Congressman Seth Moulton Talks Startups

Congressman Seth Moulton Talks Startups

Massachusetts representative seeks closer relationship between startups and policymakers.
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Co-written with Evan Engstrom

The American Dream is built on the premise that regardless of who you are or where you’re born, if you work hard you can achieve greatness. Over the past century, entrepreneurs have embodied this ideal. The son of a Syrian migrant created one of the world’s most valuable companies out of his garage in California. Companies that were started in dorm rooms and university labs have changed the way we live and work.

Today, startups are the backbone of our nation’s economy. They drive growth and innovation, create jobs, and transform communities. According to research by the Kauffman Foundation, small, young firms have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades, accounting for nearly all net new job growth. Fortunately, this growth is no longer limited to traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley. It is happening all over the country. In towns across America—from Salem to Nashville to San Diego—new startup hubs are rising, capitalizing on local assets to bring ideas to life and transform local economies.

There is a growing recognition that creating a national and local environment where startups can thrive and scale is critical. While a great idea creates a foundation, fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem that connects startups with partners in education, investment, and government is essential to transforming that idea into reality. There is an increasing awareness in Congress that pushing policies that foster startup innovation brings new businesses and jobs to their districts.

Still, a gap between startups and policymakers remains. Many members of Congress are not aware of the enormous impact these young companies are having in their own districts. On the other side, many startups are not aware of the outsized impact that government policies and resources can have on their chances at success. Startups help to bridge this gap, but nothing compares to a direct relationship between an elected official and his or her constituents.

As a former entrepreneur and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and as the head of a non-profit organization that works tirelessly to amplify the voice of startups in D.C., we recognize the tremendous importance of building a lasting dialogue between policymakers and startups. That’s why we were excited to partner with a number of other organizations and the members of the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the fourth-annual Startup Day Across America, which took place last week.

On August 4, dozens of members of Congress participated in events with entrepreneurs, incubators, and accelerators to celebrate the ingenuity and innovation taking place in their districts and states. In cities and towns around the country, elected officials had the chance to see firsthand how startups are leveraging the power of technology to develop new products and services at an unprecedented rate and drive economic growth in their districts. At these same events, entrepreneurs had the opportunity to showcase their work and tell policymakers how and why supportive policies make a difference.

In Massachusetts, we organized a roundtable discussion that featured an impressive group of local entrepreneurs that highlighted how startup companies in the Sixth District are creating jobs and producing innovative products to solve real-world challenges.

Entrepreneurs often take substantial financial risks in order to get a business off the ground, and it is critical that local entrepreneurs have the support of their elected representatives.

Whether it’s a tour of a local incubator, a demo from a startup, or simply a phone call with an entrepreneur in your district, these important conversations don’t just have to take place on a single day in August. We encourage lawmakers to schedule conversations with startups throughout the year and consistently connect and build relationships with the innovators driving economic growth in their communities. From protecting net neutrality to finding ways to drive capital to diverse entrepreneurs, lawmakers have the power to craft and champion policies that support startups. It’s critical that policymakers make an effort to understand what those policies are, according to the startups creating change right in their own backyards. And who knows—one of us may meet the next Steve Jobs, chasing the American Dream from his or her very own garage.

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

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I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Why I Love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not for political reasons

I don't want to talk about political beliefs necessarily when I talk about why I fucking love AOC.

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My political affiliation couldn't be kept a secret even if I tried. In the words of my mother, I've been a liberal since I popped out of the womb. So to me, the dramatic change in representation in the House was a huge win for me at this time in history.

While I sit on one side of the aisle because that's where I hear the most conversations about my closest political beliefs happening, I don't want to talk about political beliefs necessarily when I talk about why I fucking love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The first I'd ever heard of this powerful voice from New York was in a video being shared around on Facebook that gave me a strong sense of hope that I haven't felt in a while. She explains the nuance behind "identity politics" and the importance of complete representation in Congress in terms of race, class, and policy. Here was a young woman in my generation (or just outside of it) running for Congress because she knew there was work to be done, not because she knew she would win, or because of some larger force paying her to win, or because she comes from a family of politicians. She ran because she was passionate and because she works to understand her district and represent them in ways that give her district a matched fight with revolving-door politicians who know how to play the game.

This woman, to me, represents accessibility into politics for Americans. When I first started listening to politicians and presidents talk on TV, I remember listening to Obama speak my freshman year of high school (maybe for a state of the union address?) and I asked my mom what a lot of words meant. I learned what poverty, immigration, economic policy, taxes, the middle-class, and more were. She had answers for some but not all of my questions, and then I asked why they felt the need to use such big, intimidating words? Weren't they supposed to represent the country, who to my understanding, probably didn't know what all of these words meant if my own mother didn't? (Moms know everything.)

I didn't want to be left behind in a country that made decisions based on Harvard graduate levels of thinking when most of us were in fact, not Harvard graduates. I was aware when Obama used words I had on a vocabulary test the week before, and I was aware that my honors class was strikingly different from my friends' general education English classes, and that our entire high school was years ahead of some less privileged schools 30-minutes away. But all of us, no matter how politically accessible our situations were or not, were to be represented by a man using these words.

AOC is progressive (in a non-political sense) for Americans because she uses rhetoric and tools to educate Americans instead of persuading or intimidating them to think that she just knows best. She's a politician, yes, so of course she uses persuasive techniques to get policy she believes in to pass so she can do her job as a legislator. But have you seen her Instagram stories or heard her speak in interviews?

Her style of leadership involves a refreshing level of transparency and group participation. I feel like I'm allowed to ask questions about what happens in Washington D.C., and about what another congressperson meant when they said ______. She answers questions like these online to her followers, some of which are her represented correspondents, and some of which are people outside of her district just desperate to expose themselves to any congressperson willing to talk to them on their level. Her flow inspires the average American to listen and checks the confident incumbent from underestimating just how much she knows.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to afford college. Not all of us are fortunate enough to come from a community where high schools prepared and primed us for college-level vocabulary filled conversations. Some of us have to accept politics as a realm with which we can never be involved, heard, or interactive. A.O.C. is what's changing this mentality. 43% of adults living in poverty function at low literacy rates. If they can't understand political rhetoric, how will they be able to democratically participate? Politicians spend so much time talking about poverty rates and how they want to move every family into a middle-class lifestyle, but they don't alter their political approach to invite the poverty-stricken or under-educated Americans into their conversations. AOC does this.

She spends time every night explaining whatever her followers have questions about in full detail. She actually uses up-to-date technology and social media to communicate with Americans, making older senators look lazy or technologically incompetent for not engaging with their community as often or as explicitly. Not to mention, every video I've ever seen produced by her or her team (including her Instagram stories) have closed-captions already edited in. She considers every American to be her audience before speaking, and the fact that what she's doing feels new and refreshing to me suggests just how badly we need her, and more people like her, in politics today.

This isn't even because of her understanding that literacy affects voting--in the original video I saw of her, she understands that the people she represents were flat-out not being addressed in politics. "People aren't voting because no one is speaking to them." Truly and meaningfully, directly and honestly.

She's America's teacher, a representative of why mentorship on all levels is important, and to me, what America would look like if our politicians were not only our representatives, but our educators, our mentors, and our teammates.

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