At the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival, Howard Greenstein, CEO of Harbrooke Group, moderated a panel about the future of tech policy under President Trump with Andrew Rasiej, Founder & CEO of Civic Hall and a rep for the Personal Democracy Forum, Scott Frederick, partner at NEA, and Jackson Jeyanayagam, CMO at Boxed.com. Read on for three big changes they predict for tech policy under Trump.
Automation will Drastically Change The Work Landscape
“In the agricultural age, people worked 16 hour days because they had to. Then, in the industrial age, we had 8 hours days. Now, tech is moving so fast, we’re not going to be able to keep up with the job creation,” said Andrew Rasiej, Founder & CEO of Civic Hall. “All of those truck drivers and Uber drivers, those jobs will be replaced by automation, and we’re not going to teach everyone to be entrepreneurs.”
The solution to the onslaught of automation that will make human life easier, but also alter work as we know it in the U.S.? Rasiej proposed a conversation about universal income for the future. A universal income is when citizens receive a regular, live-able sum of money from the government. Futurists and innovators believe a universal income could become a part of the political landscape as soon as this year, and Rasiej believes it needs to become part of the national dialogue on jobs, finding meaning and quality in life, and new tech advancements.
Fighting Against Immigration Policy
All members of the panel were extremely concerned about restrictions for immigration and visas, and their current and future employees, in light of the travel ban news and developments.
“I’m a immigrant, my parents brought me here to escape a civil war. Our founder is also an immigrant, so as a company – this issue is very close to us. Half of our engineers are on H-1B visas, sponsored by us,” Jackson Jeyanayagam, CMO at Boxed.com said. “This is something we’ve been fighting against.”
Frederick echoed similar worries about the implications of restricting immigration and visas for the tech industry.
“This is a huge issue for us. We have 509 active portfolio companies. And our companies win and die by talent. We have plenty of companies that just can’t hire enough talented engineers,” Frederick said. “We don’t have the birthright of the best entrepreneurs in the world.”
Andrew Rasiej, Founder & CEO of Civic Hall, took the long view of the new immigration policy changes. “There’s no country in the world where they’ve started a new country by inviting people from all over the world to come. If we stop that, we’re rewriting the story of America.”
Small Business Will Use Nimbleness to Affect Change
Ever heard of the tampon tax? It’s a tax on feminine hygiene products, similar to luxury items like alcohol and chocolate. An employee at Boxed.com learned about the tax and wanted to do something now to fight this unfair systematic gender inequality as a new company.
“This the beauty of a start-up. She, (the employee who learned of the tax) walked the two feet to the founder, and said this tax is fucked up, let’s change it. Two days later, we refunded the tax to anyone in a state that had that tax, and at our own cost. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it also created a news cycle and created attention around it,” Jeyanayagam said.
The bottom line? The future of tech policy will continue to be altered and shaped by smaller, nimble companies who can follow their own moral compass in business, while improving things for customers.
Watch highlights from the panelists at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:
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