To Be a Champion for Startups, Policymakers Need to Listen to Them

by Ian Rutledge, Grassroots Policy Manager, Engine Advocacy & Foundation

Salem, Massachusetts based startup Steel Root meeting with Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) this week

Like all small businesses, startups faced tremendous hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the country — and its policymakers — think about building back after the pandemic, startups have a valuable perspective as innovators, adaptors, and significant contributors to future economic and job growth. And every member of Congress represents parts of the startup ecosystem, because startups are everywhere — in every district and state across the country. Congressional Startup Day — taking place this week — gives policymakers the chance to hear from startups they represent directly.

During the pandemic, startups adapted to fill the needs of their users and communities. Amid school closures and teaching uncertainties, startups launched to support educators and students, and when medical supplies were running low, tech organizations like OPT Industries partnered with medical centers in their area to craft new, more effective materials. Innovators and entrepreneurs prioritized working towards a better tomorrow, even when tomorrow was shrouded in uncertainty. Policymakers should prioritize this kind of innovation and entrepreneurship as we look to economic recovery.

Startups already face a tough road to success. More than 20 percent of startups failed in the first year of launch. These numbers are even worse for founders of color, women, and immigrants who face initial barriers like reduced access to capital, networks, and other resources. To ensure that startups can launch and grow, they need policymakers who are educated on the issues they face and invested in their constituents’ success. That’s why we host Congressional Startup Day, which gives members of the startup ecosystem a chance to meet with their members of Congress and share their perspectives and concerns. Organizations like Giveth — a startup that streamlines donations by connecting service provider, giver, and recipient all on one platform — who partnered with local restaurants and organizations in their area to provide meals to healthcare workers. And Steel Root, a Salem, Massachusetts startup who met with Rep. Seth Moulton to discuss the cybersecurity issues affecting their industry and ability to deliver security to the businesses they help.

Changemaker entrepreneurs know what they and their communities need to be successful. The path forward is evident: to support our economy and fuel growth in our communities, we must support innovation and entrepreneurship. Congressional Startup Day is a unique opportunity for founders and owners to share their hard earned insights with policymakers. And they must listen.

Engine is a non-profit technology policy, research, and advocacy organization that bridges the gap between policymakers and startups. Engine works with government and a community of thousands of high-technology, growth-oriented startups across the nation to support the development of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues.

Engine is the voice of startups in government. We are a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy.