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Does Silicon Valley Need a DC Lobby?

Mark Marich

LinkedIn founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman was reported by The Hill saying that entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley could benefit from a stronger lobbying presence in Washington D.C. because their concerns are often ignored in favor of older interests. "I realized one of the paradoxes of the entrepreneurship ecosystem that is so important to society is: We don't have an entrepreneurship lobby," he told the news source, "because entrepreneurs are off doing it."

Hoffman cited stimulus funding as an example of startups getting government short shrift. "The way this is described is 'shovel-ready jobs,'" he said, arguing that kind of funding would not benefit new companies who are "key to our future." High-tech immigration is another issue in which the government is overlooking Silicon Valley's interests. "Certain trends, such as immigration, strike as going 180 degrees in the wrong direction fast."

The group of entrepreneurs who formed the Startup Visa movement would agree with him. Last March, more than a dozen rockstar entrepreneurs and startup financiers decided it was time to visit Washington, DC. They took three days of their busy schedules to push for legislation that would make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to start high growth enterprises in the U.S.
Jonathan Ortmans has discussed this question of “who represents entrepreneurs in Washington?” last spring. He argued that despite the long list of trade associations, entrepreneurs are not that evident in their ranks. There is also the problem rockstar entrepreneurs don’t fit the mold of the traditional Washington trade association.

They are impatient with “meetings” and probably don’t own a tie, let alone a grey suit, and would not last more than an hour at the typical Washington trade association fly-in. To get a glimpse of how they do operate, take a look at Elliot Bisnow’s “Summit Series” that brings together many of the world's top CEOs, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and philanthropists under 35. You could also look at the team at StartupWeekend.com that combines startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more at a 54 hour event that moves entrepreneurs from idea to launch.

How do we make sure that policymakers are hearing enough from real entrepreneurs? Perhaps Hoffman is right. But the question remains, with entrepreneurs absorbed by the entrepreneurial process, how do make sure they have a persistent voice in Washington? I invite you to share your ideas here.

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