By Ian Rosoff
President Obama was a start up candidate; he had a great original pitch at the 2004 democratic national convention, and from there he quickly gained momentum toppling the Clinton candidacy and shutting down popular Senator John McCain to become the first African American President in history. The President’s victory in 2008 and again on Tuesday is partly due to the superior quality of his ground game and his ability to harness technology to strengthen his campaign and volunteer efforts.
As someone who knows firsthand the power of technology in our post-industrial economy, we can continue to expect aspects of his 2nd term agenda to focus on the role technology plays in creating jobs, fostering energy security, and ensuring that America stays on the cutting edge of innovation.
The startup community can hope for a few things in particular:
The biggest specific policy initiative is the Startup 2.0 Act, which would increase the work visa availability for foreign science, tech, engineering, and math grads from American universities, as well as increase entrepreneurship visas for foreigners. Tech Crunch believes this reform is in the pipeline for next year.
Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer, a position created in Obama’s first term, has been rolling out the President’s open government policy, which is designed to help businesses that need or use government data. The Health Data Consortium is using the open government data to help draw crime maps and create apps like WeMakeItSafer.
The government will also play a role in regulatory matters regarding technology and the Internet. Two bills, SOPA and PIPA were already heavily contested in the president’s first term, and issues about copyright and Privacy on the Internet are, depending on how Congress addresses these issues again, possibly the defining tech issue of Obama’s second term. Regulation of the online marketplace is still in its infancy, and it is apparent that government has a lot of catching up to do on developing a strategy that balances the interests of startups and tech companies as well as established media corporations.
Another controversial government project is the government’s early stage innovation fund. The government has had its share of failures investing in individual companies, with the Solyndra scandal being the most notable. But the government has some successes as well, like the veterans start up incubator to help vets start new high growth businesses, or a company like Cabulous who credits the capital gains exclusion in president Obama’s 2011 budget for their growth. The innovation fund is also committed to investing in clean energy companies.
Green jobs are likely going to be an important part of this administration’s innovation agenda, but the administration should not be myopic in only looking to invest in green tech or the most cutting edge tech coming out of Silicon Valley. The innovation fund will focus on infusing capital into less conventional startup areas so small businesses from outside places like California will get more exposure.
The Startup America partnership, which we are big fans of, is another avenue for funding and mentorship for startups. We are actually pitching today at the Reboot America summit, where former and first White House CTO Aneesh Chopra will be speaking. He talked about the goals of Startup America last year in an article he wrote while serving as Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Access to capital and mentorship for high growth startups are key aspects of the initiative and Startup America has partnerships with the NYSE and the Case Foundations as well as other influential institutions to help foster entrepreneurship education.
It’s an exciting time for Startups and many college graduates who feel the traditional corporate path is not for them are taking their talents to startups. New programs at top universities are being created to cater to the startup culture and prepare students to start their own companies out of college.
The President’s commitment to encouraging startups and expediting the growth process for new businesses in the tech industry could be critical to his economic legacy.