies like Cisco, Google, and Facebook as well as startups and entrepreneurs. The conversation touched on a variety of issues affecting the community, including skilled immigration, STEM education, and broadband access for rural Americans. The group also discussed issues important to the health of our economy and the U.S. as a whole.
Engine member and healthcare startup Morpheus took the opportunity to demo their product for
the congressman, which gives cardiologists a non-invasive, 3D view of the human heart -- a piece of technology created by foreign-born, U.S.-educated entrepreneurs.
Engine will continue to keep you posted about opportunities to engage with policymakers as they meet with members of the startup community.
Over the next few weeks, Engine will embark on a trip to the party nominating conventions in Tampa and Charlotte. We’ll hear President Obama and Governor Romney speaking about the agenda for our country for the coming four years. And alongside some of our leading entrepreneurial members, we’ll be meeting with leaders and policymakers from both parties -- talking with them about the role startups play in growth in the economy, and how we can work together in the next Congress and beyond to craft better legislation and regulation in this arena.
We’ll be working alongside our friends at Startup America, the Consumer Electronics Association, Google, and many other companies and interests to provide a view into the startup community at a number of events at both the RNC and DNC. We’ll also be releasing resources for candidates and advocates at both conventions, which we’ll pass along here as well.
If you’re attending, make sure to keep an eye out for us, and if you’re not braving the convention heat, we’ll be updating here and on Twitter and Facebook with updates from the excitement in both cities.
Image courtesy of clmclarty
Engine hosted representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin and John Carney of Delaware today in a roundtable on issues impacting startups. Carney, a recent addition to Congress in 2011, serves on the House Financial Services Committee while Kind, who has served since 1997, sits on the House Ways and Means Committee. These congressional bodies set budgetary, tax, and financial policy in the United States.
The congressmen are members of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate democratic legislators. Engine discussed issues including patent, financial regulation, skilled immigration, education, and broadband and spectrum. The meeting brought together entrepreneurs from a variety of Bay Area startups as well as Engine’s steering committee members including Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, Marvin Ammori of The Ammori Group, and Luis Arbulu who serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The event underscored the need for Congress to address “no-brainer” policies that will boost small business, entrepreneurship, and startups. Engine is committed to continuing to connect entrepreneurs and policymakers on the issues that will shape the future of our economy.