WaPo’s inGENuitY 2015 conference last week marked the final event in the storied history of the Washington Post building (the organizers were unamused by our registering as “Deep Throat”). Since the building is coming down (we assume to provide a massive Starbucks/Potbelly/Cosi Death Star), No Kings Collective installed an amazing art piece on the walls of the conference hall.
The conference featured speakers from several industries that came to encourage the millennial generation to go after their entrepreneurial dreams, with input from those who have done it, and those who have advised those doing it.
As a systems engineering and analysis firm in the heart of downtown DC, our work at BluestoneLogic generally deals with matters of data and policy. What jumped out to us especially were comments from the speakers that zeroed in on these two topics.
Millennial entrepreneurs entering the tech sphere will surely encounter issues with access to the government’s set of public data. Public data and the Federal government are somewhat of a strange mix. BluestoneLogic has itself encountered the various barriers to data it needs to do real systems analysis work because of not only policy regulations but also cultural stagnation in the federal IT development sector. Data itself can become stagnant and ultimately it is useless to everyone when it is unavailable. So, to hear that the EDA wants to make more data accessible to the public for research and entrepreneurial ideas is more than encouraging — it’s a bonafide beginning to a new way of doing analysis on projects in the Federal space.
On the other hand, data in Silicon Valley is free flowing. It comes, it goes, it’s analyzed, aggreagated, regressioned, stored, mined, etc. Feed services exist to provide realtime data on numerous types of data-generating entities. Companies have robust reporting engines in their web services backend that provide data on every single last event to happen on that company’s website. Data is torrential.
Harnessing Real-Time Data
US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx lamented over the fact that the Bureau of Transportation Statistics can only put together transportation reports and figures with data captured 2 years prior. The knowledge obtained from this data is already dated at the report’s release. Foxx’s administration is pushing for the government to harness the real-time data that is available to government today so that they can create more useful tools that allow them to possess enhanced situational awareness like never before.
Federal regulations and policies play an important role in the growth of startups. Millenials hoping to make new businesses must face facts that they would be better off engaging Government sooner rather than later.
Secretary Foxx spoke of an example of how the Department of Transportation is changing existing regulations to foster ingenuity in the auto industry. Currently, Federal regulations require humans to physically be in control of their vehicle’s brake pedal, which has created hurdles for self-parking cars (where a human can exit their vehicle while it parks itself). We found it refreshing to hear someone in such an important position want to help the auto industry move forward. Whatever Foxx is thinking or how he feels about transportation will ultimately be an indicator in how it is shaped in our daily lives.
US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker answered questions about government’s role with the rise (and periodic fall) of startup businesses. Secretary Pritzker commented about how “65% of jobs created in this country over the past 20 years came from new enterprises.” Innovation is critical to economic growth and the Department of Commerce wants to foster an environment where entrepreneurs can gain more access to capital that allows them to try to build on their idea–regardless of whether or not they fail. While this sounds great on the surface, we couldn’t help but think how many of these new jobs actually turned into careers? What policies are in place to make that happen?
…whether you are a millennial entrepreneur or not, this was a worthwhile conference to attend. It was great to hear these people in such powerful positions care so much about the economic environment that the millennial generation is growing into. Many other industry leaders that weren’t government leaders came to share their experiences starting their own businesses; however, our focus was on those leaders of government (Commerce, Transportation) to see if they are truly acting like the thought leaders that our economy and the ideas of tomorrow need them to be. We are pleased to hear about such openness to adjusting policy and regulations. We are interested to hear more about how they plan to tackle the challenges (and disincentives) that plague new ideas from Silicon Valley and other burgeoning tech hubs across America.
By Esteban Amas
Co-written with Lawrence Bonczar