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How Government and Startups Interact: 4 Important Takeaways

Kelsey Pommer, Sr. Coordinator, Digital Media Marketing, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™

Government regulations probably aren’t the first thing entrepreneurs think of when their brilliant idea for a new startup is born. However, many startups, especially ones who are innovating new, disruptive technology, encounter challenges when it comes to government regulations. A recent panel at the Challenge Festival in Washington, D.C. discussed how startups and the government interact.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray delivered opening remarks emphasizing the importance tech startups have on the DC community and how growing the technology sector is a vital part of the economic development plan for Washington D.C. After reminding the crowd that DC is the “#1 new tech hotspot in the nation,” he introduced the crowd to an all-star panel: Moderator David Zipper, 1776; Jennifer Bradley, The Brookings Institution; Rachel Holt, Uber; Chris Murphy, Mayor Gray’s Chief of Staff; and Brad Hargareves, General Assembly.

Here are 4 important takeaways about how startups choose where to do business and how government and startups interact.

1. Most cities and governments want innovation and tech startups in their community.
Tech startups create jobs and propel the economy forward – something that most governments and cities strive for.  Mayor Gray discussed how growing the tech sector is one of the D.C. communities goals and how the District is proud to be a partner of the startup community.

2. Although governments want startups in their communities, sometimes existing policy can hinder the growth of these new companies.
The panel discussed how many progressive cities have regulations that protect consumers. In order for startups to thrive, governments and startups can work together to update regulations to have the right mix of concern for public safety and consumer protection, while still allowing startups to grow and thrive.

3. There will always be new disruptive tech that policy and government regulations will have to catch up with.
While it is important that lawmakers and innovators work together on finding the right environment for startups to thrive and benefit the economy, it is also imperative to realize that technology moves faster than regulation ever could. There will always be a new disruptive tech and we have to be patient while we wait for regulation to catch up.

4. The best advice for entrepreneurs who encounter regulatory obstacles is to begin an open conversation with the local government.
Mayor Gray’s Chief of Staff, Chris Murphy, expressed that he would love startups to come talk to the government when they encounter issues that may hinder their growth going forward. He also asked that entrepreneurs remember that while startups have a focused vision on where they want to go, the government has a much broader vision that takes into account the community as a whole. The entire panel agreed that it is the responsibility of both sides, as uncomfortable as it may be, to keep the conversation going between startups and government. 

“Coming to a City Near You? How Startups Choose Where to Expand” was a panel discussion at Challenge Festival’s Startup Government Day presented by CEA. Learn more about the Challenge Festival here