Why is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) at a Pandora party and why is he trying to get on the VIP list to see Grumpy Cat?
It’s the same reason why Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) is playing guitar at a Google interactive:
Why Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is testing virtual reality:
and why Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) is riding pedicabs:
They were all at Austin’s SXSW interactive learning about technology, innovation and bridging the gap between Washington, D.C. and innovation.
More elected and government officials attended the conference than ever before. Between senators, congressmen and administrators, about 40 Washington influencers were on the ground. Everyone from New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) were speaking on panels and mingling with entrepreneurs.
“What we hear from startups is that they are facing a tough regulatory environment that is sometimes byzantine, confusing and expensive to comply with,” said Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, also adding “making the regulatory environment less burdensome would be a huge help.”
The regulatory environment for technology and innovation is a clear bipartisan issue. Illinois’s Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger echoed the same concern, saying there’s over regulation right now that inhibits growth.
What do some tech leaders really want from Washington? Jason Seats, a managing director and partner of Techstars Ventures in Austin, has one “simple and humble request of Washington.”
He wants a compliance holiday for startups – a grace period to help grow their companies.
He says, “a three person startups is almost certainly not doing something right with regards to some law somewhere. Large companies have armies of people to help them understand all this stuff … a small startup doesn’t have those resources and diverting attention to those things robs them of precious time they could be using to build their actual businesses.”
Josh Baer, the Executive Director of Capital Factory, Austin’s tech incubator and startup hub, says one of the best things Washington can do for the tech industry is stay out of the way, but that they need to come to places like SXSW to learn what laws are impacting growth and creativity.
Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, just put two of his technology staffers in Baer’s Capital Factory. He too echoed concerns of over regulation on the tech community.
But why is D.C. is here now? Why so many?
Grover Bynum of the Austin Technology Council says, “the policy undertone of SXSW this year was a direct result of that insight and policymaker commitment to meet the true drivers of the innovation economy.”
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California admits that Washington, D.C. is gridlocked and that he and fellow Congressmen from both sides of the aisle are learning a lot from innovators.
Swalwell, who represents San Francisco’s East Bay, spends a lot of time at tech incubators, trying to dissect what they need from Washington. He’s also launching a group of young Democratic lawmakers called it “Future Forum,” who will travel to tech incubator hubs throughout the country to increase access to entrepreneurship and host policy discussions on how Washington can be more helpful.
Chaffetz says the popularity of SXSW in D.C. is partly a generational thing, “you have younger members now growing up and using technology as a tool to not only get elected, but once in office, to communicate.”
Here is Chaffetz flying like a bird at Google Fiber’s virtual reality (but watch the video above to see him doing more VR!):
He also said in due time, every member will come to SXSW.
“Austin is one of places you to come to, to see what’s going to happen next.”