Global Innovation Forum in Austin 2016

Global Perspectives on Enabling Startups

The Global Innovation Forum hosted a private, invitation-only brunch with Capital One, EY, Intuit and Lyft on Sunday, March 13 at South-by-Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas that brought together corporations, startups and policymakers to discuss how global trade policies are affecting entrepreneurs around the globe.

The conversation between established companies, internationally-minded startups, incubators, and officials from the United States and more than a dozen other countries highlighted several themes around access to the global marketplace. Below are some of the key takeaways from our discussion.

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What we learned


Immigration policy must enable access to entrepreneurs and skilled workers

All businesses, whether they’re startups or well-established, need to be able to bring in the right kind of talent easily. Policymakers can facilitate entrepreneurs’ entry, as Chile does, and can prioritize visas for high-skilled and high-demand workers as the UK has attempted with its shortage occupation list.

Open, reliable, secure access to the Internet is critical for startups to succeed globally


Access to the Internet is a huge enabler of economic growth, poverty reduction and everything from better healthcare outcomes to reduced agriculture waste.  By expanding reliable access to the Internet, governments can stimulate the productivity of small businesses and help them innovate and succeed by connecting to partners around the globe. Further, creating an Internet infrastructure in countries is not the answer: the ability to move data across international borders is critical so that small businesses can access services in the cloud that help them succeed domestically and internationally.

Regulations must adapt to permit innovation


Many regulations that govern new technologies – from transportation to financial services – were written thirty or more years ago. Policymakers and innovative companies need to engage constructively to understand how regulations might adapt to enable technology while appropriately regulating for the public good.

It is particularly important to enable responsible innovation in financial services


Technology is transforming financial services and enabling new, non-regulated, online-only participants to innovate. These services – around payments, innovative lending, and access to datasets and consumer information – are essential to enable access to the global marketplace, and consumers increasingly expect that their banking and financial transaction data will be portable to third parties, based on their consent. Governments need to consider how regulation can evolve to permit consumer-friendly innovations while maintaining appropriate prudential regulation. Industry can work with government to figure out how to enable consumer choice around data portability and open APIs.

Working towards common standards and practices can remove major headaches for businesses operating across borders


As businesses expand across borders, they encounter differences around establishing new entities, moving goods and services across borders, labeling, data privacy and other regulations. Our discussion highlighted that policymakers have a role to play in harmonizing divergent laws – or building policy bridges between different sets of rules – to facilitate compliance.

 Policymakers must find ways to receive input from startup and small business voices


Small businesses and startups tend to lack connections to policymakers and miss out on opportunities to capitalize on government programs and to offer input into new regulations and policy initiatives. Policymakers could likewise benefit from hearing startups’ perspectives when they’re drafting new policy that will affect their ability to scale. Policymakers should identify opportunities afforded by gatherings like SXSW and initiatives such as the Global Innovation Forum to connect with small and young businesses.  Governments can also create new pipelines to solicit advice from entrepreneurs. (One example: In 2014, as the U.S. Government collaborated with private sector partners including Intuit, the Global Innovation Forum and Business Forward to bring startups to the White House to understand the impact regulations have on their global journeys, which informed the creation of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s Startup Global initiative.)

 Governments should consider what role they might play in diversifying entrepreneurship and financing beyond select hubs


Despite a boom in support services for communities of innovators around the world, many businesses remained focused on a handful of startup clusters like Silicon Valley. Governments around the world can test ways to support startups’ global success and local footprint.