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SxSW Advises Tech Firms: Talk to Government!


Written by George Fontas, Executive Vice President of Capalino+Company

At SXSW Interactive 2016 President Obama implored tech and government to come together to solve new problems. Technology and government affect each other greatly, and work together to provide solutions to some of our biggest challenges. So why do companies with innovative solutions run when you hear the word government, and how can we, as lobbyists/policy experts, alleviate your fears and show you this relationship is mutually beneficial?

Many startups avoid talking to government in fear that you will be heavily regulated before you even raise sufficient capital to get off the ground. Or often because they want to collect market share before government can react.

Here are two important points to consider:

  • What you may not realize is that decisions are being made without you. Local, State, and Federal government are writing and rewriting laws all the time. Public policy is being made whether you speak to them or not. If startups want to be successful, government needs account your interests when they are considering policies that effect you. Imagine your surprise if you’ve spent years developing a product and service only to be preempted by new public policy when you are ready to launch.
  • Keep in mind that the incumbents have built internal government affairs teams and hired lobbyists. They are on the lookout for startups that may threaten their market share. And, they are in regular contact with government because they’ve learned that government holds the keys to their growth and success. How are startups going to compete in this environment if they have virtually no public policy expertise?

As Aaron Sorkin said, “Decisions are made by the people who show up.”  Government can protect and propel your business forward if you get in the game early.

Stay tuned for my next post: “How Do I Talk to Government in a Low Risk Way?”

George Fontas

Executive Vice President and Leader of Legislative + Political Affairs Practice Group

About George

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