Category: Government

Oct 11 2016

Thoughts From A Female Friend on Locker Room Talk

Yesterday, Elizabeth Kraus, a good friend and the co-founder of MergeLane (we are investors), sent me the following blog post and asked me if I would reblog it on my site. After reading it, I felt she expressed her thoughts on Trump’s “locker room talk” extremely well. The original post appears at Please, Mr. Trump, Stop Calling This “Locker Room Talk”

Dear Mr. Trump,

Thanks to the hard work of many before me, I, an entrepreneur born in the same year as your daughter Ivanka, have grown up believing I could do everything my brother could do. I’ve never really felt the weight of the glass ceiling. I co-founded MergeLane, an accelerator and fund for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership. I’m proud to say that we’ve outperformed all of our projections because so many people believe investing in women is the smart thing to do. I’ve always imagined that you also believe this to be true.MergeLane Co-Founder Elizabeth Kraus

It is hard to deny what you’ve achieved as an entrepreneur. Before this election, I would have jumped at the opportunity to have a meeting with you.

Today, I woke up with the sad realization that I would be afraid to be alone in a room with you.

I experienced what you are calling “locker room talk” at my first job when I was 16 years old. I overheard my superiors talking about women in a way very similar to how you and Billy Bush spoke in that video. Although they never said anything like that directly to me, it was paralyzing to think about what they might be saying behind my back or what they might do to me when no one was watching.

I started wearing baggy clothes. I stopped wearing makeup. Most sadly, when my boss told me I was the best employee he had ever had, I dismissed the compliment because I was also the only female employee he had ever had.

It took me years of meeting with supportive, trustworthy men to overcome this paranoia. I’ve gone back to wearing fashionable and feminine clothes. I regularly meet alone with male CEOs and powerful public figures. I’ve experienced and overheard the occasional slightly inappropriate comments, but as a whole, I have felt extreme gratitude for the respectful men who have supported me throughout my career.

Since the age of 16, I have not felt the feeling of fear and sadness that I felt when I listened to your tape. To hear this from the man who may be the next President of the United States was more disappointing than you can ever know.

I know you’ve apologized. I appreciate your apology, but please, I beg of you, stop calling this “locker room talk.” When you and your supporters refer to it as such, it feels as if you are dismissing it as something that is normal. While I would be severely disappointed if it is common practice, I, and women and men everywhere know that it shouldn’t be. More importantly, we  have hope that one day it won’t be.

As you’ve acknowledged, it was a mistake. Please refer to it as nothing but a mistake.

If, as I predict from your previous responses, you would ask why I am not asking the Clintons to address the questions the public has raised about them, I have. I wrote my first public article at the age of 14 to express my disappointment in how President Clinton handled his affair. I will be releasing a letter to Secretary Clinton this week to express why I – a daughter, an entrepreneur, and an American – desperately need her to take the moral high ground.

It is my deepest hope that we will elect leaders who will make me feel proud to be an American and safe as a woman.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Kraus
Daughter, granddaughter, and Chief Investment Officer, MergeLane

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Aug 29 2016

A Startup Visa – The International Entrepreneurs Rule – Form I-941

On Friday, the USCIS proposed The International Entrepreneurs Rule. While this is a proposal subject to a public comment period, I expect it will go into effect in about 45 days. We finally will have a startup visa!

The best summary I’ve seen so far is from Tahmina Watson titled International Entrepreneurs Rule (Obama’s Startup Visa Alternative)- Detailed Summary by Tahmina. If you want to see a detailed summary from someone who read and analyzed all 155 pages of the rule change, go read Tahmina’s post.

This journey started for me about seven years ago on 9/10/2009 when I wrote the blog post The Founders Visa Movement. Paul Kedrosky and I wrote an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on 12/2/2009 titled Start-up Visas Can Jump-Start the Economy.

A group of us, including Dave McClure and Eric Ries went to Washington.

I talked about the Startup Visa at conferences.

Bills were proposed but not passed. Lots of articles were written. Many tweets were tweeted. Even a book was written about it by Tahmina Watson.  Canada created their own Startup Visa. The UK created an Entrepreneur Visa. But in the US, Congress continued to be unable to create a Startup Visa, under the guise of the failure of comprehensive immigration reform.

In response to the non-action from Congress, I co-founded the Global EIR Coalition with Jeff Bussgang and Craig Montuori. We’ve launched in four states (MA, CO, NY, AK) with a bunch more coming before the end of the year. I finally felt like some progress was being made.

After all the efforts of Congress to do something failed, the White House determined that a Startup Visa could be created under the existing law with a rule change. Tom Kalil and Doug Rand of OSTP worked tirelessly on this (they understood the importance of this from the beginning) and, as part of the announcement on Friday, wrote a great post Welcoming International Entrepreneurs.

It’s been a really long journey but I’m thankful for the support and encouragement of this effort from many people. I’ve learned a lot about our federal government as part of this process and expect that the learning will continue. Hopefully this rule change will survive a new administration (I’m told by a number of experts that it will) and foreign entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the US will have an easier time of it.

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Aug 3 2016

Reason for Reform: Join the Movement for Immigration Reform

As an investor, I’m always looking for the next great American company. Who will create tomorrow’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google?

Today it is just as likely to be someone born in Beijing or Jaipur as it is to be someone from Boston or Boulder. In 2016, you no longer have to be in Silicon Valley to launch a successful startup. Colorado is home to many.

However, national borders do still matter and our current immigration system unfortunately isn’t designed to allow anyone looking to create the next Fitbit the ability to easily do so in America. As a result, we lose out to other countries as non-US founders start their ventures to countries like Canada, Chile, or Singapore instead of the US, often because it’s impossible for them to get appropriate visas to create their companies while living in the US.

That’s why I’m spreading the word about the Partnership for a New American Economy’s Reason for Reform campaign, which calls on business leaders, entrepreneurs, students, and others from across the US to tell Congress why America needs immigration reform by recording a short video clip from their cell phones or computers, giving their “reason for reform.”

Check out Reason for Reform here and submit your own video.

Coinciding with the launch of this campaign, Partnership for a New American Economy has marked today as a National Day of Action and is holding events in all 50 states and in Washington, DC to call attention to the economic contributions of immigrants in America. The day will also include the release of new state-specific research. You can check out your state’s report here.

Immigrants have historically been an entrepreneurial bunch. Today, immigrants represent more than 10 percent of Colorado’s entrepreneurs. In 2014, their businesses contributed more than $560 million in revenue to Colorado’s economy. Of the nine Colorado-based companies that appear on the Fortune 500 list, a third of them were founded by immigrants or their children. These three firms alone provide 53,000 jobs and generate more than $20 billion in revenue each year.

Providing sufficient staffing for these companies is another hurdle. Today in Colorado, there are 15 unfilled jobs for every one unemployed STEM worker. While we should certainly be investing in our own STEM education, we should take advantage of the thousands of international students who come here to study and are ready to fill these gaps immediately upon graduation. A new Colorado report released today by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) calculates that 27.5 percent of all students earning STEM-related PhDs in Colorado are from other countries. Many of these students want to stay to further the research they started in their programs and build companies from their findings. Almost 1,000 jobs could be created for American workers if even half of the 740 graduate students on temporary visas in Colorado were allowed to stay upon completion of their programs.

America’s future as the global leader in innovation remains in the balance until our immigration system is fixed. A large portion of a reform package should focus on updating our system to better reflect the business landscape and market realities of the 21st Century.

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Jul 26 2016

My Twitter Feed Is Full Of Politics

It’s so disheartening to me. I don’t read newspapers or watch the news on TV deliberately to avoid the noise. Periodically I’ll get a little signal of value from somewhere, usually Amy, but generally I can focus on what I care about.

Twitter has always been that refreshing place where I can quickly find out what is going on in my tech world. I follow mostly entrepreneurs and VCs – some who I know and some who I don’t know. I have a few companies in my feed. But no newspapers, no magazines, and no mainstream media.

Suddenly it’s all politics all the time. The retweeting of stuff I simply don’t care about overwhelms my feed. As my brain gets hit over and over again by the noise of the RNC, DNC, Trump, Clinton, and zillion other people bloviating about what I think is one of the strangest elections I’ve every experienced as a human, it has become hard to dodge and ignore it.

I think today might be the turning point for me. I’m utterly disgusted by the bullying, lies, racism, and hate going on. I’m starting to believe the Russian conspiracy theories. I’ve hit my personal moment of “I’ve got better things to do with my day.”

I know it’s just going to get worse between now and the election. Noisy. Crazier. More offensive and intolerable. Less rational.

Amy reminds me that this isn’t anything new. In the 1930s the anti-immigrant sentiment was high as the economy declined during the great depression. In the 1940s the America First Committee was dominant. In the 1950s McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee was front and center. In the 1960s we had civil rights, FBI overreach, and the setup for the 1970s with Nixon. And on and on and on.

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. It’s time to focus on what I care about and not let the noise take over my brain.

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Jul 4 2016

Happy Birthday United States of America

I’m glad I get to live in the United States of America.

I started reading the Declaration of Independence every year on America’s birthday a while ago and just read it again. The famous line that always gives me chills when I read it is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I believe that all men and women are created equal, but it took our country until 1920 to acknowledge this for women. And then it took until 1964, the year before I was born, to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. And same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015. It took a while, but we have, and continue to make, progress as a country, and a species.

As we enter what most expect will be a very contentious, hostile, and nasty election cycle, I encourage everyone to remember that ultimately we are all on the same team. I think one of the brilliant parts of our democracy is how resilient it is. We are each allowed to have our own beliefs and, as long as we follow the rule of law, we can express them however we’d like. This is a unique characteristic of the best democracies and one I value tremendously.

I expect that over the next 40 years it’s going to get more, rather than less, complicated. We are currently in the middle of a confusing debate around gender identification which was presented in an easy to consume way in the New York Times Magazine article over the weekend titled The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes. We are beginning to talk about the idea of enhanced humans, and whether they should have the same rights as the un-enhanced. And, our fears of the coming AI Apocalypse are making headlines on a periodic basis.

I’d like to believe that in America, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of human society as we work through these issues. We have been since 1776 and I hope that continues at least until 2076. Happy birthday America.

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Jun 29 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation

Yesterday Hillary Clinton announced her Initiative on Technology & Innovation at Galvanize in Denver. I skimmed it quickly and was pleased with how substantive it was. I pondered what Trump’s equivalent would be and decided it is likely to be a tweet that says “Technology loves me.” Fred Wilson had a more constructive suggestion this morning, where he listed out the specific topics he felt were important to address and said that Hillary has now weighed in on them and he’d like to see Trump do the same.

I just read Hillary’s briefing carefully to understand what I agreed with, disagreed with, and thought needed more fleshing out. I didn’t fundamentally disagree with anything and was delighted to see a number of the initiatives I’ve been working on included. Regular readers of this blog will see lots of congruency with my efforts around National Center for Woman and Information Technology, Startup CommunitiesStartup Visa, Global EIR Coalition, Techstars Foundation, Net Neutrality, Open Internet, and Patent Reform.

Similar to my post yesterday on the agenda for the The Center for American Entrepreneurship I’m going to list the outline of the initiatives as an easily accessible overview. If this topic is interesting to you, it’s worth spending ten minutes and reading the full text of the Hillary Clinton Initiative on Technology & Innovation. And, in all seriousness, I hope Donald Trump puts out something similar so we can compare them.


Building the Tech Economy on Main Street

  • Invest in Computer Science and STEM Education
  • Building the Human Talent Pipeline for 21st Century Jobs
  • Increase Access to Capital for Growth-Oriented Small Businesses and Startups, with a Focus on Minority, Women, and Young Entrepreneurs
  • Attract and Retain the Top Talent from Around the World
  • Invest in Science and Technology R&D and Make Tech Transfer Easier
  • Ensure Benefits are Flexible, Portable, and Comprehensive as Work Changes

Investing In World-Class Digital Infrastructure

  • Close the Digital Divide
  • Launch a “Model Digital Communities” Grant Program
  • Connect More Anchor Institutions to High-Speed Internet
  • Deploy 5G Wireless and Next Generation Wireless Systems

Advancing America’s Global Leadership in Tech & Innovation

  • Fight for an Open Internet Abroad
  • Promote Multi-Stakeholder Internet Governance
  • Grow American Technology Exports
  • Promote Cyber-Security at Home and Abroad
  • Safeguard the Free Flow of Information Across Boarders
  • Update Procedures Concerning Cross-Border Requests for Data by Law Enforcement

Setting Rules of the Road to Promote Innovation While Protecting Privacy

  • Reduce Barriers to Entry and Promote Healthy Competition
  • Defend Net Neutrality
  • Improve the Patent System to Reward Innovators
  • Effective Copyright Policy
  • Commercial Data Privacy
  • Protect Online Privacy as well as Security

Smarter and More Innovative Government

  • Make Government Simpler and More User Friendly
  • Open up More Government Data for Public Uses
  • Harden Federal Networks to Improve Cybersecurity
  • Facilitate Citizen Engagement in Government Innovation
  • Use Technology to Improve Outcomes and Drive Government Accountability
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Jun 24 2016

For Here or To Go

It’s 2am on Friday and I’m awake because Brooks the Wonder Dog is afraid of thunderstorms. His approach to them is to literally try to climb under my body while I’m sleeping, which prevents me from sleeping, which results in me watching the Brexit insanity in real time.

Yesterday, we had our own US insanity around immigration as our Supreme Court voted 4-4 on the legality of Obama’s executive orders on immigration. This means that the issue gets kicked back down to the lower court and nothing is likely going to happen on this until after the election. There are so many ironies in this, especially against the backdrop of the potential immigration implications in England of the Brexit, that one can only wonder if our politicians are taking Game of Thrones a little too literally.

It’s easy to view all of this abstractly, rather than think about how it impacts individual people. Two weeks ago I watched a movie by Rishi Bhilawadikar titled For Here or To Go? It was about a set of Indian software developers in the US on H1-B visas. The main character wanted to start a company, or join a startup, but couldn’t make either happen in the context of the current H1-B visa constraints.

Now, this wasn’t a dry movie. While I don’t know Indian culture very well, Rishi created a rich set of characters, interwoven storylines, and a powerful content – including the challenge of romantic relationships while having an uncertain future around one’s immigration status – that drew me in to the movie.

There were several big twists, including the challenges of a large company co-founded by two Indian immigrants, one who was frustrated with the US immigration system and wanted highly educated Indians in the US to go back to India and start their companies there. This intersected with the main character’s romantic relationship and job search, which came together at the end in a powerful way.

Rishi is planning on formally releasing the movie at the beginning of next year. I’ve offered to help, and – like I did with Code: Debugging the Gender Gap – am providing some financing for that effort. If you care about the immigration issue and want to help with the movie in some way, email me and I’ll get you set up with a free full preview screening of the movie so you can watch it and decide if you want to get more involved.

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Oct 16 2015

Foundry Group Urges Boulder To VOTE NO on 300 and 301

300-301-01

This year’s local election in Boulder is a critical one. The city that we love risks shutting its doors. While the business community in Boulder has contributed immeasurably to the vibrancy, charitable contribution base, economic development, and success of our community, there is a faction in Boulder that feels that our city should stop moving forward and instead should live in the past. This faction believes in a less inclusive Boulder and aims to achieve this goal by literally shutting the doors to our city.

This is what is behind propositions 300 and 301 which are proposed amendments to the city’s charter.   

This faction is well organized and well funded and the slogans make it sound reasonable.  But make no mistake:  the goal is to immediately freeze all development of all types around the city by enveloping the city a bundle of political red tape.  

In the coming days, Boulder residents will be asked to vote on the following:

#300 – Neighborhood Right to Vote on Land Use Regulation

#301 – New Development Shall Pay Its Own Way

These initiatives must be voted down.

While innocuous sounding, the names of these initiatives completely misrepresent their intent and the dire consequences that would result if they are enacted. The truth is that neighborhoods already do have a say in projects that affect them, and developers already do pay some of the highest fees and taxes in the country.  

Effectively, these proposals will create 60+ neighborhoods in Boulder.  Can you imagine what would happen if we had that many homeowner associations that had the power to hold special elections and veto land use changes approved by city council? The smallest of those neighborhoods would be comprised of just 19 houses. That’s not “local control” (which already exists), that’s a deliberate attempt to create gridlock.

These initiatives will immediately freeze important infill development, including affordable housing, transit-oriented development, neighborhood serving retail, social service centers, and day care centers. The city manager has stated that the city will stop issuing permits of any kind for at least six months while they figure out what these initiatives mean and how to implement them. Once they do start reissuing permits, these initiatives will force the city to levy such high taxes and fees that development will effectively stop in Boulder. This will stop our city in its tracks and greatly exacerbate an already expensive housing market.

These measures are opposed by six former mayors, all nine City Council members, numerous former city council members, Boulder Housing Partners, The Daily Camera, and numerous civic groups like Open Boulder, the Boulder Chamber, Better Boulder,  and others.  Open Boulder executive director Andy Schultheiss has called them “among the worst pieces of public policy I’ve seen in almost 25 years of observing and participating in local policy-making.”

It’s critically important that we defeat these measures. To do that we need to get the word out to those in our community who want Boulder to continue to be a vibrant city. The sad irony is that those promoting these measures have the time and organization to put towards pressing their backward and closed agenda while many who oppose it are busy helping keep Boulder prosperous by creating jobs and economic growth.

This is a battle we can’t afford to lose. Please take a minute to help us get the word out. Send it to your friends via email and social media. Urge your neighbors to vote and make sure you vote yourself. With ballots mailed out this week many in our community will be voting in the next seven days (over 50% of ballots are returned within a week of their being sent out).

#keepboulderopen

Seth, Jason, Brad, Ryan

_______

Below are some suggested tweets or Facebook posts should you chose to share them:

Click to Tweet: I agree with @foundrygroup. 300 and 301 will have devastating effects on boulder. VOTE NO on both! #keepboulderopen https://bit.ly/1ReQamJ

Click to Tweet: I stand for keeping the doors to boulder open. VOTE NO on 300 and 301. #keepboulderopen https://bit.ly/1ReQamJ

Click to Tweet: In boulder’s upcoming election we’ll decide if we want to live in the past or continue to thrive. #keepboulderopen https://bit.ly/1ReQamJ

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Apr 16 2015

Announcing the Global EIR Coalition

Yesterday morning, over scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital (he had yogurt), we talked about immigration reform and our broken immigration system. Both Jeff and I have been working hard on making it much easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to get visa’s to start their companies in the US. Both of us have been unsuccessful in our efforts at a national level. At the end of the discussion, we decided to start the Global EIR Coalition to open source our approach and try to help every state in the US implement a similar program.

Last year Jeff and a bunch of his friends in Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program. The MA GEIR was a brilliant approach to a state level solution to this problem. The MA group did extensive legal work on this and the MA legislature passed a bill for it as part of their 2014 Jobs Act.

I watched from the sidelines with intrigue. I had become very discouraged at a federal level and have been spending mental cycles pondering state’s rights issues and state level approaches to things. I have deep respect and admiration for two our Colorado’s congressman – Michael Bennet (senate) and Jared Polis (house) – each which have worked very hard on immigration reform – and have learned a huge amount from them, including how hard it is to get things done in Washington. I also have enormous respect for Mark Udall who was Colorado’s senior senator and one of the original sponsors of the Startup Visa bill.

So when I started seeing what Jeff was doing in Massachusetts, I started working on a similar approach in Colorado with Craig Montuori, and Chris Nicholson of Venture Politics. This culminated in our recent launch of the Colorado EIR program.

One difference between the MA and the CO programs is funding. In MA, there was originally $3 million of state funding. I decided I wanted to try this in CO without any state funding, so I just funded the program myself for the first year to the tune of $150,000 (CU decided it was important to provide some funding directly as well, so they are contributing $50,000 to the program.) Unfortunately, after the election, the new MA governor defunded the program (although he has reinstated $100,000 of funding) so the group in MA is now working on a funding approach that does not rely heavily on the state.

As we iterate on this, we are learning an enormous amount about what works and what doesn’t work. Jeff and I agreed that we should amplify and expand our learning, so other states can build off of our experience as well as help us figure out a long-term, sustainable approach. We are clearly in experimentation mode, but with strong support intellectually from local leaders, such as Phil Weiser (Dean of CU Boulder Law School and head of Silicon Flatirons.)

While I’m not giving up on a federal solution, I plan to put my money and my energy into a state level solution. The dynamics around gay marriage and legalization of marijuana have intrigued me greatly, and as I read early American History, I understand (and remember) the original dynamic of the United States, where there are States that are United from the bottom up, rather than simply a federal government dictating policy top down.

As someone who loves networks and hates hierarchies, this is the right approach for my psyche. I’m ready to take another big swing at this from a different angle.

If you are working on something similar in your state, please reach out to join the Global EIR Coalition. Today is our first day in existence, so expect us to be chaotic, underfunded, and under-resourced just like every other raw startup. But, like Steve Blank and Eric Ries inspire us to do, we are just launching, aggressively doing customer developing, and iterating rapidly.

And, if you are a foreign entrepreneur who wants to build your company in Colorado, email me to apply to the Colorado GEIR program.

For Jeff’s perspective on what we are doing, take a look at his post Hacking Immigration – The Global EIR Coalition.

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Mar 31 2015

Trying Something New On Immigration In Colorado

I’ve been working on the Startup Visa since I first wrote about it on 9/10/2009 in my post The Founders Visa Movement. While there has periodically been improvement on the margins on the issue, I think our federal government has broadly failed us on this front.

So, I’m going to try something different. Yesterday, CU Boulder announced a new Entrepreneurs in Residence program to be administered by the Silicon Flatirons program. While the program is open to any entrepreneur, including those in the US, we are particularly focused on international entrepreneurs.

Through extensive work with Craig Montuori and leadership from Phil Weiser, the Dean of CU Law and head of Silicon Flatirons, we’ve come up with a neat approach that follows from the work that was done in Massachusetts, led by Jeff Bussgang and others, and originally approved as a major state initiative, only to see its funding pulled back after the recent election cycle.

The program in Colorado follows a similar approach with one major difference. It’s privately funded and doesn’t rely on anything from the state. My wife Amy Batchelor and I are putting up most of the funding for the first year program. It’s a major gift from us and more of me trying to put my money where my mouth is on issues I care about.

In the next 12 months, we’ll have four EIRs as part of the pilot program. They will be employed by CU Boulder for 20 hours per week and will receive a stipend of $25,000 per academic year (which starts in July). We’ll cover the cost of the H1-B visa if necessary, which is easy to acquire because H1-B visas for universities are uncapped.

Importantly, consistent with university policy and applicable law, entrepreneurs in the program will be free to work on their existing entrepreneurial ventures or start a new company.

We have a broad model for engagement in Boulder for new entrepreneurs. Between Techstars, Galvanize, Silicon Flatirons, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, and many other accelerators, there will be significant mentorship opportunities. In the summer time, they’ll be part of Startup Summer (run by Startup Colorado in conjunction with Silicon Flatirons) along with being paired with a new MIT MBA Summer Internship in Boulder that I’m about to roll out (ah – foreshadowing…) And, with our broad #GiveFirst attitude across the startup community, they’ll be welcomed with open arms.

I’ve gotten worn out on the federal level immigration fight. I’m happy to continue to participate in advocacy for change around visas for entrepreneurs, but I’ve decided to focus my energy, and money, on exploring and experimenting with state-oriented solutions.

If you are interested in applying for one of the four EIR slots, just drop me an email and I’ll plug you in.

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